Claude Gillingwater

Claude Gillingwater

Photo of Gillingwater from Film Star Who's Who on the Screen (1938)
Born (1870-08-02)August 2, 1870
Louisiana, Missouri, U.S.
Died November 1, 1939(1939-11-01) (aged 69)
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1918–1939

Claude Benton Gillingwater (August 2, 1870 November 1, 1939) was an American stage and screen actor.[1] He first appeared on the stage then in 92 films between 1918 and 1939, including the Academy Award-nominated A Tale of Two Cities (1935) and Conquest (1937). He appeared in several films starring Shirley Temple, beginning with Poor Little Rich Girl (1936).

Early life

Gillingwater was born in Louisiana, Missouri. Though he studied law, he preferred not to follow in his father's footsteps and become a lawyer. He became a travelling salesman for a wholesale firm, selling vinegar. While thus engaged he seized the opportunity of filling a vacancy in a small theatrical company with David Belasco. Eight years later, Mary Pickford saw him acting and secured him for her picture, Little Lord Fauntleroy (1921), which started off his film career.

Hollywood career

In later years, Gillingwater played a few more curmudgeonly character roles. His best-known role is probably Jarvis Lorry in A Tale of Two Cities (1935). He also appeared in Mississippi (1935) and The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936). He proved to be an excellent crabapple foil for 20th Century-Fox moppet star Shirley Temple in Poor Little Rich Girl (1936) and subsequently appeared in Just Around the Corner (1938) and Little Miss Broadway (1938).

Claude Gillingwater (The Actor's Birthday Book, 1906)

Later years and death

A serious accident while filming Florida Special (1936) in which he fell from a platform and injured his back damaged his health and threatened his career. The "Florida Special" accident on the set at Paramount Studios in February 1936, left him never fully recovered. This, along with the April 22, 1937 death by heart attack of his long-time wife Carlyn, left him depressed.[1]

On November 1, 1939, a housekeeper found Gillingwater dead on a chair inside a closet of his Beverly Hills, California home from a self-inflicted bullet wound to the chest. A suicide note stated he was worried about his failing health and the possibility of becoming an invalid. He did not want to become a burden to anyone, so he chose to take his own life. The death of the 69-year-old actor was ruled a suicide.[1] His son, Claude Gillingwater, Jr., was also an actor.[1] His cremated remains were interred at the Columbarium of Prayer, Niche 10628, in The Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California.

Partial filmography


  1. 1 2 3 4 "Gillingwater's Death Shocks Film Community". Spokane Daily Chronicle. AP. November 2, 1939. p. 17. Retrieved September 11, 2011.
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