Monday, November 16, 2009

Burgess Meredith

Burgess Meredith was one of our greatest character actors. He could do dramatic or comedy roles. He convincingly played the everyday heror or a sinister villian.

His career spanned sixty years on Broadway, television and the silver screen. He will also be remembered as the original Penquin from Batman and Mickey, Rocky's trainer in the Rocky films.

Burgess Meredith was born Oliver Burgess Meredith on November 16, 1907 in Cleveland, Ohio. The son of Ida Beth Burgess and William George Meredith, M.D.

During World War II, Burgess Meredith served in the United States Army Air Forces, reaching the rank of captain.

In 1932, Burgess Meredith made his film debut in an uncredited role in the movie Freaks. This film was followed by roles in such films as Idiot's Delight (1939), Of Mice and Men (1939), Second Chorus (1940) and The Real Gunner (1943).

In 1945, Burgess Meredith got his big break when he was cast as Ernie Pyle/ Narrator in The Story of G.I. Joe.

However, despite his success in The Story of G.I. Joe, he was cast in more B movies like The Diary of the Chambermaid (1946), Mine Own Executioner (1947), and On Our Merry Way (1948).

With the invention of television, Burgess Meredith became a frequent guest star on many classic shows such as The Twilight Zone, Your Show of Shows, General Electric Theater, Ben Casey, 77 Sunset Strip, Wagon Train, Rawhide, and Bonanza.

In 1966, Burgess Meredith became a hollywood icon when he played the Penquin in the film Batman. He would also play the Penquin in the television series the Batman.

Otto Preminger, recognized Burgess Meredith's true talent and was responsible for recharging his film career with roles in Advise and Consent (1962), IN Harm's Way (1965), Hurry Sundown (1967), Skidoo (1968) and Such Good Friends (1971).

Besides the Penquin, Burgess Meredith other most famous role was as Mickey in Rocky (1976), Rocky II (1979), Rocky III (1982) and Rocky V (1990).

In Grumpy Old Men (1993) and Grumpier Old Men (1995), he played Grandpa Gustafson.

In 1930, he made his Broadway debut in Romeo and Juliet. Between 1930 and 1956, he was a regular on the Broadway stage starring in such productions as Alice in Wonderland, Hipper's Holiday, The Barretts of Whimpole Street, Happy as Larry, Season in the Sun, The Teahouse of the August Moon and Major Barbara.

During the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, he turned to directing. He directed such Broadway productions as God and Kate Murphy, A Thurber Carnival, Midgie Purvis, Blues for Mister Charlie, and Ulysses in Uniontown.

In 1960, he won a Special Tony Award for A Thurber Carnival. He was also nominated for a Tony as Best Director for Ulysses in Nightown in 1974.

Burgess Meredith was nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor for The Day of the Locust (1975) and Rocky (1976).

He won an Emmy award for Outstanding Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Comedy or Drama Special for Tail Gunner Joe (1977).

Burgess Meredith also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for motion pictures.

Burgess Meredith passed away September 9, 1997 at the age of 89 due to complications from melanoma and Alzheimer's disease.

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