Neil Hamilton (actor)

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Neil Hamilton
Neil Hamilton actor.JPG
Hamilton in 1931
James Neil Hamilton

(1899-09-09)September 9, 1899
DiedSeptember 24, 1984(1984-09-24) (aged 85)
Years active1918–1971
Elsa Whitmer
(m. 1922)

James Neil Hamilton (September 9, 1899 – September 24, 1984) was an American stage, film and television actor, best remembered for his role as Commissioner Gordon on the Batman TV series of the 1960s. [1] During his motion picture career, which spanned more than a half century, Hamilton performed in over 260 productions in the silent and sound eras.


Acting career

An only child, Hamilton was born in Lynn, Massachusetts. His show business career began when he secured a job as a shirt model in magazine advertisements. [2]

After this, he became interested in acting and joined several stock companies, where he gained experience and training as an actor in professional stage productions. This allowed him to get his first film role, in Vitagraph's The Beloved Impostor (1918). He got his big break in D. W. Griffith's The White Rose (1923). He traveled to Germany with Griffith and made a film about the incredibly harsh conditions in Germany after World War I, Isn't Life Wonderful (1924).

Hamilton in Stars of the Photoplay, 1924 Neil Hamilton, Stars of the Photoplay.jpg
Hamilton in Stars of the Photoplay, 1924

While he was filming America (1924), a soldier's arm was blown off. Actor Charles Emmett Mack recalled: "Neil Hamilton and I went to neighboring towns and raised a fund for him—I doing a song and dance and Neil collecting a coin." [3]

Hamilton was signed by Paramount Pictures in the mid-1920s and became one of its leading men. He often appeared opposite Bebe Daniels. He played one of Ronald Colman's brothers in Paramount's original silent version of Beau Geste (1926) and Nick Carraway in the first film of The Great Gatsby (1926), now a lost film. He starred with Victor McLaglen in John Ford's Mother Machree (1928), whose title coincidentally became Chief O'Hara's catchphrase in the Batman television series almost four decades later.

In 1930, Hamilton appeared in the original production of The Dawn Patrol (retitled "Flight Commander" after its remake), playing the squadron commander, who was played by Basil Rathbone in the 1938 remake. Hamilton was billed above newcomer Clark Gable in Laughing Sinners (1931), in which he played a cad who deserts Joan Crawford's brokenhearted character. He originated the role of milksop Harry Holt, Jane's fiancé, in Tarzan the Ape Man (1932), where he got top billing. Hamilton reprised the role in the pre-Code sequel Tarzan and His Mate (1934) at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. He made five films in England in 1936 and 1937.

"A"-level work in Hollywood dried up for Hamilton by the 1940s, and he was reduced to working in serials, "B" films, and other low-budget projects. He starred as the villain in King of the Texas Rangers (1941), one of the Republic Pictures most successful movie serials.

In Since You Went Away (1944), about life on the home front in World War II, Hamilton is seen only in still photographs as a serviceman away at war. His family's travails during his absence are the center of the movie. Hamilton reportedly shot scenes for the movie before filmmakers decided to keep his character off-screen. He appeared in the film noir When Strangers Marry (1944) with Robert Mitchum.

In a 1970s book interview for Whatever Happened to..., Hamilton said he had been banned from A level work for insulting a studio executive. A Roman Catholic, Hamilton said that his faith got him through the difficult period of late 1942 to early 1944 when he could not obtain film employment and was down on his luck financially.

When television came along, Hamilton hosted Hollywood Screen Test (1948-1953), co-starred in the short-lived sitcom That Wonderful Guy with Jack Lemmon (1949–50), at the same time as Hollywood Screen Test, and did guest shots on numerous series of the 1950s and 1960s such as seven episodes of Perry Mason in 1958 he played as murder victim Bertrand Allred in "The Case of the Lazy Lover", 1964 he played as murderer Grove Dillingham in "The Case of the Drifting Dropout", five episodes of 77 Sunset Strip , as well as Maverick , The Real McCoys , Mister Ed , Bachelor Father , The Outer Limits , and The Cara Williams Show . During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Hamilton performed on Broadway in Many Happy Returns (1945), The Men We Marry (1948), To Be Continued (1952), and Late Love (1953–54).

In 1960, actor Richard Cromwell was seeking a comeback of sorts in 20th Century Fox's planned production of The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come but Cromwell died of complications from liver cancer. Producer Maury Dexter quickly signed Hamilton to replace Cromwell in the film, which co-starred Jimmie Rodgers and Chill Wills. During the 1960s, Hamilton appeared in three Jerry Lewis films: The Patsy (1964), The Family Jewels (1965), and Which Way to the Front? (1970).

Hamilton appeared as Police Commissioner James Gordon in all 120 episodes of the Batman television series (1966–68) as well as the 1966 film of the same name. Yvonne Craig, who played Commissioner Gordon's daughter Barbara, said Hamilton "came every day to the set letter perfect in dialogue and never missed a beat—a consummate professional." [4]

Personal life

Hamilton was married to Elsa Whitmer from 1922 until his death in September 1984. They had one child.

Hamilton was a Roman Catholic, and a member of the Good Shepherd Parish and the Catholic Motion Picture Guild in Beverly Hills, California. [5]

Hamilton died at the age of 85 on September 24, 1984 after suffering a severe asthma attack. After his cremation, his ashes were later scattered into the Pacific Ocean.


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  1. "Monday Memories: How Toledo begat Batman's 'boss'".
  2. Barry Monush. Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the Silent Era to 1965, p. 308
  3. Tildesley, Alice L. (July 1926). "Prop Boy to Star (Continued)". Motion Picture Classic . Chicago, IL: Brewster Publications. Retrieved September 3, 2015.
  4. Cassell, Dewey (February 2010). "Growing Up Gordon: The Early Years of Batgirl". Back Issue! . TwoMorrows Publishing (38): 70.
  5. Church of the Good Shepherd: Our History,; accessed October 31, 2015.