Walter Leland Catlett
February 4, 1889
|Died||November 14, 1960 (aged 71)|
Woodland Hills, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California|
(m. 1908; div. 1930)
(m. 19??; div. 19??)
Kathlene Winifred Martyn
Walter Leland Catlett (February 4, 1889 – November 14, 1960) was an American actor and comedian. He made a career of playing excitable, meddlesome, temperamental, and officious blowhards.
Catlett was born on February 4, 1889, in San Francisco, California.
He started out in vaudeville, teaming up with Hobart Cavanaugh at some point, with a detour for a while to opera, before breaking into acting.
He debuted on stage in 1906 and made his first Broadway appearance in either The Prince of Pilsen (1910 or 1911) or So Long Letty (1916). His first film appearance was in 1912, but then he went back to the stage and did not return to films until 1929. He performed in operettas and musicals, including The Ziegfeld Follies of 1917, the original production of the Jerome Kern musical Sally (1920) and the Gershwins' Lady, Be Good (1924). In the last, he introduced the song "Oh, Lady Be Good!" In 1918, he starred in, stage-managed and rewrote an Oliver Morosco-Elmer Harris-Harry Plani production titled Look Pleasant, playing at the Majestic Theatre in Los Angeles. His antics in the musical Baby Bunting in London in 1922 had King George V laughing "uproariously".
Catlett made a handful of silent film appearances, but his film career did not catch on until the advent of talking pictures allowed moviegoers to experience his full comic repertoire. He starred in a number of 'two-reelers', mostly in the Thirties, some as a comedy duo with Eugene Pallette, for RKO; most were for RKO, but six were for Columbia between 1934 and 1940.
Three of his better remembered roles were as the theatre manager driven to distraction by James Cagney's character in Yankee Doodle Dandy, the local constable who throws the entire cast in jail and winds up there himself in the Howard Hawks classic screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby, and as Morrow, the drunken poet in the restaurant who "knows when [he's] been a skunk" and takes Longfellow Deeds on a "bender" in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. He was also widely reported to have been Katharine Hepburn's comedy coach while filming Bringing Up Baby. The New York Times film critic Mordaunt Hall wrote that "This clever comedian runs away with the acting laurels" in Big City Blues (1932). He played John Barsad in the 1935 David O. Selznick production of A Tale of Two Cities, starring Ronald Colman. He also provided the uncredited voice of J. Worthington Foulfellow (a.k.a. Honest John) the Fox, one of the main villains in Walt Disney's 1940 animated film Pinocchio. In the 1950s, he appeared in films like Here Comes the Groom, Friendly Persuasion, and Beau James.
For his contributions to the film industry, Catlett was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 8, 1960, with a motion pictures star located at 1713 Vine Street.
Catlett died of a stroke on November 14, 1960, in Woodland Hills, California, and was interred in Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California.