Charles Grapewin - Rotten Tomatoes

Charles Grapewin



A circus, vaudeville, and Broadway comedian, actor Charles Grapewin was an unlikely prospect for screen stardom. In fact, he had already retired as an entertainer prior to the advent of sound in films, and before he'd ever even considered appearing in movies. Born in Xenia, OH, in 1869 (although some say 1875), he ran away from home to join a circus at the age of ten, and, by his teens, was a roller-skating acrobat who graduated to be a high-wire performer and trapeze artist. Grapewin made a living at these high-risk activities for a few years, but was later drawn to the footlights, and eventually joined a regional stock company (although he found himself back on the trapeze in the 1880s). He moved between the theater and the circus until the end of the decade, when he landed a role in a New York production of the play Little Puck. He never returned to the circus, although he did lend his skills to vaudeville for a time, writing plays along the way and touring with one of his own productions, The Awakening of Mr. Pipp, for a dozen years.



In 1919, Grapewin gave up performing to join General Motors; having invested his money wisely, he retired. One day in late 1929, however, he and his wife Anna awakened to discover that their net worth -- once two million dollars -- had dropped to about 200. He subsequently wrote four books that proved successful enough to earn him some income. At around the same time, the arrival of sound in movies was also creating a demand for actors who could read lines well, and, as he had retired to California, Grapewin decided to give Hollywood a try. He ended up a busy actor throughout the 1930s in increasingly visible roles, including key supporting parts in films such as The Grapes of Wrath. But it was in 1941 that he achieved stardom when he was cast as Lester Jeeter in John Ford's Tobacco Road. That movie made Grapewin into a major screen actor, but, given his advanced age, he never took full advantage of it. He declined to sign a long-term contract, preferring to use his energy at his time of life picking and choosing his roles. He always seemed to be offered the best character parts, and remained busy right to the end of the '40s. Ironically, Tobacco Road dropped out of distribution in later decades, and Grapewin's became best known for playing a part that was probably one of the shortest of his movie career: Dorothy's Uncle Henry in The Wizard of Oz, in which he displayed some of his comedic skills to great advantage in the historic film's opening segment.

Filmography

MOVIES

RATING TITLE CREDIT YEAR
No Score Yet Gunfighters (The Assassin)
  • Inskip
1947
No Score Yet Crash Dive
  • Actor
1943
No Score Yet Tobacco Road
  • Jeeter Lester
1941
82% They Died With Their Boots On
  • California Joe
1941
No Score Yet Earthbound
  • Mr. Whimser
1940
No Score Yet Johnny Apollo
  • Judge Emmett T. Brennan
1940
100% The Grapes of Wrath
  • Grandpa Joad
1940
No Score Yet Texas Rangers Ride Again
  • Ben Caldwalder
1940
No Score Yet Rhythm on the River
  • Uncle Caleb
1940
No Score Yet Dust Be My Destiny
  • Pop
1939
99% The Wizard of Oz
  • Uncle Henry
1939
No Score Yet Listen, Darling
  • Uncle Joe
1938
No Score Yet Three Loves Has Nancy
  • Grandpa Briggs
1938
100% Three Comrades
  • Local Doctor
1938
No Score Yet The Girl of the Golden West
  • Uncle Davy
1938
No Score Yet Of Human Hearts
  • Jim Meeker
1938
No Score Yet Artists and Models Abroad
  • James Harper
1938
No Score Yet Shopworn Angel
  • Wilson the Caretaker
1938
No Score Yet Broadway Melody of 1938
  • James K. Blakeley
1937
93% Captains Courageous
  • Uncle Salters
1937
No Score Yet A Family Affair
  • Frank Redmond
1937
94% The Good Earth
  • Old Father
1937
No Score Yet Bad Guy
  • Dan Gray
1937
No Score Yet Without Orders
  • J.P. Kendrick
1936
No Score Yet Small Town Girl (One Horse Town)
  • Dr. Fabre
1936
No Score Yet The Voice of Bugle Ann
  • Cal Royster
1936
100% The Petrified Forest
  • Gramp Maple
1936
82% Libeled Lady
  • Mr. Bane
1936
No Score Yet Ah, Wilderness!
  • Mr. McComber
1935
No Score Yet Rendezvous
  • Prof. Martin
1935
No Score Yet One Frightened Night
  • Jasper Whyte
1935
93% Alice Adams
  • Mr. Lamb
1935
No Score Yet Anne of Green Gables
  • Dr. Tatum
1934
No Score Yet The President Vanishes
  • Richard Norton
1934
No Score Yet Judge Priest
  • Sgt. Jimmy Bagby
1934
No Score Yet The Loudspeaker
  • Pop Calloway
1934
No Score Yet Torch Singer (Broadway Singer)
  • Mr. Judson
1933
88% Wild Boys of the Road (Dangerous Days)
  • Mr. Cadmust
1933
No Score Yet Pilgrimage
  • Dad Saunders
1933
75% Heroes for Sale
  • Pa Dennis
1933
No Score Yet The Kiss Before the Mirror
  • Schulz
1933
No Score Yet Midnight Mary
  • Clerk
1933
No Score Yet No Man of Her Own
  • Newsstand Clerk
1932
No Score Yet Lady and Gent (The Challenger)
  • Grocer
1932
No Score Yet Disorderly Conduct
  • Limpy
1932
No Score Yet The Big Timer
  • Actor
1932
No Score Yet Hell's House
  • Uncle Henry
1932
No Score Yet The Millionaire
  • Actor
1931

Quotes from Charles Grapewin's Characters