Ah, we have survived Thanksgiving and Black Friday. That is no mean feat these days. Of course, this has all been a warm-up to the Christmas season. Thankfully, the season brings with it a long list of great movies to help us get into the spirit. One of the better ones is The Bishop's Wife starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven. The supporting cast is just as good, including Monty Woolley as The Professor, Gladys Cooper as Mrs. Hamilton, Elsa Lancaster as Matilda and James Gleason as Sylvester the taxi driver. Scene stealers all. Below, Cary eyes Gleason with a look of resignation, no point in competing for a scene with a pro like Jimmy.
The Bishops Wife (1947)
Gleason was 47 years old when he arrived in Hollywood along with the talkies. After years in stock companies and touring shows, he had already developed the persona which would help him become a highly successful and very busy character actor. Always older, always balding and always the tough, warmhearted character, Jimmy played variations of the role for 29 years. His first movie with our Bob was Blondie of the Follies. He plays 'Pa' McCune, to Marion Davies' Blondie.
Blondie of the Follies (1932)
Nine years later he is Max Corkle in Here Comes Mr. Jordan, the long suffering trainer of Bob's Joe Pendleton. Max has to put up with Joe's saxophone playing, his reincarnations and the mysterious, invisible Mr. Jordan. He is just great in the role and is appropriately rewarded with a nomination as best supporting actor.
Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941)
Jimmy, who was born into a theater family, joined the army at the age of 16 to fight in the Spanish American war and, before serving again in WWI, he marries Lucile. Lucile was his partner in the theater as well, and became a successful character actress in the movies. She and Jimmy were two of the 21 founding members of the actor's guild, Lucile becoming the guild's first treasurer. Jimmy continued to act until a year before his death in 1959. His last role was as 'Cuke' Gillen in John Ford's The Last Hurrah starring Spencer Tracy. Quite fittingly, he was one of a superb supporting cast including Pat O'Brien, Basil Rathbone, Donald Crisp, Edward Brophy, John Carradine, Wallace Ford and Frank McHugh. And does he ever hold his own in his last scene of the movie and his career. Good job, Mr. Gleason.
Bob was a car enthusiast. I'm sure you have seen the photos of Bob and his latest prize. There was the 1931 Cadillac...
Then there was the 1933 Cadillac ...
The 1933 Cadillac was a 452C V16 Convertible Victoria, one of two made with its particular features. It cost $7,500 new (a LOT of money in the midst of the Depression!) and sold for $412,000 when up for auction in 2009. Check out all the dials on the dashboard, not your basic Model A for sure.
In 1935 he buys a Bentley while in England and uses it on a driving tour of Europe with Betty. Now that's the way to travel. He has it shipped home and is seen below with Bob arriving at the studio.
And lastly, an auto I ran across recently, but no Bob with car photo as yet, a 1939 Lagonda V-12 Rapide Sports Roadster, with engineering by W. O. Bentley, originator of Bentley Motors. Bob test drove it at the Brooklands race track in England before having it delivered to Beverly Hills. This Lagonda was the very last one bodied by the firm before WWII. It cost Bob $8,900.
It sold at auction in Feb., 2012, for $900,000. Bob had great taste.