January 20, 1902
|Died||October 12, 1993 91) (aged|
|Other names||Leon Waycoff|
|11th President of the Screen Actors Guild|
|Preceded by||Walter Pidgeon|
|Succeeded by||Howard Keel|
Leon Ames (born Harry L. Wycoff;January 20,1902 –October 12,1993) was an American film and television actor. He is best remembered for playing father figures in such films as Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) with Judy Garland as one of his daughters, Little Women (1949), On Moonlight Bay (1951),and By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953). The fathers whom Ames portrayed were often somewhat stuffy and exasperated by the younger generation,but ultimately kind and understanding. Probably his best-known purely dramatic role was as DA Kyle Sackett in the crime film The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946).
Leon Ames was born on January 20,1902,in Portland,Indiana,son of Charles Elmer Wycoff and his wife Cora Ames De MossSome sources list his original last name as "Wykoff" or "Waycoff",and in his early films,he acted under the name Leon Waycoff. In 1935,Ames explained that he changed his name because Waycoff was often misspelled and mispronounced. Ames was his mother's maiden name. In the 1910 census,then residing in Fowler,Indiana,Ames' name is given as Harry L. Wycoff. His father Charles was employed as managing a meat market.
Ames' involvement with entertainment began when he worked as stage manager for the Charles K. Champlin Theatre Company. He ventured into acting with the group and progressed to having the lead in a production of Tomorrow and Tomorrow in Los Angeles.He acted for three years with the Stuart Walker Stock Company in Cincinnati,Ohio.
He debuted on Broadway in It Pays to Sin (1933). His other Broadway credits include Howie (1958),Winesburg,Ohio,(1958),Slightly Married (1943),The Russian People (1942),Little Darling (1942),Guest in the House (1942),The Land Is Bright (1941),The Male Animal (1940),Thirsty Soil (1937),A House in the Country (1937),and Bright Honor (1936).
Ames made his film debut in Quick Millions in 1931. Later,during the 1940s,he was under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Among his important roles at MGM is his 1944 portrayal of Mr. Smith in the studio's massive hit and subsequent classic Meet Me in St. Louis .
Ames also appears in a featured role in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946),portraying the district attorney Kyle Sackett. He appears too in the Doris Day-Gordon MacRae film On Moonlight Bay (1951),in its sequel By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953),and in Peyton Place (1957). He performs the role of Samuel Eaton,Alfred Eaton's (Paul Newman) father,in From the Terrace (1960). In the 1961 Walt Disney comedy The Absent-Minded Professor ,he is the college president Rufus Daggett and can be seen once again in that role in the film's 1963 sequel Son of Flubber . In 1970,he was cast as Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox in the action war film Tora! Tora! Tora! His last screen role is in Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) in which he plays Kathleen Turner's character's grandfather Barney Alvorg.
Ames' first radio broadcast was in January 1942 on Grand Central Station .
His television roles included leads in the adaptations of Life with Father (1953–55) : 604 and Father of the Bride (1961–62). : 336-337 His presence in the latter program was such that,after the show had been on the air a few months,Ames' role was increased because "'father,as played by veteran character actor Leon Ames became the dominant figure in the whole show."
Ames had the title role of judge John Cooper in the syndicated series Frontier Judge : 370 and played Howard McMann in Bewitched .
He joined the cast of Mister Ed (1963–66) as Wilbur Post's neighbor,retired Colonel Gordon Kirkwood, : 701 after the death of actor Larry Keating,who had played Post's original neighbor Roger Addison. Ames also appeared in episodes of the NBC anthology series The Barbara Stanwyck Show ,and on the short-lived CBS legal drama Storefront Lawyers .
He played the part of Grandpa Willis in “The Jeffersons”episode “Jenny’s Grandparents”(Season 2,episode 10 1975).
Ames was one of the founders of the Screen Actors Guild in 1933.He served as its president in 1957. During the 1960s,Ames owned several Ford dealerships in California.
Ames was the father of Robert Fletcher,but was left with the mother when the couple split up in 1923.
Ames wed actress Christine Gossett in 1938. The couple had a daughter,Shelley (b. 1940),and a son,Leon (b. 1943). Christine retired early from acting to raise their family. They remained married until Ames' death in 1993.
Ames supported Barry Goldwater in the 1964 United States presidential election.
On February 12,1964,Ames and his wife were held hostage in their home as an intruder demanded $50,000 before he would free them. Ames called his business partner,who obtained the money from a bank and delivered it to the house as instructed. After inspecting the cash,the kidnapper left Ames in the house,bound with tape,and instructed Mrs. Ames to drive him in the couple's car. He also forced both the business partner and a guest in the Ames house into the trunk. Eventually,police (who had been alerted by the partner while he was picking up the money) surrounded the car and freed the hostages.
On October 12,1993,Ames died in Laguna Beach,California,of complications after suffering a stroke. He was 91.His gravesite is at Forest Lawn,Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.
In 1980,after 50 years in show business,Leon Ames received the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award.
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