Monty Woolley

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Monty Woolley (August 17, 1888 – May 6, 1963) was an American stage, film, radio, and television actor.[1] At the age of 50, he achieved a measure of stardom for his best-known role in the stage play and 1942 film The Man Who Came To Dinner. His distinctive white beard was "his trademark."[2]


Early life

He was born Edgar Montillion Woolley[citation needed] in New York City to a wealthy family (his father owned the Bristol Hotel) and grew up in the highest social circles. Woolley attended Yale University, where Cole Porter was an intimate friend and classmate, and Harvard University. He eventually became an assistant professor of English and dramatic coach at Yale.[3] Thornton Wilder and Stephen Vincent Benet were among his students.

Acting career

He left his academic career and began acting on Broadway in 1936. In 1939 he starred in the Kaufman and Hart comedy The Man Who Came To Dinner for 783 performances. It was for this well-reviewed role he was typecast as the wasp-tongued, supercilious sophisticate.[4][5]

Like Clifton Webb, Woolley signed with 20th Century Fox in the 1940s and appeared in many films through the mid-1950s. His most famous film role was one which he first performed on Broadway, that of a cranky radio wag restricted to a wheelchair because of a seemingly-injured hip in 1942's The Man Who Came to Dinner, a caricature of the legendary pundit Alexander Woollcott. The film received a good review from the New York Times.[5] He played himself in Warner Bros.' fictionalized film biography of Cole Porter, Night and Day (1946).

He was also a frequent radio presence as a guest performer, from the time he first appeared in the medium as a foil to Al Jolson.[6] Woolley became a familiar guest presence on such shows as The Fred Allen Show, Duffy's Tavern, The Big Show, The Charlie McCarthy Show, and others. In 1950, Woolley landed the starring role in the NBC series, The Magnificent Montague. He played a former Shakespearean actor whose long fall onto hard times forced him to swallow his pride and take a role on daily network radio, becoming an unlikely star while sparring with his wife, Lily (Anne Seymour); and, his wise-cracking maid, Agnes (Pert Kelton). The show lasted from November 1950 through September 1951.[7]

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