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Melvyn Douglas

Filmography

1931      

Tonight or Never

 

1932      

Prestige

The Wiser Sex

The Broken Wing

As You Desire Me

The Old Dark House

 

1933      

The Vampire Bat

Nagana

Counsellor at Law

 

1934      

Woman in the Dark

Dangerous Corner

 

1935      

She Married Her Boss

Mary Burns, Fugitive

Annie Oakley

 

1936      

The Gorgeous Hussy

Theodora Goes Wild

And So They Were Married

 

1937      

Captains Courageous

I Met Him in Paris

Angel

I’ll Take Romance

 

1938      

There’s Always a Woman

Arsène Lupin Returns

The Toy Wife

Fast Company

That Certain Age

The Shining Hour

 

1939      

There’s That Woman Again

Tell No Tales

Ninotchka

The Amazing Mr. Williams

Good Girls Go to Paris

 

1940      

Too Many Husbands

He Stayed for Breakfast

Third Finger, Left Hand

This Thing Called Love

 

1941      

That Uncertain Feeling

A Woman’s Face

Two-Faced Woman

 

1942      

We Were Dancing

They All Kissed the Bride

 

1943      

Three Hearts for Julia

 

1947      

The Sea of Grass

The Guilt of Janet Ames

 

1948      

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House

 

1949      

A Woman’s Secret

The Great Sinner

 

1951      

My Forbidden Past

On the Loose

 

1962      

Billy Budd

 

1963      

Hud

 

1964      

Advance to the Rear

The Americanization of Emily

 

1965      

Rapture

Once Upon a Tractor

 

1966      

Lamp at Midnight

 

1967      

Hotel

 

1968      

Companions in Nightmare

 

1970      

I Never Sang for My Father

Hunters Are for Killing

 

1971      

Death Takes a Holiday

 

1972      

The Candidate

One Is a Lonely Number

 

1976      

The Tenant

 

1977      

Twilight’s Last Gleaming

Intimate Strangers

 

1979      

The Seduction of Joe Tynan

Being There

 

1980      

The Changeling

Tell Me a Riddle

 

1981      

Ghost Story

The Hot Touch

Awards

Melvyn Douglas was nominated for two and won both Best Actor in a Supporting Role Academy Awards for

He was also nominated for a Best Actor in a Leading Role Academy Award for I Never Sang for My Father (1970).

The Hollywood roles I did were boring; I was soon fed up with them. It’s true they gave me a worldwide reputation I could trade on, but they also typed me as a one-dimensional, non-serious actor. ~ Melvyn Douglas

Melvyn Douglas: Learn more about him, review his filmography and more

Actors, Biographies

Melvyn Douglas (born Melvyn Edouard Hesselberg) was born in Macon, Georgia on April 5, 1901. He was the son of Lena Priscilla (née Shackelford) and Edouard Gregory Hesselberg, a concert pianist and composer. His father was a Jewish emigrant from Riga, Latvia, then part of Russia. His mother, a native of Tennessee, was Protestant. He took the surname of his maternal grandmother and became known as Melvyn Douglas.

Douglas was married briefly to artist Rosalind Hightower, and they had one child, (Melvyn) Gregory Hesselberg, in 1926. Hesselberg, an artist, is the father of actress Illeana Douglas

Douglas developed his acting skills in Shakespearean repertory while in his teens and with stock companies in Sioux City, Iowa, Evansville, Indiana, Madison, Wisconsin and Detroit, Michigan. He served in the United States Army in World War I. He established an outdoor theatre in Chicago. He had a long theatre, film and television career as a lead player, stretching from his 1930 Broadway role in Tonight or Never (opposite his future wife, Helen Gahagan) until just before his death. Douglas shared top billing with Boris Karloff and Charles Laughton in James Whale’s sardonic horror classic The Old Dark House in 1932.

In 1931, Douglas married actress-turned-politician Helen Gahagan. Douglas and Gahagan had two children: Peter Gahagan Douglas (1933) and Mary Helen Douglas (1938). The couple remained married until Helen Gahagan Douglas’ death in 1980 from cancer.

He was the hero in the 1932 horror film The Vampire Bat and the sophisticated leading man in 1935’s She Married Her Boss. He played opposite Joan Crawford in several films, most notably A Woman’s Face (1941), and with Joan Crawford in three films: As You Desire Me (1932), Ninotchka (1939) and Garbo’s final film Two-Faced Woman (1941). One of his most sympathetic roles was as the belatedly attentive father in Captains Courageous (1937).

During World War II, Douglas served first as a director of the Arts Council in the Office of Civilian Defense, and he then again served in the United States Army rising to the rank of Major. According to his granddaughter Illeana Douglas, it was in Burma when he first met his future Being There co-star Peter Sellers, who was in the Royal Air Force during the war. He returned to play more mature roles in The Sea of Grass and Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. In 1959 he made his musical debut playing Captain Boyle in the ill-fated Marc Blitzstein musical Juno, based on Seán O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock.

From November 1952 to January 1953, Douglas starred in the DuMont detective show Steve Randall (Hollywood Off Beat) which then moved to CBS. In the summer of 1953, he briefly hosted the DuMont game show Blind Date. In the summer of 1959, Douglas hosted eleven original episodes of a CBS Western anthology television series called Frontier Justice, a production of Dick Powell’s Four Star Television.

As Douglas grew older, he took on the older-man and father roles, in such movies as Hud (1963), for which he won his first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, The Americanization of Emily (1964), an episode of The Fugitive (1966), I Never Sang for My Father (1970), for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor, and The Candidate (1972). He won his second Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the comedy-drama Being There (1979). However, Douglas confirmed in one of his final interviews that he refused to attend the 52nd Academy Awards because he could not bear competing against child actor Justin Henry for Kramer vs. Kramer.

In addition to his Academy Awards, Douglas won a Tony Award for his Broadway lead role in the 1960 The Best Man by Gore Vidal, and an Emmy for his 1967 role in Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.

Douglas’ final screen appearance was in Ghost Story (1981). He did not finish his role in the film The Hot Touch (1982) before his death.

Melvyn Douglas died a year after his wife, in 1981, aged 80, from pneumonia and cardiac complications in New York City.