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Grant Withers

Grant Withers, circa 1930
Born Granville G. Withers
January 17, 1905(1905-01-17)
Pueblo, Colorado, U.S.
Died March 27, 1959 (aged 54)
Occupation Film, television actor
Years active 19251977
Spouse(s) Shirley Paschal (? - ?) (divorced)
Loretta Young (1930-1931) (annulled)
Gladys Joyce Walsh (1933-?) (divorced)
Estelita Rodriguez (1953-1955) (divorced)

Grant Withers (January 17, 1905, Pueblo, Colorado – March 27, 1959, North Hollywood, Los Angeles, California), born Granville G. Withers, was a prolific American film actor with a sizeable body of work.

With early beginnings in the silent era, Withers moved into talkies establishing himself with an impressive list of headlined features as a young and handsome male lead.

As his career progressed, his importance diminished, but he did manage a 10-year contract at Republic Pictures. His friendships with both John Ford and John Wayne secured him a spot in nine of Wayne's films, but later roles dwindled to supporting parts, mainly as villains in B-movies, serials, and finally television. He appeared in the late 1950s in two episodes of the syndicated western series 26 Men, set in Arizona, where he had earlier eloped with Loretta Young.

His life in film, five unsuccessful marriages, and a tragic end had all the makings of its own Hollywood drama.

Contents

Biography

Early life and career

He had worked as an oil company salesman and newspaper reporter before breaking into movies near the end of the silent era. His more than 30-year acting career took off in the late 1920s, while in his 20s, when his hairy-chested rugged good looks made him the leading man over such rising talent as James Cagney, who made his film debut in the Withers feature Sinners' Holiday (1930) also starring Joan Blondell and released by Warner Bros. Taller than John Wayne and just as tough, yet capable of sensitivity, it was his early roles for Warner Bros. that brought him his highest accolades. Withers' early work had him opposite such major talent as W. C. Fields, Buster Keaton, Boris Karloff, Mae West, and Shirley Temple.

Career

Starring roles in major pictures later dwindled to supporting parts, mainly as villains in B-movies and serials. Notable exceptions included a 12-part Jungle Jim movie serial (1937), starring Withers and released by Universal Pictures, and the recurring role of the brash police Captain Bill Street in the Monogram Pictures series Mr. Wong, starring Boris Karloff, beginning in 1938.

He was under a Republic Pictures contract from February 1944 through April 1954. Withers' film credits at Republic total about 60 films from 1937 to 1957. From 1940, he was pretty much a character actor as a popular Western tough guy taking numerous supporting roles in television as his demand in film work waned.

All told he appeared in more than two hundred films.

Personal life

In 1930, at twenty-six, his elopement to Yuma, Arizona, with a 17-year-old Loretta Young was widely reported and ended in annulment in 1931, just as their second movie together, ironically titled Too Young to Marry, was released. He was also married to Gladys Joyce Walsh.

Some of Withers' later screen appearances were arranged through the auspices of his friends John Ford and John Wayne. He appeared in nine movies with John Wayne, including Fort Apache (1948) and Rio Grande (1950).

Wayne was best man at Withers' fifth marriage, to 24-year-old Cuban-born actress Estelita Rodriguez (Rio Bravo) in January 1953 in Reno, Nevada. They too resided in the San Fernando Valley on Woodcliff Avenue in Sherman Oaks, California. Estelita began a nightclub singing career at the end of her Republic contract. The marriage was not a happy one. They divorced in 1955.[1]

A noticeable weight gain is apparent in his films as his career progresses. In later years, back problems were one of his health issues.

Death

With failing health, Withers worked up until his suicide in 1959, at the age of 54, when he died from an overdose of barbiturates, leaving behind a note in which he apologized to all the people he'd let down during his days in Hollywood:

Please forgive me, my family. I was so unhappy. It's better this way.[1]

Select filmography on DVD

See complete Grant Withers filmography at IMDB
Year Title Role
1935 The Fighting Marines Cpl. Larry Lawrence
1936 The Arizona Raiders Monroe Adams
1937 Jungle Jim - Serial Jim 'Jungle Jim' Bradley
1937 Bill Cracks Down "Tons" Walker
1938 Mr. Wong - Mr. Wong, Detective Capt. William 'Bill' Street
1939 Boy's Reformatory Doctor Owens
1939 Mr. Wong - Mr. Wong in Chinatown Capt. William 'Bill' Street
1939 Daughter of the Tong Ralph Dickson
1940 Mr. Wong - Fatal Hour Capt. William 'Bill' Street
1940 Mr. Wong - Doomed to Die Capt. William 'Bill' Street
1940 Mr. Wong - Phantom of Chinatown

Capt. William 'Bill' Street

1944 The Fighting Seabees Whanger Spreckles
1946 My Darling Clementine Ike Clanton
1948 Fort Apache Silas Meacham
1948 Wake of the Red Witch Capt. Wilde Youngeur
1950 Bells of Coronado Craig Bennett
1950 Rio Grande Deputy Marshal

References

  1. ^ a b Anonymous. "Estelita Rodriguez". Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen. http://www.glamourgirlsofthesilverscreen.com/show/233/Estelita+Rodriguez/index.html/. Retrieved 2006-08-13.  

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