Charley Grapewin – Wikipedia
American circus performer and actor
Charles Ellsworth Grapewin (December 20, 1869 – February 2, 1956) was an American vaudeville and circus performer, a writer, and a stage and film actor. He worked in over 100 motion pictures during the silent and sound eras, most notably portraying Uncle Henry in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s The Wizard of Oz (1939), “Grandpa” William James Joad in The Grapes of Wrath (1940), Jeeter Lester in Tobacco Road (1941), and California Joe in They Died With Their Boots On (1941).
Born in Xenia, Ohio, Charles Grapewin ran away from home to be a circus acrobat which led him to work as an aerialist and trapeze artist in a traveling circus before turning to acting. He traveled all over the world with the famous P. T. Barnum circus. Grapewin also appeared in the original 1903 Broadway production of The Wizard of Oz, 36 years before he would be featured in the famous Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film version.
After this he continued in theatre, on and offstage, for the next thirty years, starting with various stock companies, and wrote stage plays as a vehicle for himself. His sole Broadway theatre credit was the short-lived play It’s Up to You John Henry in 1905.
Grapewin began in silent films at the turn of the twentieth century. His very first films were two “moving image shorts” made by Frederick S. Armitage and released in November 1900; Chimmie Hicks at the Races (also known as Above the Limit) and Chimmie Hicks and the Rum Omelet, both shot in September and October 1900 and released in November of that year. During his long career, Grapewin appeared in more than one hundred films, including The Good Earth, The Petrified Forest, The Grapes of Wrath, Tobacco Road, and in what is probably his best-remembered role: Uncle Henry in The Wizard of Oz. Prior to being cast in that film, Grapewin performed in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s Broadway Melody of 1938 with Judy Garland (Dorothy in Oz) and Buddy Ebsen (the original Tin Man in Oz). He also performed with Garland in Listen, Darling. Later, in the early 1940s, he had a recurring role as Inspector Queen in the Ellery Queen film series.
Personal life and death
Grapewin married actress Anna Chance in 1896, and they remained together until her death in 1943. Two years later, on January 10, 1945, he married Loretta McGowan Becker.
Grapewin died on February 2, 1956, at his home in Corona, California at the age of 86. His ashes are interred with his wife’s in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California, at the Great Mausoleum’s Columbarium of Inspiration.
- ^ a b “Charles Grapewin Is Dead at 86”. The New York Times, February 3, 1956. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
- ^ “Chimmie Hicks at the races”. Library of Congress. Retrieved 2020-05-20.
- ^ “Chimmie Hicks at the Races”. Complete Index to World Film. Accessed 02-19-2009.
- ^ “Chimmie Hicks and the Rum Omelet”. Sinema.com (in Turkish). Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2009-02-19.
- ^ “Chimmie Hicks at the Races”. Library of Congress Moving Image Collection. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
- ^ “Mrs. Charles Grapewin”. The New York Times. September 12, 1943. Retrieved 2007-08-21.
Mrs. Anna Chance Grapewin, wife of the character actor, Charles Grapewin, died yesterday in the …
- ^ “Charles Grapewin Weds Divorcee”, The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 11, 1945, page 9.[permanent dead link]