Shepperd Strudwick (Who’s Who at MGM, 1937) 🇺🇸
Several generations ago a distant grandmother of Shepperd Strudwick married a French actor. His recent progenitors were more scientific-minded, his great grandfather and grandfather being doctors and his father the president of a southern cotton mill.
From the ages of twelve to seventeen, Shepperd planned on being a writer. With this idea in mind, he entered the University of North Carolina. Here he continued his literary pursuits until, one day, he met one of the members of the Carolina Playmakers, one of the most important college dramatic clubs in the country and noteworthy for having recognized early the abilities of Paul Green.
At that time, the Playmakers were putting on a play about Pierrot, but oddly enough had no one to play Pierrot.
“Come over to rehearsal, Shepperd,” urged his friend. “I think that you could do the part.”
Being a good fellow, Shepperd complied, never dreaming that doing so would affect his whole life. But such was the case. He read the lines, was chosen for the part and made a hit.
Shepperd continued, of course, with the Players, gaining an excellent preliminary experience in roles that ranged from hillbillys, a folk lore standby of the organization, to Shakespeare.
Meanwhile, he managed to distinguish himself in all departments of university life, winning Phi Beta Kappa, for scholarship, a place on the editorial staff of the college magazine and the Golden Fleece and D. K. E., for personal popularity. He went in for track also, but never made the team.
College to Stage
From college, Shepperd went straight to the theatre.
After several weeks, “Yellow Jacket” went into rehearsal and Shepperd was made understudy. The play opened, with Alexander Kirkland as juvenile lead. And he continued in this role until offered the lead in “Wings Over Europe.”
This circumstance affected Shepperd happily as he was given Kirkland’s part. He continued in the role for three months; then went to Surrey, Maine, where he joined the resident stock company.
From this time on, his experience was much like that of most players: small parts in successes and failures, and occasional periods of unemployment.
The following winter, he joined the Jitney Players, an energetic group that gained something of a reputation for bringing good drama to the hinterlands, by way of Chautauqua.
For three years, Shepperd continued in stock, his hopes for more important achievement being buoyed up by sporadic New York engagements in “bit” parts.
All the time, however, and this is noteworthy — Shepperd was studying.
Later came parts with the Theatre Guild again in “Races” and “Jigsaw,” followed by roles in “Bright Star,” by Philip Barry, “Tight Breeches,” “Let Freedom Ring” and “End of Summer,” a happy stage reunion with Ina Claire.
In 1936, Shepperd married Helen Wynn, an actress who played on tour in “Winterset.” Then after touring in “End of Summer,” he went to Hollywood to appear, under an M-G-M contract in “Conquest.” His experiences here, however, were like those of many newcomers. For two months and a half, he made tests. But when, eventually, he was cast to play the part of Garbo’s brother, he had to leave Hollywood to fill previous contracts in New York.