Today’s Friday Face for Veterans Day is the positively delicious Franklin Pangborn of Newark, New Jersey, whose face you’ve probably seen if you’ve spent any time watching old movies.
Born in 1888, Pangborn served in World War I with the 312th Infantry, and despite his modesty, he was known as a hero of the Battle of Argonne.
He began his stage career appearing in stock. He arrived in Los Angeles in 1920 and continued playing stock at the 1,700 seat Majestic Theatre at 8th and Broadway, which was demolished in 1933. He appeared on stage and on screen with all of the great stars of the day, and would eventually work at nearly every studio. Cecil B. DeMille placed him under contract for several years.
He began in silent films with “Exit Smiling” in 1926, and was a favorite of Mack Sennett and Hal Roach.
By the 1930s, with his quick delivery and perfect diction, he was the character actor of choice to play frustrated hotel clerks, prissy department store salesmen and befuddled headwaiters — the “foremost interpreter of covert gay roles of the 30s and 40s,” says film critic Michael Guillen.
Here’s Pangborn in one of his typical roles, a brief appearance in “Hollywood Victory Caravan.”
During the days when homosexuality was not discussed, he appeared with W.C. Fields in “International House.” In one scene, pre-censorship, Fields has just arrived to the hotel in the Chinese city of Wuhu, but has no idea where he is. Pangborn, playing the hotel manager (of course) has this exchange with Fields:
- Fields: Where am I?
- Pangborn: Wu-hu!
- Fields (giving him a sharp look and removing a flower from his lapel): Don’t let the posy fool you!
While some say he played a stereotype, he nonetheless played it, and how.
Here he is with Shirley Temple, in one of two films he did with her in 1938.
He was among the great company of players used time and again by the great comedy writer/director, Preston Sturges. If that name is new to you, do start watching his films. Start with “Sullivan’s Travels.”
Pangborn appeared in over 200 films.
Here’s his final performance from April 1958, on The Red Skelton Show, with John Carradine.
Franklin died following cancer surgery in July of 1958.
His star on the Walk of Fame is at 1500 Vine, on the East side, right at Sunset… not far from the Arclight.
For being fabulous in his own time, Franklin Pangborn is today’s Friday Face.in 1930, Friday Face, fabulosity, gays, heroes, legends, stuff I like, ya gotta love it