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Biography

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Overview (4)

Date of Birth 24 September 1876Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England, UK
Date of Death 21 January 1951New York City, New York, USA
Birth NameEmil Gottfried Adolph von Holst
Height 5' 9" (1.75 m)

Mini Bio (2)

Ernest Cossart came to Hollywood to play a succession of butlers, valets and man-servants with names like Binns, Jeepers or Brassett. In fact, if you saw Angel (1937) or Letter of Introduction (1938), you may have assumed that he simply stepped from one movie set to another. Always at home donning bat-wing collars, cut-away coats and striped trousers, portly, beetle-browed Ernest Cossart was America's notion of the perfect English 'gentleman's gentleman' (along with fellow émigrés Arthur Treacher, Barnett Parker, Eric Blore and Alan Mowbray, though perhaps a little less condescending).

With ancestors deriving from Scandinavia, Germany, Poland, Russia, and England, Ernest Cossart was born Emil Gottfried Adolph von Holst in Cheltenham, England, the son of a prominent musician. His brother Gustav Holst became a famous composer and music teacher. Emil adopted the stage name 'Ernest Cossart' after a brief spell as clerk for a wine merchant. He gave his first theatrical performance in 1896, then acted with provincial repertory companies before moving to the U.S. in 1908. His career on Broadway got off to a flying start with a leading role (as a colonel of Hussars) in the musical comedy "The Girls of Gottenberg". For the next twenty years (interrupted only by wartime service with the Canadian Army), his name remained high up in the list of credits.

Cossart's Hollywood career did not eventuate until 1935, when he was signed by Paramount. Except for occasional loan-outs, he remained with this, the most cosmopolitan of the studios, until 1945. Aside from butling, Cossart could also be relied upon to effectively impersonate Roman Catholic priests (Father McGee in The Jolson Story (1946)), chimney sweeps (Tom Clink in Tower of London (1939), uttering the famous line "Better have a black face than be worried about black deeds") and waiters (Champagne Waltz (1937)). Easily one of his best roles was as the irascible, but kind-hearted Irish father of Ginger Rogers in Kitty Foyle (1940). Cossart retired from acting in 1949, having made his curtain call in the flop Broadway play "The Ivy Green". He died two years later in New York at the age of 74.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: I.S.Mowis

Ernest Cossart. Born Emil Gottfried Adolph von Holst in Cheltenham 24 September 1876. Died in New York 21 January 1951. He was the younger brother (by two years) of the famous English composer Gustav Holst (1874-1934). His 56-year acting career spanned 1894-1950 and included: well over 50 Broadway stage productions and stock company stage productions touring all over America, Canada and other English-speaking countries, including South Africa; parts in 39 Hollywood movies from 1935-1949; appearances in 2 silent films of 1916; an appearance in at least one radio play of 1944; and two final acting appearances in TV plays, one of which, being his penultimate performance, was alongside his actress daughter, Valerie Cossart (1907-1994), on 29 January 1950 ('Laburnum Grove', episode #2.6 of The John Ford Theatre Hour). The fact that his penultimate acting appearance was with his daughter is all the more touching when one considers that her acting debut, at age 7, was as 'Cobweb' in the 1915 Broadway production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, in which her father also acted (in the role of '(Nick) Bottom').

He has played alongside many famous actors including Adolphe Menjou, Akim Tamiroff, Ann Sheridan, Anne Baxter, Basil Rathbone, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Boris Karloff, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Charles Coburn, Claude Rains, Claudette Colbert, David Niven, Deanna Durbin, Edward G. Robinson, Fred MacMurray, Freddie Bartholomew, Gary Cooper, George Burns, Ginger Rogers, Gladys Cooper, Gladys Swarthout, Hedy Lamarr, Herbert Marshall, Humphrey Bogart, Jack Benny, Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotton, Larry Parks, Luise Rainer, Marlene Dietrich, Martha Raye, Maureen O'Hara, Myrna Loy, Nelson Eddy, Noel Coward, Ray Milland, Rita Hayworth, Robert Taylor, Ronald Coleman, Ronald Reagan, Shelley Winters, Sylvia Sidney, Thelma Todd, Vincent Price, Walter Huston, Walter Pidgeon, and William Powell.

"Ernest Cossart. Born in Cheltenham. Height: 5-ft. 9-in.; weighs 13-st. 13 lb., has light-brown hair and blue eyes." Quoted from Mollie Moncrieff Hart, 'Friendship With the Stars - Ernest Cossart', Cinema Preview - The Light That Failed [1939]', 5:15, 7 February 1940, p.11. This contrasts with Michael Short's description of Gustav Holst's somewhat smaller stature 'of medium height (about 5 ft. 6 in.)'. Michael Short, Gustav Holst: The Man and his Music (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), p.195.

Ernest Cossart's favourite hobby was golf.

By Neil Arthur Williams DipMus, BA (Hons) Hum, MA (Mus), MA (Hum) Freelance Writer, Composer, Musicologist, Popular culture Historian, Holst family scholar, Life Member of the Holst Birthplace Museum in Cheltenham, and leading authority in the respective lives and acting careers of Ernest Cossart (1876-1951) and his actress daughter Valerie Cossart (1907-1994). Also owner of the world's most complete Hollywood movie and Broadway play archives of Ernest Cossart and Valerie Cossart.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Neil Arthur Williams

Spouse (1)

Maude Davies (1906 - 21 January 1951) (his death) (1 child)

Trivia (1)

Brother of composer Gustav Holst, father of Valerie Cossart.

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