The annual What a Character! blogathon hosted by Paula's Cinema Club, Once Upon A Screen, and Outspoken And Freckled runs from November 15th to 17th. Thanks, Paula, Aurora, and Kellee for this 8th annual edition of the blogathon! Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
January 11, 1886 - May 28, 1960
Hi-diddle-dee-dee, an actor's life for me *
George Desylli Zucco was born in Manchester, England the son of a Greek immigrant and a former lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria. George was raised in London where his mother took her young family after the death of her husband. During his student years, George was an excellent mathematician and played on cricket and soccer teams. In his late teens, George emigrated to the Canadian prairies, eventually working as a clerk in Winnipeg where he pursued an interest in acting. He joined a touring repertory company and made his professional debut in Regina in 1908. By 1913 he had made his way to New York and was appearing in a Vaudeville sketched entitled The Suffragette.
History intervened in the young actor's career and in 1914 George Zucco returned to England and joined the West Yorkshire Regiment, 7th Batallion. Private George Zucco was sent to the frontlines in France where his right arm was wounded, losing the use of two fingers. At war's end, Lieutenant Zucco returned to London and enrolled in the Royal Academy as a means of reviving his theatrical career.
The London stage kept the actor busy for the next decade, including a well-received turn in R.C. Sherriff's World War One drama Journey's End directed by James Whale. During the play's run, George met and eventually married actress Stella Francis (1900-1999). George was 43 at the time and the 29-year-old actress required some convincing. Their marriage would endure for the next 30 years until George's passing in 1960. The couple would have one daughter, Frances (1931-1962).
George began appearing in films in 1931 and his final British film The Man Who Could Work Miracles was released in 1936. By that time George was making an impression on Broadway as Benjamin Disraeli opposite Helen Hayes in Victoria Regina. During the run of the play, George accepted an offer from MGM studios in Hollywood. He and Stella sold their home in England, moved to California, and he became a naturalized United States citizen.
George Zucco's Hollywood career would encompass 90 feature films. The talented actor's filmography is one that never bores the fan. From prestigious productions to poverty row quickies, the actor delights in a variety of roles and genres. Let's look at some of my favourites. First up is a slate of mysteries.
William Powell, George Zucco, Myrna Loy
From the MGM B side of mysteries, we find the fast-paced and entertaining London by Night, 1937. George Murphy is a newsman and Rita Johnson is a socialite who thinks it will be fun to track down a murderer in foggy London town. George Zucco is Inspector Jefferson, a professional investigator. George next shows up on the wrong side of the law and Captain Hugh Drummond in 1938 entry in the Paramount series, Arrest Bulldog Drummond.
Phyllis Brooks, Sidney Toler, George Zucco
Basil Rathbone, George Zucco
George Zucco, Henry Stephenson, Nigel Bruce
Let's move into the realm of horror where George careened between budgets and scripts, always bringing a touch of class to the proceedings.
Tom Tyler, George Zucco
George Zucco, George Zucco
George Zucco, David Bruce
It's back to PRC for Fog Island, 1945 where Zucco brings to an isolated island a group of folks who've done him wrong. Will anyone escape the booby traps of revenge? Lionel Atwill, Jerome Cowan, Veda Ann Borg, and Ian Keith are among the victims. Serves them right!
George Zucco, Lucille Ball
The "Poet Killer" leaves clues to taunt the police and the trail our leading lady must follow is filled with adventure and romance, along with Joseph Calleia, Boris Karloff, Cedric Hardwicke, and Alan Mowbray. George Sanders is a prime suspect and prime romantic material. The Chief Inspector played by Charles Coburn gives one of the Yard's men, Officer Barrett played by George Zucco, the duty of keeping our undercover rookie safe.
Zucco is delightful as Officer Barrett and his chemistry with Lucy makes them a crimefighting team made in movie heaven. I enjoy Lured most often on rainy weekends and I help but wish for more. How I would have loved a sequel or two with Lucy and George Zucco running around London solving crimes. Put the kettle on - it's time for the Sandra Carpenter Mysteries and the spin-off, Officer Barrett: On the Job.
My imagination and the film work left by George Zucco makes me believe that it would have been a wonderful theatrical experience to have seen him do Shakespeare or see him in Journey's End or Victoria Regina. We must content ourselves with The Secret Garden, The Black Swan, and The First Legion, and whatever other surprising treats our journey in classic movies will send our way.
Check it out:
Linda Christian, Johnny Weissmuller, George Zucco
George rocks the caftan in Tarzan and the Mermaids, 1948.
* Leigh Harline, Ned Washington
Sherlock Holmes and the Fabulous Faces, The Universal Pictures Repertory Company
by Michael A. Hoey - Bear Manor Media, 2011