Every character actor dreams of landing a role as career-defining as that given` a lead, and in 1936 Eugene Pallette did just that in "My Man Godfrey." As businessman Alexander Bullock -- the lone note of sanity in a scatterbrained but wealthy Park Avenue family -- he wins our sympathy, as he's clandestinely aided by butler Godfrey in averting a potentially devastating financial crisis.
At the time of its release, Pallette had been in films for nearly a quarter-century and in fact already had made movies with both Carole Lombard and Powell. Moreover, several other notable supporting roles were to come.
Quite a bit about Pallette (born in Kansas July 8, 1889) is surprising. We think of him being stout from birth, but in silent days, he had not yet gained weight. Note this photo from May 1920...
...and this image of him the following year as Aramis (second from left and in inset) in "The Three Musketeers":
By decade's end, he had gained considerable weight, and sound provided him another edge in a distinct "bullfrog" voice that he used when cast as authority figures, such as officer/detective Ernest Heath in several Philo Vance films opposite Powell. Here they are with Jack La Rue and Helen Vinson in arguably the best of the series, 1933's "The Kennel Murder Case":
Two years before "Kennel," Pallette and Lombard appeared in the Paramount comedy "It Pays To Advertise":
Many other films benefited from Pallette's presence; he had more than 240 credits. Prior to "Godfrey," he had roles in "Intolerance" (1916), "Tarzan Of The Apes" (1918), "Chicago" (1927), the first all-talkie "Lights Of New York" (1928), "The Virginian" and "The Love Parade" (both 1929), "Shanghai Express" (1932) and "Bordertown" (1935).
But after "Godfrey," his career ascended. Pallette appeared in "Topper" before appearing as Friar Tuck in the 1938 swashbuckler classic "The Adventures Of Robin Hood":
He's also to be seen in "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington" (1939) and two comic gems from 1941, "The Lady Eve" and "The Bride Came C.O.D."
Pallette's downfall began in 1944, when he was cast as Jeanne Crain's father for "In The Meantime, Darling." Director Otto Preminger claimed Pallette believed Germany would win World War II, and the actor -- who turned 55 that year -- refused to sit at a kitchen table with black actor Clarence Muse, reportedly using a racial slur to describe him. Pallette was fired by Fox studio head Darryl F. Zanuck, and his scenes were written out from further shooting. His final film roles came in 1946.
That year, Pallette moved to a 3,500-acre cattle ranch in Oregon, convinced bombs would blow up the world. Two years later, he disposed of his Oregon assets and returned to Los Angeles, though he never made another film, and died there Sept. 3, 1954.
This is part of the "What A Character!" blogathon, saluting character actor, the often unsung heroes of film. It's sponsored by "Outspoken and Freckled" (https://kelleepratt.com/), "Once Upon A Screen..." (https://aurorasginjoint.com/) and "Paula's Cinema Club" (https://paulascinemaclub.com/).