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Charles Middleton Poster

Biography

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Overview (4)

Date of Birth 3 October 1874Elizabethtown, Kentucky, USA
Date of Death 22 April 1949Los Angeles, California, USA  (heart attack)
Nickname Chuck
Height 6' (1.83 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Charles Middleton was born on October 3, 1874 in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. He was the son of a millionaire and did not have to work, but apparently went into acting because he needed to find a way to express himself. He worked in a traveling circus, in vaudeville, and acted in live theatre before he turned to motion pictures in 1920. His career as a character actor came into full flower with the advent of sound films. His ominous baritone voice was perfect for villainous roles, and he became an excellent foil for comedy stars Harold Lloyd, Eddie Cantor, Wheeler and Woolsey, and Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Middleton was then cast in Warner Brothers' Safe in Hell (1931), and in The Strange Love of Molly Louvain (1932) opposite Ann Dvorak and Richard Cromwell. His other notable performances during this period were both released the very next year from Paramount Pictures: first as the district attorney in This Day and Age (1933) directed by Cecil B. DeMille, and then as the prosecutor opposite The Marx Brothers in Duck Soup (1933). He also played Sheriff Ike Valton, the official who tries to arrest Julie La Verne (Helen Morgan) and her husband for being illegally married in Universal Pictures' version of the musical Show Boat (1936).

Middleton's granite-hard features resemble those of Abraham Lincoln. He played Lincoln in a public-service short subject, The Road Is Open Again, appeared in a rare comic role as an actor exasperated at being typecast as Lincoln in the comedy film Stand-In (1937), and played Lincoln's father in the film version of Robert E. Sherwood's Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940). Middleton was also featured in many adventure serials from 1935 to 1947. He is most famous for his villainous role as the evil Emperor Ming the Merciless in the three Flash Gordon serials: Rocket Ship (1936), Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938), and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940). He was also featured in such serials as Dick Tracy Returns (1938), Daredevils of the Red Circle (1939), and Jack Armstrong (1947). Charles Middleton died at age 74 of a heart attack on April 22, 1949 in Los Angeles, California. He was interred in the Hollywood Forever Cemetary next to his wife of many years, stage and film actress Leora Spellman.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Bill Takacs <kinephile@aol.com>

Spouse (1)

Leora Spellman (? - ?)

Trade Mark (3)

Deep ominous baritone voice
Frequently portrayed imposing, sinister villains
Ming the Merciless in the Flash Gordon serials

Trivia (11)

Had one daughter: Leora Middleton (c. 1926).
Grandfather of actor Burr Middleton
Best remembered as the evil Emperor Ming the Merciless in the Flash Gordon series from 1936 to 1940.
He was the son of a millionaire and did not have to work, but apparently went into acting because he needed to find a way to express himself.
Those who remember him as the evil, unsmiling villain Ming the Merciless in the Flash Gordon serials may be surprised to see him singing and dancing (quite well, actually) in The Marx Brothers comedy Duck Soup (1933), but they should not be -- he had fairly extensive experience in musicals on the stage before coming to Hollywood.
In History in the Making: FDR (2005), he appears as Abraham Lincoln in a clip from a government short promoting The National Recovery Act (NRA).
Was a song-and-dance man during his salad days as a performer.
As a teenager, he performed in carnivals and circuses before acting in vaudeville in the 1890s.
Middleton not only played Abraham Lincoln several times, he also appeared as Confederate President Jefferson Davis in the film Virginia City (1940). Ironically, he also played Thomas Lincoln, father of the future President in Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940).
Following his death, he was interred with his wife Leora Spellman at Hollywood Forever Cemetary in Los Angeles, California.
His father Hugh M. Middleton (1835-1903) was the captain of Co. H of the 39th Georgia Infantry (CSA) during the War Between the States.

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