Samuel S. Hinds — Who Is This Man? (1935) 🇺🇸

Samuel S. Hinds — Who Is This Man? (1935) |

August 15, 2023

On a substantial-looking oak door leading into a law office in Pasadena, California, where rents are high and fees are accordingly so, you will see inscribed the name: “Samuel S. Hinds.”

by Franc Dillon

But it is a rare occasion when you will find Mr. Hinds at his desk, for almost every day he may be found in some Hollywood studio working in the movies.

“Indeed,” one director told me, “it has got to the point where a studio won’t take any other actor when the story calls for a distinguished-looking lawyer, doctor, judge, or professional man who can act as well as look the part.”

But I’m getting ahead of my story and you are no doubt wondering how it happened that a wealthy lawyer left a lucrative practice at an age when most men are thinking of retiring, to enter a new profession.

When young Sam Hinds graduated from Harvard and returned to his home in Brooklyn, New York, some thirty years ago. his father said, “Well, young man, what are you going to do now?” And Sam, without a moment’s hesitation, replied, “I’m going on the stage.”

Whereupon Hinds, senior, almost fainted. Although he had been aware of his son’s interest in high school and college dramatics and had been proud of his success in amateur theatricals, it was time, he thought, for Sam to begin to take life seriously. It was time for him to prepare to carry on the family traditions as a business man. It was time for him to assume responsibility, to fit himself to manage the fortune that would be his at his father’s death. Actually, the elder Mr. Hinds was so distressed at his son’s unheard-of ambition that Sam said, “I’ll do anything you want me to, father.”

It was decided he should be a lawyer, so Sam dutifully attended New York University Law School and in due time graduated and was admitted to the bar in New York State. After practicing for a time in New York City, he went to California, and in 1905, opened law offices in Pasadena where, as I told you, you may still find his name on the door. Here he practiced law and prospered. He did not forget his first love, the stage, however, and when a small stock company was organized in Pasadena, his opportunity came. It was the custom to head the plays with two or three professionals and fill out the cast with amateurs. It was as an amateur in a minor role that Mr. Hinds’s career as an actor began. He played many roles with this small company; he became one of the “professionals.” When the Pasadena Community Players was organized he was one of the charter members, a heavy financial contributor and one of the most enthusiastic actors in the company.

There never was a time when Gilmor Brown, head of the organization, could not go to Mr. Hinds and suggest that he would like to produce a certain play but couldn’t afford the costumes, or the scenerv. or the advertising and receive the necessary financial aid. And it was to Mr. Hinds that many a young actor and actress went for advice, too. Robert Young, Karen Morley, Douglass Montgomery; Randolph Scott, Gloria Stuart, and Onslow Stevens are only a few of the graduates from that small group who profited by knowing Sam Hinds.

While keeping up his law practice, Mr. Hinds appeared in forty-six plays. In addition to experience, he was gaining happiness from the pursuit of his hobby.

His home was one of the most beautiful in Altadena, the district above Pasadena where show places are the rule rather than the exception, and the big Colonial house was often sought by picture companies as a location.

Then came the 1929 market crash and Mr. Hinds lost his home, his fortune, everything. 

“So,” he said, “I thought it was a good time to change my profession. I decided I would become a movie actor. I had nothing to lose for I had lost everything.”

Ambition is usually the spur to success, but in his case it was actual need that drove him on. He determined not to fall back on the law in case of failure in his chosen work, and with the idea firmly in his mind that there was to be no failure, he started out.

“I went first to the Paramount casting director,” he told me. “I was surprised when he told me he would call me soon. I thought that was the old line they gave every one, but in a couple of days I was called and given a bit in If I Had a Million. I had just nineteen words to speak. It took about an hour to make the scene and I received twenty dollars. I decided I had chosen the right profession!”

Did you see him in Little Women? His recent pictures sound like a list of the best shows in town. You will see him with Mady Christians in Wicked Woman; with May Robson in Mills of the Gods; with Jean Parker in Sequoia, and with Richard Dix in West of the Pecos, which he says, contentedly, “is by far the best role I’ve ever had.”

He’s been the screen father of the most beautiful actresses, including Joan [Joan Bennett] and Constance Bennett, Katharine Hepburn, Jean Parker, and Frances Dee. And they all adore him.

“Mr. Hinds and I are from the same town,” Jean Parker told me with an emphasis that gave me to understand it was a geographical fact that set them apart. “We both live in Pasadena. He is so nice. 

“He did the sweetest thing for me. He brought me a little book from the ten-cent store one day. It was Little Women, illustrated with our pictures from the film. Wasn’t that thoughtful? It will always be one of my most precious possessions.

“Do you remember when he had to carry me downstairs in Little Women? We rehearsed it so many times, and I’m pretty heavy, you know.”

She giggled as she continued. “The day after we finished that picture we began to work on Sequoia and again he had to carry me. After we rehearsed the scene a few times he began to puff. And he asked me if I had got heavier since we made Little Women or if I thought he was getting old. He’s such a darling. And he’s such a good actor; I’ve learned a lot from watching him. He has taught me how to sustain a scene, for one thing.”

Jean’s opinion reflects that of other players toward him. The first day he worked in West of the Pecos, the cowboys all called him “Judge,” which means a lot. If they hadn’t liked him, they wouldn’t have called him anything. The younger people in the cast asked his advice about everything. He inspires confidence. He has a young viewpoint and is enthusiastic about everything, which gives them- courage- to approach him with their problems. He is eager to learn everything about his new business and will accept a tip from any one. He is thrilled when he learns a new trick of makeup or a bit of screen technique.

“Acting is all to the good,” he told me. “I wouldn’t go back to practicing law for anything. I only realize now how desperately unhappy I was all those years. If I had known how hard it would be I wouldn’t have had the courage to do it, even to please my father. I’m sure he must have turned over in his grave many times when I. appeared on the stage, but he doubtless would have been proud of me when I did something well, even acting. I think it is a very dangerous thing to interfere with a child’s career. I would never do it.

“I began acting as a profession just two years ago and I’ve just signed for my sixtieth part. I like playing character roles. They are more interesting and promise a better future than straight parts. The person who rises to stardom can occupy that position for only a few years, whereas the man or woman who plays character parts is assured an indefinite future.

“You know I’m just a modest fellow. I don’t want the whole world. I’m grateful for my little success. I’m flattered to think that Picture Play wanted a story about me.”

In person, as on the screen, he has charm and distinction. He represents breeding, background, gentility. He is surely on his way to roles that are worthy of his talents. And he is, indeed, “just a modest fellow.”

Samuel S. Hinds — Who Is This Man? (1935) |

When a lawyer, doctor, or judge is required for a scene, the studios immediately consider Sam Hinds, who is representative of breeding, background and gentility.

Samuel S. Hinds — Who Is This Man? (1935) |

Collection: Picture Play Magazine, March 1935