Oscar Actors: Bancroft, George (1882-1956)–Nominated for Thunderbolt

Born in Philadelphia on September 3, 1882; died in 1956.

George Bancroft began his stage career as a blackface entertainer in minstrel shows, then went on to the New York stage in dramas (“The Trail of the Lonesome Pine,” “Paid in Full”) and in musical comedies.

In 1921, he made his screen debut in “The Journey’s End.” Bancroft’s first film for Paramount, “Code of the West” (1925), brought him to the attention of director James Cruze, who cast him in “The Pony Express” (1925).

Strongly built, he soon developed into one of the most accomplished heavies, with a smooth style of villainy that was especially effective as a preCagney gangster in Josef von Sternberg’s “The Docks of New York” (1928).

He was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actor for Josef von Sternberg’s “Thunderbolt” (1929) based on a screenplay by Jules Furthman and Herman J. Mankiewicz, which was begun as a silent but then completed with sound, when the technology became available. Bancroft plays a mobster who frames for murder the old boyfriend (Richard Arlen) of his moll (Fay Wray), for which he winds up on death row.

For a whole decade, Bancroft played tough guy leads and supporting parts. One of his memorable turns was the stagecoach driver in John Ford’s seminal Western “Stagecoach” (1939), which made John Wayne a star.

In 1942, Bancroft retired to become a rancher.

He was married to former actress Octavia Brooke.

Oscar Alert

The winner of the 199 Best Actor Oscar was Warner Baxter, for the Western “In Old Arizona.”