Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Percy Kilbride (1888 - 1964)
Born in San Francisco, California,on July 16, 1888, Percy Kilbride's first introduction to the theatre was working as an usher at the Central Theatre at the age eleven. He developed easy-going bumpkin characterizations and twangy voice, both of which became his trademark from the first time he stepped on the stage in a role in the San Francisco production 'Tale of Two Cities.' He continued with his career by working on the road with various stock theatre companies. His career was interrupted by a tour of military duty during World War I and he served in France. In the postwar years, he continued to work for regional stock companies while performing bit character parts in a few Hollywood motion pictures. He also had minor parts in some Broadway theatre shows, debuting in 1928. Already in his fifties by 1942, when he appeared in one of his best known roles in "George Washington Slept Here", some of his many credited film appearances include "Annie Oakley", "Keeper of the Flame", "Crazy House", "Woman of the Town", "The Adventures of Mark Twain", "The Southerner" and "State Fair." He appeared with Marjorie Main in the roles of ‘Ma Kettle' and ‘Pa Kettle' in the movie "The Egg and I", which launched the highly successful series of ‘Ma and Pa Kettle' films. There were ten in all, but Percy Kilbride retired after filming the eighth, 'Kettle at Waikiki.' Universal Studio's attempted to carry on without him and made two more which were unsuccessful. In his later years he suffered from Alzheimer's disease, and in December 1964 he was crossing with a friend in Hollywood when both were struck by a speeding car. His friend was killed instantly, but Percy Kilbride survived and was taken to a Los Angeles Hospital where he underwent brain surgery. He lingered for over a week but finally succumbed to pneumonia and his injuries on December 11, 1964, at age 76.