Berton Churchill

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Berton Churchill
Berton Churchill in The Dark Hour.jpg
Churchill in The Dark Hour (1936)
Born(1876-12-09)December 9, 1876
DiedOctober 10, 1940(1940-10-10) (aged 63)
New York City, U.S.
Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California
Years active1919–1940
Spouse(s)Harriet Gardner
(m. 1907)

Berton Churchill (December 9, 1876 October 10, 1940) was a Canadian stage and film actor. [1]


Early years

Churchill was born in Toronto, Ontario. After his family moved to New York City, he graduated from high school there, studied law at night, and was a weekly participant in the William J. Florence Dramatic Society in Jersey City. [2] As a young man interested in the theater, he appeared in stock companies as early as 1903 and worked as a newspaper pressman, eventually becoming a foreman and leader of his union. [1] Progressing in his acting, he began performing with the Berkely Lyceum. [2]


Churchill acted for two years with a traveling repertory company, [2] developing skills that eventually took him to Broadway. [3] The death of his father caused him to return home to work as a press foreman. Eventually he returned to acting in small parts. His career received a boost when E. F. Albee saw him perform in Boston. Albee added him to his summer stock company at Pawtucket, where Churchill continued to perform almost every summer for at least two decades. [2]

His first performance on Broadway was in The Barber of New Orleans (1909), and his last was in Five Star Final (1930). [4]

He was one of the earliest members of Actors Equity and sat on the union's Council. In 1919, he was in charge of the New York headquarters during the Equity strike.

Around 1929, Churchill began to perform in motion pictures. [5] Following the use of sound in film, he moved to Hollywood, California. There, he landed numerous supporting roles, usually as the stern or pompous character with such roles as a banker, a state governor, or a land baron. He was much in demand, "establishing what was believed to be a record by appearing in 34 in 1932 alone." [1] In more than 125 films, Churchill worked for some of the great directors such as Otto Preminger, John Ford, and Frank Capra. As well, he performed with many of the most famous stars of the day, such as Bette Davis ( The Cabin in the Cotton ), Jeanette MacDonald, Tyrone Power, Edward G. Robinson, and Will Rogers. Churchill is perhaps best known for his role as Gatewood, the absconding banker in John Ford's highly acclaimed 1939 film Stagecoach , starring John Wayne.

In 1925, Churchill helped found the Masquers club that led to him and five other actors creating the Screen Actors Guild in 1933.


Churchill died in Medical Arts Center Hospital in New York City, of uremic poisoning. [5] His body was returned to the west coast to be interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.[ citation needed ]

Selected filmography

Berton Churchill in Vagabond Lady (1935) Berton Churchill in Vagabond Lady trailer.jpg
Berton Churchill in Vagabond Lady (1935)

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 "Berton Churchill Dies On Returning To N.Y." Winnipeg Tribune . The Canadian Press. October 11, 1940 via Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Who's Who". The New York Times. March 7, 1926. p. X 2. Retrieved October 26, 2020 via ProQuest.
  3. Berton Churchill at the Internet Broadway Database
  4. "Berton Churchill". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on December 15, 2016. Retrieved October 26, 2020.
  5. 1 2 "Berton Churchill, character actor". The New York Times. October 11, 1940. p. 21. Retrieved October 26, 2020 via ProQuest.