Charles Dingle — Bad Man from Jersey (1943) 🇺🇸

Charles Dingle — Bad Man from Jersey (1943) |

June 02, 2024

Bette Davis and Ann Sheridan were lunching in the Warner commissary the other day when Charles Dingle approached their table.

by Jill Lang

“What are you playing in ‘Edge of Darkness,’ Charlie?” asked Bette. “I hear it’s a wonderful part.”

“Another mean, nasty stinker,” said Dingle.

“Isn’t it a shame,” said Ann. “He’s been typed ever since “The Little Foxes.” Perhaps we should do something about it, Bette. Maybe a Let-Dingle-Be-Nice campaign.”

Dingle, however, is not anxious that something be done. He’s pleased that in Edge of Darkness he is playing his meanest role, that of a quisling Norwegian official, for it is this type of acting that has made him one of the busiest of Hollywood’s free-lance character men.

Dingle is not the horrendous type like Karloff. He’s just a cut-and-dried meanie.

In real life he might be one’s favorite gray-haired uncle. His blue eyes are merry, his manner friendly, his conversation sprightly. But on the screen he is thoroughly hard, calculating, despicable.

Most of Dingle’s life has been spent acting. He learned it the hard way, too. He carried spears, did walk-ons and bits, before he graduated to juveniles, leading men and young villains. But it was not until he started in character roles that he enjoyed any measure of success; not until he became mean did Hollywood beckon.

November 11th to the country at large is Armistice Day, but to Dingle it has a double significance. On that date in the year 1902 he made his first stage appearance. Only fourteen but large for his age, he played a man of sixty-five in a dilly of a melodrama entitled Forgiven, or, The Jack of Diamonds.

That was in a small repertory company playing in Liberty, Mo. Young Charles had run away from his home in Kansas City to join the troupe. The only trouble with the job was that when he asked for his salary, he was fired.

The next step was with a permanent stock company, which remained in one city. Here there were no one-night stands, but the work was little easier. Two plays were presented each week, with concurrent rehearsals for two more. Acting then was real work!

Through such a proving ground in the Middle West went Dingle. By the time he had earned his acting spurs and gone to New York in 1916, he had played every possible kind of role. In Manhattan he was given juvenile and “young” leads. He also had long vaudeville tours as a headliner, for which he wrote his own act.

In 1920, longing for real roots somewhere, he bought a home in Union, New Jersey, which he maintained until last year. But until 1928 it was only a mailing address, for he divided his time between New York engagements and “the road.”

In that year, tired of the nomadic life and hoping for domesticity with his wife and two sons, he left the stage and became a real estate agent. There was one lush year, but with eventful 1929 came the slump.

Dingle continued to trade in lots and homes until 1935, but in the last few years of that time real estate alone could not pay the household bills. Radio was the solution.

He played in just about every soap opera which emanated from New York, to which he could commute from home. He was featured in such popular washboard weepers as Aunt Jenny and Pepper Young’s Family.

After this hiatus the lure of the footlights won and Dingle returned to the New York stage in the attention-stirring Let Freedom Ring. That role and his lead in Paul Green’s Hymn to the Rising Sun, which won him critical raves, marked the beginning of his career as a character actor, and his real success.

Shortly after hitting his stride, Dingle met producer Al Woods.

“You’re my idea of a real actor,” he told him. “Where have you been all these years?”

“For twenty-five of them,” said Dingle quietly, “I’ve been trying to get into your office.”

Dingle’s reign as a mean man began with his part as Uncle Ben in The Little Foxes, a role he created on the stage. At the end of the play’s run on Broadway and the road he was brought to Hollywood to recreate the role in the picture. He has remained since, with little deviation from that type casting.

Witness his parts as the arsonist mill owner who persecuted Cary Grant in “Talk of the Town;” as the appeaser newspaper publisher in “Somewhere I’ll Find You;” the fee-grabbing family physician in “Calling Dr. Gillespie.” You’ll see him in similar roles in “George Washington Slept Here,” and “They Got Me Covered,” as well as in Edge of Darkness.

Dingle likes motion pictures and Hollywood because they afford the opportunity of staying in one place, instead of trouping. He likes his home and garden, which, he admits, might be a reflection of Mid-West heritage. He was born in Indiana, grew up in Missouri.

New Jersey claimed him as resident longer than any other place, and it was not until after he made that state his home that he became a successfully nasty, mean character man.

“That, of course, is no reflection on the Garden State,” says Dingle.

Naturally not! Who ever heard of a real Bad Man from Jersey?

Charles Dingle — Bad Man from Jersey (1943) |

Kill that rumor
Loose talk is dangerous
It may cost your son’s life

Collection: Hollywood Magazine, February 1943