Leonard Penn (Who’s Who at MGM, 1937) 🇺🇸

January 09, 2022

Leonard Penn started in the theatrical business on the ground floor. His first experience with the drama was as an usher at the Court Square Theatre in Springfield, Mass., where he handed out programs during his high school days. That was sufficient to give him the acting “bug.”

The son of Eve and Marcus Penn, Leonard was born in Springfield November 13, 1907. His father was a builder and manufacturer. Leonard attended the Kensington Avenue and Washington grade schools, then the Central high school, where he first found an outlet for his dramatic urge in the school’s French plays. He went on to Springfield junior college, then to Columbia University, where he studied drama under Estelle H. Davis.

On the Road

Out of college, Penn organized several little theatre groups, all of which were shortlived. Finally, he went on the road in Shakespearean repertory, from which he graduated to stock, traveling all over the United States and eventually winding up on Broadway, where he made his debut in 1934 in Elmer Rice’s “Between Two World’s.” There followed “Field of Ermine,” with Frances Starr, in 1935, then “Paths of Glory,” and next Brock Pemberton’s production of the comedy hit, “Personal Appearance,” with Gladys George as the star. She and Leonard were married September 18 of that year.

When his wife returned to Hollywood for the film, “Valiant is the Word for Carrie,” Penn accompanied her. Having inherited his father’s manufacturing business he had virtually decided to forget his acting ambitions. But visiting his wife at M-G-M studio, where she was appearing in “They Gave Him a Gun,” with Spencer Tracy and Franchot Tone, he was seen by casting director Fred Datig, who urged him to take a test.

Screen Test

Eager to help him, Gladys offered to school him in the technicalities and to appear opposite him in the test, but her own work prevented. It ended with Director Robert Z. Leonard, who needed an actor to play the role of Etienne, discarded lover of Jeanette MacDonald, in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s “The Firefly,” supervising the test himself. Penn was signed for the part and made such an impression in it that he won a long-term contract with the studio, immediately going into his second film, “Between Two Women,” in the role of the “heavy,” Dr. Wolcott, with Franchot Tone, Virginia Bruce and Maureen O’Sullivan, and then into “The Women Men Marry” with George Murphy and Josephine Hutchinson, and “The Four Marys” with Myrna Loy, Rosalind Russell and Franchot Tone.

Screen Find

Six feet one and a half inches tall, weighing 185 pounds, with dark brown hair and the same color of eyes, Leonard Monson Penn is rapidly becoming recognized as a screen “find.” To his youthful ambition to become an actor-director-producer he has added a fourth aim to be a writer.

His favorite play he lists as “Macbeth;” his favorite picture, “Valiant is the Word for Carrie, which won his wife a nomination for the Academy award. S. N. Behrman is his favorite modern playwright. Rembrandt is his choice as a classical painter. His favorite classical orchestrations are many; Brahms, Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, Bach, Wagner, the list can continue indefinitely. But he has no favorite superstition, modern author, modern painter, historical character, orchestra or illustrator and he belongs to no organization, clubs or lodges.

His favorite type of woman? He married her.

Source: Who’s Who at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1937