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Charles Bickford (January 1, 1891 – November 9, 1967) was an American actor best known for his supporting roles. He was nominated three times for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, for The Song of Bernadette (1943), The Farmer's Daughter (1947), and Johnny Belinda (1948). Other notable roles include Whirlpool (1948), A Star is Born (1954) and The Big Country (1958).

Early life

Bickford was born in Cambridge, Massachusettsmarker, during the first minute of 1891. The fifth of seven children, Charles was an intelligent but very independent and unruly child. He was tried and acquitted when he was only nine years old of the attempted murder of a motorist who had accidentally driven over his dog. In his late teens he drifted aimlessly around the United States for a time but eventually graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technologymarker. Before breaking into acting, he worked as a lumberjack, investment promoter, and for a short time, ran a pest extermination business.

Acting career

Bickford eventually joined a road company and travelled throughout the United States for more than a decade, appearing in various productions. While working in a Broadwaymarker play called Outside Looking In, he was noticed by legendary filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille and offered a contract with MGM studios. He soon began working with MGM head Louis B. Mayer on a number of projects.

He became a star after playing Greta Garbo's lover in Anna Christie (1930), but never developed into a romantic lead. Always of independent mind, strong-willed and quick with his fists, Bickford would frequently argue and sometimes come to blows with Mayer. During the production of DeMille's Dynamite, he punched out his director. He was blacklisted from MGM productions several times. Understandably, his association with MGM was short-lived, and Bickford became an independent actor for several years. Later, he would sign with Twentieth Century Fox studios where it was anticipated he would play leading man roles. However, Bickford was mauled by a lion while filming East of Java in 1935. While he recovered, he lost his contract with Fox as well as his leading man status due to extensive neck scarring coupled with his advancing age.

Bickford found his greatest success playing character actor roles, both in films and later in television. He became highly sought after; his burly frame and craggy, intense features, coupled with a gruff, powerful voice lent themselves to a wide variety of roles. Most often he played lovable father figures, stern businessmen, heavies, ship captains or authority figures of some sort. During the 1940s, he was nominated three times for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He served as host of the 1950s television series The Man Behind the Badge. He continued to act in generally prestigious projects right up until his death. He guest starred in NBC's The Barbara Stanwyck Show and The Eleventh Hour medical drama. In his final years, Bickford played rancher John Grainger, owner of the "Shiloh Ranch" on NBC's The Virginian western series.

In 1965, he published his autobiography, Bulls, Balls, Bicycles, and Actors.

He died in Los Angeles of a blood infection at the age of seventy-six, just days after filming a 1967 Virginian episode. He had a son, Rex and a daughter, Doris.

Partial filmography

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