Charley Grapewin

Charles Ellsworth Grapewin (December 20, 1869 – February 2, 1956) was an American vaudeville and circus performer, a writer, and a stage and film actor. In motion pictures he worked in over 100 films during the silent and sound eras, most notably portraying Uncle Henry in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's The Wizard of Oz (1939), Grandpa Joad in The Grapes of Wrath (1940), Jeeter Lester in Tobacco Road (1941), and California Joe in They Died With Their Boots On (1941).[1]

Charley Grapewin
Charles Ellsworth Grapewin

(1869-12-20)December 20, 1869
DiedFebruary 2, 1956(1956-02-02) (aged 86)
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery
  • Vaudeville performer
  • actor (stage and screen)
  • comedian
  • writer
  • circus performer
Years active1900–1956
Anna Chance
(m. 1896; died 1943)


Born in Xenia, Ohio, Charles Grapewin ran away from home to be a circus acrobat which led him to work as an aerialist and trapeze artist in a traveling circus before turning to acting. He traveled all over the world with the famous P. T. Barnum circus. Grapewin also appeared in the original 1903 Broadway production of The Wizard of Oz, 36 years before he would appear in the famous Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film version.

After this he continued in theatre, on and offstage, for the next thirty years, starting with various stock companies, and wrote stage plays as a vehicle for himself. His sole Broadway theatre credit was the short-lived play It's Up to You John Henry in 1905.

Grapewin began in silent films at the turn of the twentieth century. His very first films were two "moving image shorts" made by Frederick S. Armitage and released in November 1900; Chimmie Hicks at the Races (also known as Above the Limit) and Chimmie Hicks and the Rum Omelet, both shot in September and October 1900 and released in November of that year.[2][3][4] During his long career, Grapewin appeared in more than one hundred films, including The Good Earth, The Petrified Forest, The Grapes of Wrath, Tobacco Road, and in what is probably his best-remembered role: Uncle Henry in The Wizard of Oz, although he was the only actor to appear in Kansas, but not Oz. Prior being cast in that film, Grapewin performed in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's Broadway Melody of 1938 with Judy Garland (Oz's Dorothy) and Buddy Ebsen (Oz's original Tin Man). He also performed with Garland in Listen, Darling. Later, in the early 1940s, he also had a recurring role as Inspector Queen in the Ellery Queen film series.

Personal life and death

Grapewin married actress Anna Chance in 1896, and they remained together until her death in 1943.[5] Two years later, on January 10, 1945, he married Loretta McGowan Becker.[6]

Grapewin died of natural causes in Corona, California at the age of 86. His ashes are interred with his wife's in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California, at the Great Mausoleum's Columbarium of Inspiration.[1]

Selected filmography


  1. "Charles Grapewin Is Dead at 86; Stage Comedian Scored in Movies; Portrayed Jeeter Lester in Film 'Tobacco Road,' Grampa in 'Grapes of Wrath' Was "Pop" in Three Pictures", obituary, "The New York Times", digital archives (1923-present), February 3, 1956. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
  2. Complete Index to World Film, Chimmie Hicks at the Races, accessed 02-19-2009
  3. (Turkish) Archived 2011-07-16 at the Wayback Machine, Chimmie Hicks and the Rum Omelet, accessed 02-19-2009
  4. Chimmie Hicks at the Races Library of Congress Moving Image Collection, "Chimmie Hicks at the races / American Mutoscope and Biograph Company", accessed 02-19-2009
  5. "Mrs. Charles Grapewin". The New York Times. September 12, 1943. Retrieved 2007-08-21. Mrs. Anna Chance Grapewin, wife of the character actor, Charles Grapewin, died yesterday in the ...
  6. "Charles Grapewin Weds Divorcee", The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 11, 1945, page 9.
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