Charley Grapewin (Who’s Who at MGM, 1937) 🇺🇸
Circus acrobat, actor, novelist, playwright and now character actor of the screen, Charley Grapewin’s career has been an active one. After thirty-seven years of vaudeville and the dramatic stage, he has found added fame in a new field.
He was born in Xenia, Ohio, December 20, educated in the public schools there, and was expected to follow his father’s career in the lumber business. But Charley didn’t want to be a business man, so he developed a number of acrobatic tricks and joined the Silbon Troupe, an aerial act, with the Barnum circus.
After traveling all over Europe and America and gaining the reputation of being one of the best trapeze performers under the “Big Top,” Grapewin, with his partners, headlined in vaudeville until the act broke up at Portland, Oregon.
Wrote Own Material
He joined a stock company in Portland and spent the next few years as a repertory actor. Then he began to write his own material, which led to more vaudeville engagements. He again became a “big time” headliner, but deserted vaudeville for Broadway in some of his own plays, such as: “Chimmie Fadden,” “Baggage Check” and “The Awakening of Mr. Pipp.”
Coming to Hollywood, he was enlisted as a comedian and played in such pictures as “The Shannons of Broadway,” “Social Errors,” “The Quitter,” “She Made Her Bed,” “The Loud Speaker,” “Judge Priest,” “Caravan,” “The President Vanishes,” “Anne of Green Gables,” “Eight Bells,” “One Frightened Night,” “Alice Adams’ and “King Solomon of Broadway.”
Then followed The Petrified Forest, Ah, Wilderness, “The Voice of Bugle Ann,” Libeled Lady, The Good Earth and Captains Courageous. He was signed to long-term contract by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer just prior to enacting the role of Paul Muni’s father in “The Good Earth” and has since appeared in “Sinner Take All,” “A Family Affair,” Broadway Melody of 1938, “Between Two Women,” “Bad Guy” and “Big City.”
Grapewin is five feet seven inches tall, with blue eyes and dark hair, and weighs 154 pounds. His two hobbies are golf and wood-working. Gardening is another of his recreations. He puts in two hours daily writing, when screen work permits.
To this day Grapewin boasts that he can do his trapeze tricks as well as when he performed them under the Big Top. He keeps his rigging set up in the back yard of his Hollywood home, and loves to astound his friends with it. So thoroughly is he in training that when, during the making of “The Voice of Bugle Ann,” he slipped and took a dangerous fall, he landed acrobat-wise and sprang up unhurt, through sheer intuition born of years of practice.
Married 40 Years
During the filming of “Captains Courageous” he celebrated the fortieth anniversary of his marriage to Anna Chance, actress, who for years was his vaudeville partner.
He is an ardent collector of old theatrical photographs, and a walking history of the stage for the past 45 years, having known practically every legitimate player and vaudeville act during that period. He plans some day to write his recollections of these in a book, which will cover circus, burlesque, stock, vaudeville and the legitimate stage as well as pictures.
One of his highest prized honors came when a Chinese tong made him an honorary member in recognition of his work as the ancient father in “The Good Earth.”