Everything Immortal for September 30 ...
Born on this date ...
There's a very long list of September 30 birthdays listed below, but I decided to look into the actor I was most curious about out of the bunch today: George Bancroft, who was born on this date in Philadelphia, PA, 1882.
If the name doesn’t ring a bell you would most likely remember George Bancroft best by his later character roles.
In Frank Capra’s Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), starring Gary Cooper, Bancroft is the editor who sets reporter Jean Arthur loose on naive Cooper. Then in Michael Curtiz’ Angels With Dirty Faces (1938) starring James Cagney, Bancroft is the crime boss aligned with Humphrey Bogart against star Cagney. For the Western fan, John Ford’s classic Stagecoach (1939), which finds Bancroft as the Marshall on a quest to safely bring in John Wayne, is surely the title best recalled.
But all of those classic films come after Bancroft’s peak. A 1937 feature article boasted that Bancroft had “fought his way up through five branches of show business.” From vaudeville to dramatic stage actor to musical comedy singer to silent film star and finally into talkies. He was said to be successful in all phases, but while most likely remember him best for those supporting roles named above, George Bancroft’s peak came on the silent screen.
Bancroft first gained screen recognition in 1925’s The Pony Express for James Cruze and garnered more good notices for his work, alongside Wallace Beery, in Cruze’s Old Ironsides (1926).
But it was working under director Josef von Sternberg that Bancroft would reach his greatest heights. First as gangster Bull Weed in 1927’s Underworld; reunited with Underworld co-star Evelyn Brent in The Dragnet (1928); then in love with Betty Compson in his most highly acclaimed film, The Docks of New York (1928); and, finally, von Sternberg’s first talking film, Bancroft’s second, Thunderbolt (1929), which earned Bancroft his only Academy Award nomination.
Both UNDERWORLD and THE DOCKS OF NEW YORK can be found on Criterion’s Three Silent Classics by Josef Von Sternberg along with 1928’s THE LAST COMMAND.
Screen tough guy Bancroft had the voice to match his imposing physical features and while he wouldn’t add any well-known classics to his list of credits in the early 1930s he did appear in string of solid movies that remain popular with viewers who can find them today: Ladies Love Brutes (1930), Scandal Sheet (1931) and Blood Money (1933) to name a few of his best received from the period.
Bancroft had some personal troubles around this time which would take him away from the screen for awhile.
His first wife, Edna Brothers, whom he had married in 1913, popped up in July 1934 to claim that Bancroft had never divorced her in 1917 when he married Octavia Broske. From the time of Brothers' accusation George Bancroft did not appear on screen again until early in 1936, after he had settled out of court with a “secret agreement” that was nonetheless reported to be for an amount between $25,000-$50,000. Whether studios were scared off by Bancroft’s embarrassing situation or if he made the choice to pull away from work until settling matters, I do not know.
But Bancroft was rewarded upon his return to the screen, soon playing in those top supporting roles named at the top of this page. He remained a regular screen presence until his final release in 1942, playing a Sheriff in Whistling in Dixie, from the Red Skelton series.
Bancroft remained married to Octavia for the rest of his life. She had been a musical star on the stage who teamed with Bancroft in the mid-1910’s and even appeared in a couple of films before retiring in 1922. During those early days, Octavia was sometimes the bigger star. In 1933 George Bancroft recalled:
“When I wasn’t working I used to drive Mrs. Bancroft to and from the studio and to the theater … Neither of us knew it at the time but later found out that everyone around the studio thought that I was simply a chauffeur and were on the verge of barring me from the studio several times” (Thomas)
The Bancrofts had one daughter, Georgette, who had actually appeared in George’s film debut, The Journey’s End, in 1921 when she was just four. Bancroft was survived by Octavia, Georgette and two grandchildren at the time of his death, October 2, 1956, which came after a three-week illness. He had only turned 74 a few days earlier.
Note: George Bancroft also had a rather glorious military career just before and after the turn of the century. As the reports placed him in some famous places at some famous times I went digging a little deeper and wound up unable to either prove or disprove any of these key entries to Bancroft's biography.
The main claims: He was on the U.S.S. Missouri at the Battle of Manilla during the Spanish-American war; in 1900 when the U.S.S. Oregon struck a rock off the coast of China, Bancroft was first to swim beneath the damaged ship and emerge with a report of the damage. For this is was said he received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis which he, depending upon the report, either graduated or left early to pursue the stage.
These are rather specific events that I could find information about but could not directly connect Bancroft to at this time.
... Born on this date were major stage star Wilton Lackaye, who also appeared in a few films, in 1862; silent star of the 1910's Bessie Barriscale in 1884; German actress Lil Dagover in 1887; All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) film director Lewis Milestone in 1895; 1920s-30s actor Ralph Forbes in 1896; Renee Adoree, of The Big Parade (1925) in 1898; Frank Lawton, who played David Copperfield (1935) as an adult, in 1904; British born Michael Powell of Powell and Pressburger fame in 1905; singer/actor Kenny Baker in 1912; perhaps our best known September 30th born film star, Deborah Kerr, on this date in 1921; and half-sister of Sally Blane, Polly Ann and Loretta Young, Georgiana Young, who appeared with the others in The Story of Alexander Graham Bell (1939). Born Georgiana Belzer in 1923.
Boris Karloff stars in The Mummy (1932) on TCM tonight at 8 pm EST. Yes, full of scares, but The Mummy really manages to transcend the horror genre. I mention it with hopes that non-horror fans take a look tonight as well. You'll find some of the reasons why in my article about The Mummy found HERE.
The final batch of my early 1930's MGM Promotional Photos end on eBay tonight beginning about 10 pm EST (check them out after The Mummy!).
The remaining photos are highlighted by two more vintage Jean Harlow photographs plus 8x10 shots of Maureen O'Sullivan, O'Sullivan and Johnny Weissmuller with mention of Tarzan on back, Weissmuller riding bicycles with Lupe Velez, Myrna Loy, Madge Evans, a couple of gorgeous shots of Jean Parker, plus others!
You can bid on them all at eBay through THIS LINK.
The 24-card circular version of the 1939 Rothmans Beauties of the Cinema is a favorite set of many. Besides the unusual shape they are a collection of very colorful cards featuring some of our favorite Hollywood actresses from the 1930s. The gallery for this set shows the front and back of all 24 of our Beauties.
I've always been partial to this profile view of Myrna Loy:
That's About All ...
Sources for the George Bancroft piece follow below.
Thank you so much for reading. Have a wonderful day!
- Coons, Robbin. “In Hollywood.” North Adams Transcript 26 Jul 1929: 4. NewspaperArchive. Web. 30 Sep 2012.
- “George Bancroft Dies at 74.” Ogden Standard Examiner 4 Oct 1956: 1. NewspaperArchive. Web. 30 Sep 2012.
- “Forgotten Wife Files Court Suit.” The Telegraph 25 Jul 1934: 5. Google News. Web. 30 Sep 2012.
- ”Sea Or Screen—It’s All the Same To Him!” Centralia Daily Chronicle. 17 Jul 1937: 10. NewspaperArchive. Web. 30 Sep 2012.
- Thomas, Dan. “’Live and Let Live’ Keeps Bancrofts Happy 20 Years of Married Life.” Sandusky Star Journal 3 Aug 1933: 2. NewspaperArchive. Web. 30 Sep 2012.
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