Russell Simpson (actor)

Russell Simpson

Simpson in The Grapes of Wrath.
Born (1880-06-17)June 17, 1880
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Died December 12, 1959(1959-12-12) (aged 79)
Woodland Hills, California, U.S.
Years active 1914–1959
Spouse(s) Gertrude Aller (1910–1959) (his death)
Children Russell Jr.
Roberta (b. 1918)

Russell McCaskill Simpson (June 17, 1880 – December 12, 1959) was an American character actor.

Early life

Russell Simpson was born on June 17, 1880 in Danville, California.[1] He attended grammar school in the Danville District in Contra Costa County, California; he graduated on July 2, 1892.[2] At age 18, Simpson prospected for gold in Alaska. He began taking acting classes in Seattle, Washington.[3] He was married to Gertrude Alter from New York City on January 19, 1910. [4]


By 1909, he had gone into the theatre. He appeared in at least two plays on Broadway between 1909 and 1912,[5] and made his motion picture debut in Cecil B. DeMille's 1914 original film version of The Virginian in a bit part.[6] By 1923, when the film was remade, Simpson had progressed to playing the lead villain.[7]:487

Throughout his career, Simpson worked for 12 years in road shows, stock companies, and on Broadway.[8] Simpson didn't usually perform lead roles, but he did star in many movies throughout the silent movie era. He did perform a lead role as the grandfather in Out of the Dust (1920).[7]:317

Lionel Belmore, Laurette Taylor & Russell Simpson in Peg o' My Heart

Simpson is best known for his work in the films of John Ford[9]:69,184 and, in particular, for his portrayal of Pa Joad in The Grapes of Wrath in 1940.[10] He was known for his "grizzled old man" appearances.[11] Gaunt, lanky, and rustic-sounding, Simpson was a familiar character actor for almost forty-five years, particularly as a member of the John Ford Stock Company.[9]:183 He worked up to 1959, the year of his death. His final film was The Horse Soldiers, his tenth film for Ford. Simpson was the president of the Overseas Phonograph Accessories Corporation.[12] He died on December 12, 1959 in Woodland Hills, California.[1] Simpson had appeared in over 500 movies throughout his life.[3]

Selected filmography


  1. 1 2 Ellenberger, Allan R. (May 2001). Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory. McFarland. p. 70. ISBN 9780786409839.
  2. "Diploma" (July 2, 1892) [Print]. Russell Simpson Papers, Box: 1. Provo, Utah: L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Brigham Young University.
  3. 1 2 "Finding Aid for the Russell Simpson Papers, 1917-1942". Prepared for the Charles E. Young Research Library, Los Angeles, California. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
  4. "License" (19 Jan 1910) [Print]. Russell Simpson Papers, Box: 1. Provo, Utah: L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Brigham Young University.
  5. "Russell Simpson Theatre Credits". Broadway World. wisdom Digital Media. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  6. Green, Paul (November 2009). A History of Television's The Virginian, 1962-1971. McFarland. p. 15. ISBN 9780786446803. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  7. 1 2 Langman, Larry (October 1992). A Guide to Silent Westerns: (Bibliographies and Indexes in the Performing Arts). Greenwood. ISBN 9780313278587. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  8. "Scrapbook" [Print]. Russell Simpson Papers, Box: 1. Provo, Utah: L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Brigham Young University.
  9. 1 2 Harty Jr., John P. (September 2016). The Cinematic Challenge: Filming Colonial America: Volume 1: The Golden Age, 1930-1950. Langdon Street Press. ISBN 9781635051469. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  10. "The Grapes of Wrath". TCM. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  11. Liebman, Roy (August 2010). Vitaphone Films: A Catalogue of the Features and Shorts. McFarland. p. 384. ISBN 9780786446971. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  12. "The Theatres: "Out of The Dust" Eagle Next Sunday". Hamilton Evening Journal. 15 Jan 1925. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
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