Oscar Actors: Crisp, Donald

Born July 27, 1880 in Aberfeldy, Scotland; died in 1974.

In the U.S. from 1906, Crisp spent two years on the stage, acting and singing in musicals, then joined Biograph in 1908 as an actor. He was Griffith's assistant on “The Birth of a Nation”(1915) and “Broken Blossoms”(1919), and appeared in the former as General Grant and in the latter as Lillian Gish's father, Battling Burrows.

Crisp was absent from the screen for a brief period during WWI, when he served as a British secret agent in Russia. In 1922, he supervised the operations of the Famous-Lasky studios in Bombay. Between 1914 and 1930 he directed many films with such stars as Douglas Fairbanks and John Barrymore and co-directed Buster Keaton's “The Navigator.”

As an actor he appeared in hundreds of films over a period of 55 years, playing a variety of character roles, ranging from ruthless military men to genial grandfathers. Best remembered as the old man in John Ford's “How Green Was My Valley,” for which he won the 1941 Oscar Award for best supporting actor, and later in the “Lassie” movie series.

His second wife (1932-44) was screenwriter Jane Murfin.

Oscar Alert

In 1941, Crisp competed for and won the Supporting Actor Oscar in a race that included Walter Brennan in “Sergeant York,” Charles Coburn in “The Devil and Mrs. Jones,” James Gleason in “Here Comes Mr. Jordan,” and Sydney Greenstreet in “The Maltese Falcon.”