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Charles B. Middleton (October 3, 1874April 22, 1949) was an Americanmarker stage and film actor. During a film career that began at age 46 and lasted almost 30 years, Charles Middleton appeared in nearly two hundred films as well as numerous plays, including the 1946 Broadwaymarker production, "January Thaw".

Biography

Born in Elizabethtown, Kentuckymarker, Charles Middleton worked in a traveling circus, in vaudeville, and acted in live theatre before he turned to motion pictures in 1920.

Middleton's career as a character actor came into full flower with the advent of sound movies. His ominous baritone voice was perfect for villainous roles, and he became an excellent foil for comedy stars Harold Lloyd, Eddie Cantor, Wheeler & Woolsey, and Laurel and Hardy.

He then was cast in Warner Bros.' 1932 hit: The Strange Love of Molly Louvain, opposite Ann Dvorak and Richard Cromwell. Other notable performances by Middleton during this period were both released the very next year from Paramount Pictures: first as "the district attorney" in This Day and Age, directed by Cecil B. DeMille and then as "the prosecutor" opposite The Marx Brothers in Duck Soup. He also played Sheriff Ike Vallon, the official who tries to arrest Julie La Verne (Helen Morgan) and her husband for being illegally married, in Universal Pictures' classic 1936 screen version of the musical Show Boat.

Middleton's granite-hard features resembled 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 1937 comedy Stand-In, and played Lincoln's father in the film version of Robert E. Sherwood's Abe Lincoln in Illinois.

Middleton was also featured in many serial adventures from 1935 to 1947. He is most famous for his villainous role as Ming the Merciless, the evil adversary of Buster Crabbe in the three Flash Gordon serials: Flash Gordon (1936), Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938), and 1940's Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. The first Flash Gordon serial has the honor of having been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. Middleton is equally memorable in such serials as Dick Tracy Returns, Daredevils of the Red Circle, and Jack Armstrong.

Charles Middleton died of a heart attack in Los Angelesmarker and was interred in the Hollywood Forever Cemeterymarker in Hollywood, Los Angeles, Californiamarker next to his wife of many years, stage and film actress Leora Spellman.

Influence

It is believed that the producer Harry Saltzman of the James Bond films mixed the Ian Fleming real-life book character and Middleton's Emperor Ming attributes to create the screen persona for Bond's archenemy Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

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