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Burgess Meredith Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (4) | Trade Mark (1) | Trivia (24) | Personal Quotes (6)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 16 November 1907Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Date of Death 9 September 1997Malibu, California, USA  (melanoma and Alzheimer's disease)
Birth NameOliver Burgess Meredith
Nickname Buzz
Height 5' 5½" (1.66 m)

Mini Bio (1)

One of the truly great and gifted performers of the century who often suffered lesser roles, Burgess Meredith was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1907 and educated in Amherst College in Massachusetts before joining Eva Le Gallienne's stage company in New York City in 1933. He became a favorite of dramatist Maxwell Anderson, premiering on film in the playwright's Winterset (1936). Meredith served in the United States Army Air Corps in World War II, reaching the rank of captain. He continued in a variety of dramatic and comedic roles until being named an unfriendly witness by the House Un-American Activities Committee in the early 1950s, whereupon studio work disappeared. His career picked up again, especially with television roles, in the 1960s, although younger audiences know him best for either the Rocky (1976) or Grumpy Old Men (1993) films. Meredith also did a large amount of commercial work, serving as the voice for Skippy Peanut Butter and United Air Lines, among others. He was also an ardent environmentalist who believed pollution one of the greatest tragedies of the time, and an opponent of the Vietnam War. Burgess Meredith died at age 89 of Alzheimer's disease and melanoma in his home in Malibu, California on September 9, 1997.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: <anthony-adam@tamu.edu>

Spouse (4)

Kaja Sundsten (8 January 1951 - 9 September 1997) (his death) (2 children)
Paulette Goddard (21 May 1944 - 8 June 1949) (divorced)
Margaret Perry (10 January 1936 - 19 July 1938) (divorced)
Helen Derby Berrien (1932 - 20 August 1935) (divorced)

Trade Mark (1)

Distinctive raspy voice

Trivia (24)

Former son-in-law of Antoinette Perry.
Was placed on the "Red Channel" list of the HUAC.
Otto Preminger was instrumental in restoring his film career.
His character, the Penguin, was so popular as a villain on the television series Batman (1966), the producers always had a Penguin script ready in case Meredith wanted to appear as a guest star.
Had two children (with fourth wife Kaja Sundsten): Jonathon Meredith (musician) and Tala Meredith (painter).
On the television series Batman (1966), he developed his grunting Penguin laugh out of necessity. Meredith had given up smoking some twenty-odd years earlier, but his character was required to smoke with a cigarette holder. The smoke would get caught in his throat and he would start coughing. Rather than constantly ruin takes in this matter, he developed the laugh to cover it up. "Actually, it was a pretty funny noise for a penguin to make," said Meredith. "I sounded more like a duck." Needless to say, Meredith gave up smoking again immediately after the series ended.
Suffered from melanoma and other ailments, including Alzheimer's disease, at the time of his death.
Was only seventeen years older then Jack Lemmon when he played his father in Grumpy Old Men (1993).
In 1960, he received a special Tony Award, along with James Thurber, for "A Thurber Carnival". He was also nominated for a 1974 Tony Award as best director (dramatic) for Ulysses in "Nighttown".
Was the second choice for the role of the Penguin on Batman (1966). Producers had originally wanted Spencer Tracy in the role, but Tracy would not sign unless his character was allowed to kill Batman. Obviously, they did not want to kill the main character, so the role went to Meredith.
Biography in: "American National Biography". Supplement 1, pp. 406-407. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
He was fascinated by the subject of non-human intelligence, particularly dolphins. He once believed that a dolphin somehow called to him for help in the middle of the night while he was staying at a friend's home on the beach. He ran out and found the dolphin, caught in a net under a dock down the beach, although there was no way he should have been able to know it was there. He released it, saving its life. He believed it had made some sort of connection with him, perhaps telepathic, to call for help.
Was offered the role of the Penguin's father in Batman Returns (1992) (which eventually went to Paul Reubens), but could not film it because of his delicate health.
Once narrated a Gaelic Christmas Carol in English for The Chieftains on their CD "The Bells of Dublin".
Relied on cue cards during the filming of Grumpier Old Men (1995), contributed from being in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.
Despite his character dying in Rocky III (1982), he has appeared in every Rocky film, as either the real character, a flashback, or through archive footage.
Nephew of comedian and character actor, Jay "Handsome Danny Mann" Burgess (1856-1937).
After dropping out of Amherst College, Meredith held down various jobs in journalism, retail, as a clerk, and as an editor. He also had a brief spell in the merchant marine and as a runner on Wall Street.
His father was a doctor, and his mother a Methodist revivalist.
Loved to cook and was a noted connoisseur of fine wine and good cuisine.
Served in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II and held the rank of captain by 1945.
His father, William George, was Canadian (born in Toronto, Ontario). His mother, Ida Beth, was from Ohio.
Was friends with French avant-garde composer Edgard Varese (1883-1965) who wrote "Dance for Burgess" for him in 1949.
He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6904 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on November 5, 1987.

Personal Quotes (6)

I did Batman (1966) for two reasons, one of which was the salary. The other was that, after the first few episodes, Batman became the in-thing to do. Everybody... would either play a villain or appear as himself in that cameo showcase where a celebrity would poke his head through the window of a building that Batman and Robin were climbing. Actually, we didn't get as much money from the show as you might think, although we were paid decent money for the feature film version. The main impetus to continue appearing on Batman - beyond the desire to get some TV work - was that it was fashionable.
I was born a character actor. I was never really a leading man type.
Like the seasons of the year, life changes frequently and drastically. You enjoy it or endure it as it comes and goes, as it ebbs and flows.
I'll just take amusement at being a paradox.
[on his childhood] All my life, to this day, the memory of my childhood remains grim and incoherent. If I close my eyes and think back, I see little except violence and fear. In those early years, I somehow came to understand I would have to draw from within myself whatever emotional resources I needed to go wherever I was headed. As a result, for years, I became a boy who lived almost totally within himself.
Franchot Tone is nuttier than a fruitcake, so don't let the genteel frosting fool you.

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