Thursday, February 10, 2011

George Chandler

I think I should mention George Chandler (1898 - 1985) here, in my blog of Bit Actors.  I have a problem calling him a Bit Actor, though.  He has 444 titles listed on IMDb, so he must have been a star.  No matter.

Everyone who is a baby boomer remembers him as Uncle Petrie in the television series, "Lassie" from the 1950s.  He was much more than that.

Chandler started performing in vaudeville, and then in 1928 moved to silent films.  It is rather odd that there isn't much written about him on IMDb or Wikipedia.  TCM has a short biography.  He appears in The Virginian (1929) starring Gary Cooper, but most of his films before that were shorts. 

In 1933 he plays W. C. Fields' son in The Fatal Glass of Beer.  Fields was only five years older than Chandler.  There are six films with Chandler and Dick Powell, starting with Blessed Event (1932) and Footlight Parade the next year. 

Chandler made an interesting movie in 1936 called The Country Doctor.  He wasn't the doctor, he played a character called Greasy.  It was a story about a small town doctor who delivers quintuplets, and they filmed the Dionne Quintuplets (b. 1934) for the part.  As a child, my family had 16mm home movies that my grandfather filmed, and somehow we came across some old Pathe newsreels in our collection.  A news item about the Quints was in one of them.  I wish I still had those films!

The list of stars Chandler worked with must be incredible.  Ten films with Spencer Tracy, five with Jimmy Stewart, six with Henry Fonda, six with Una Merkel and also with Claire Trevor, and he made 23 films with his friend, director William Wellman (1896 - 1975).  The list is much longer, but I can't search through all of his work!

1939 was a good year to look at.
   Blondie Meets the Boss
   Calling Dr. Kildare
   Young Mr. Lincoln
   Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation
   Beau Geste
   Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

He worked with Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto, but most of his parts were very small.  He was the photographer or the sleazy reporter.  He was the next door neighbor, the elevator operator or the bartender.  His soft voice played well as a friendly character, but he had a look that could be turned on to make you think he was up to something. 

By the 1950s he was also working in TV teleplays and series'.  In 1954 he was in The High and the Mighty with John Wayne, one of five films with The Duke.

In addition to "Lassie," Chandler was a regular on "Waterfront" and "The Adventures of Kit Carson."  In the 1960s he had his own series called "Ichabod and Me" that only lasted one season.  In the 1970s we see him in "Alias Smith and Jones" once again in bit parts.  In 1978 he appears as a DMV clerk in Every Which Way but Loose starring Clint Eastwood.

George Chandler's final film he plays an elderly man in The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979).  Fitting as he was 81 years old.  Us baby boomers will miss you, Unlce Petrie!  You are a star in every Bit Part you had.


  1. George Chandler has so many credits that I don't associate him with a particular role...yet he seems always to be somewhere in the background, omnipresent...jeez, I think I even remember "Ichabod and Me," but just barely! Thanks for another fine tribute, Allen.

  2. Thanks, once again, for the compliment, Eve.

    I was switching channels the other day, and there was George in an old B&W movie. I didn't stay long enough to see what it was, but you can't miss his voice! That brought him back to mind and the post yesterday.


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