Neil Hamilton (actor)

Last updated

Neil Hamilton
Neil Hamilton actor.JPG
Hamilton, c. 1931
Born
James Neil Hamilton

(1899-09-09)September 9, 1899
DiedSeptember 24, 1984(1984-09-24) (aged 85)
NationalityAmerican
OccupationActor
Years active1918–1971
Spouse(s)
Elsa Whitmer
(m. 1922)
Children1

James Neil Hamilton (September 9, 1899 – September 24, 1984) was an American stage, film and television actor, best known for his role as Commissioner Gordon on the Batman TV series of the 1960s.

Contents

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 ads, similar to fellow silent film performer Reed Howes, who was known in advertisements as "The Arrow Collar Man". [1]

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 secure his first film role in 1918 in Vitagraph's The Beloved Impostor, however, he obtained his big break from D. W. Griffith in The White Rose (1923). In 1924, he traveled to Germany with Griffith and made a film about the incredibly harsh living conditions in post-World War I Germany, Isn't Life Wonderful .

While filming America in 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." [2]

Hamilton was signed by Paramount Pictures in the mid-1920s and became one of its leading men. He often appeared opposite star Bebe Daniels. In 1926, he played one of Ronald Colman's brothers in Paramount's original silent version of Beau Geste . In 1926, Hamilton played Nick Carraway in the first production of The Great Gatsby, now a lost film. He starred in John Ford's Mother Machree with Victor McLaglen, and with John Wayne in an early bit role before he was well known, the title of which coincidentally became sidekick Chief O'Hara's catchphrase in the Batman television show nearly four decades later. He was steadily employed in supporting roles and worked for just about every studio in Hollywood.

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

He made the transition to sound pictures at the end of the 1920s and continued appearing in noteworthy productions.

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

He appeared in 268 films, both silents and talkies, and 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 , one of the most successful movie serials of all time for Republic Pictures in 1941.

In Since You Went Away , a 1944 epic 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 1944 film noir classic When Strangers Marry 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 , 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, The Family Jewels, and Which Way to the Front?

Hamilton as police commissioner James Gordon in Batman (1966) Commissioner James Gordon (Neil Hamilton).jpg
Hamilton as police commissioner James Gordon in Batman (1966)

Hamilton is best remembered today as Police Commissioner James Gordon in the Batman television series (1966–68), appearing in all 120 episodes of Batman. 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." [3]

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. [4]

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.

Filmography

Related Research Articles

Frankie Darro Actor

Frankie Darro was an American actor and later in his career a stuntman. He began his career as a child actor in silent films, progressed to lead roles and co-starring roles in adventure, western, dramatic, and comedy films, and later became a character actor and voice-over artist. He is perhaps best known for his role as Lampwick, the unlucky boy who turns into a donkey in Walt Disney's second animated feature, Pinocchio (1940). In early credits, his last name was spelled Darrow.

Tom Tyler American actor

Tom Tyler was an American actor known for his leading roles in low-budget Western films in the silent and sound eras, and for his portrayal of superhero Captain Marvel in the 1941 serial film The Adventures of Captain Marvel. Tyler also played Kharis in 1940's The Mummy's Hand, a popular Universal Studios monster film.

Clive Brook English actor

Clifford Hardman "Clive" Brook was an English film actor.

Ricardo Cortez American actor

Ricardo Cortez was an American film actor and director. He was also credited as Jack Crane early in his acting career.

William Austin (actor) English actor

William Austin was an English character actor. He was the first actor to play Alfred in a Batman adaptation.

Rolfe Sedan American actor

Rolfe Sedan was an American character actor, best known for appearing in bit parts, often uncredited, usually portraying clerks, train conductors, postmen, cooks, waiters etc.

Miles Mander English actor

Miles Mander, was an English character actor of the early Hollywood cinema, also a film director and producer, and a playwright and novelist. He was sometimes credited as Luther Miles.

Lucien Littlefield American actor

Lucien Littlefield was an American actor who achieved a long career from silent films to the television era. He was noted for his versatility, playing a wide range of roles and already portraying old men before he was of voting age.

Jay Wilsey American actor

Jay Wilsey was an American film actor. He appeared in nearly 100 films between 1924 and 1944. He starred in a series of very low-budget westerns in the 1920s and 1930s, billed as Buffalo Bill Jr.

Theodore von Eltz American actor

Theodore von Eltz was an American film actor. He appeared in more than 200 films between 1915 and 1957. He was the father of actress Lori March.

Wade Boteler American actor

Wade Boteler was an American film actor and writer. He appeared in more than 430 films between 1919 and 1943. He was born in Santa Ana, California, and died in Hollywood, California, from a heart attack.

Harry Todd American actor

Harry Todd was an American actor. He appeared in 391 films between 1909 and 1935. He died in Glendale, California, from a heart attack at the age of 71. He was married to actress Margaret Joslin.

John Miljan American actor

John Miljan was an American actor. He appeared in 201 films between 1924 and 1958.

Gino Corrado Italian actor

Gino Corrado was an Italian-born film actor. He appeared in nearly 400 films between 1916 and 1954, almost always in small roles as a character actor. From 1916–1923, he was known as Eugene Corey, which was an Anglicized version of his name.

John St. Polis American actor

John M. St. Polis was an American actor.

DeWitt Jennings American actor

DeWitt Clarke Jennings was an American film and stage actor. He appeared in 17 Broadway plays between 1906 and 1920, and in 153 films between 1915 and 1937.

Robert Walker (actor, born 1888) American actor

Robert Donald Walker was an American film actor. He appeared in 215 films between 1913 and 1953. He was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and died in Los Angeles.

George Irving (American actor) American actor

George Henry Irving was an American film actor and director.

Walter McGrail American actor

Walter B. McGrail was an American film actor. He appeared in more than 150 films between 1916 and 1951. He was born in Brooklyn, New York and died in San Francisco, California, at the age of 81.

Crauford Kent British actor

Crauford Kent was an English-born character film actor, in the United States. He has also been credited as Craufurd Kent and Crawford Kent.

References

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