Ernest Truex

Ernest Truex (September 19, 1889 – June 26, 1973) was an American actor of stage, film, and television.

Ernest Truex
Born(1889-09-19)September 19, 1889
DiedJune 26, 1973(1973-06-26) (aged 83)
Years active1907–1966
  • Julia Mills (m. 19??; her death 19??)
  • Mary Jane Barrett (m. 19??; div. 19??)
  • Sylvia Field
    (m. 1937; his death 1973)


Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Truex learned acting at an early age after his father, a doctor, treated actor Edwin Melvin, who paid his bill by giving the son elocution lessons.[1] He started acting at age five and toured through Missouri at age nine as "The Child Wonder in Scenes from Shakespeare". His Broadway debut came in Wildfire (1908),[2] and he performed in several David Belasco plays and portrayed the title role in the 1915 musical Very Good Eddie. Truex played the lead role in the disastrous 1923 premiere of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Vegetable.[3] In 1927, he created the role of Bill Paradene in Good Morning, Bill, adapted by P. G. Wodehouse based on a play by Ladislaus Fodor.[4]

In 1926 he performed for the first time in London's West End. He played a leading role in The Fall Guy at the Apollo Theatre. He continued to perform in plays in London for the next three years while his two sons attended Leighton Park boarding school in Reading. In 1927 he acted in Good Morning, Bill at the Duke of York's Theatre and in 1928 he performed in Sexes and Sevens at the Globe Theatre.

He made his film debut in 1913, but did not work in film full-time for another twenty years. He tended to play "milquetoast" characters and in The Warrior's Husband he played a "nance". In the 1938 The Adventures of Marco Polo, he played Marco Polo's comical assistant, opposite Gary Cooper.

Early in television, Truex guest starred on CBS's Faye Emerson's Wonderful Town. In 1949, he starred in his family's program, The Truex Family on WPIX in New York City.[5] Also in that year, he played Caspar Milquetoast on the DuMont Television Network's Program Playhouse Series. From 1953 to 1954, he co-starred with a young Brandon deWilde in Jamie on ABC. He played aging Grandpa McHummer striking a bond with young Jamie, his recently orphaned grandson.[6] In the early 1960s, he played Gladys' father on Pete and Gladys.[1]

In later life, he became known for playing elderly men on television in works such as Justice, Mister Peepers, Hazel, and Father Knows Best. He had the main role in the "Kick the Can" episode of Rod Serling's original The Twilight Zone (with his son Barry). In another Twilight Zone episode, "What You Need" (S1, Ep. 12; airdate: Dec. 25, 1959), he played a traveling peddler who just happened to have exactly what people needed just before they knew they needed it.[7]

He starred in the first season (1958 1959) of CBS's The Ann Sothern Show as Jason Macauley, the manager of the swank Bartley House hotel in New York City. Reta Shaw played his domineering wife, Flora. In 1960, Truex appeared with Harpo Marx in the episode "Silent Panic" of CBS's anthology series The DuPont Show with June Allyson. He guest starred on the CBS sitcom, Dennis the Menace, with Jay North as the series lead.


His first wife was Julia Mills with whom he had two sons, Philip in 1911 and James in 1912. Philip had an acting career until the early 1950s. Philip Truex's greatest success in the theatre was when he landed the starring role of Og in the Broadway musical Finian's Rainbow in 1947. His most famous film performance is the title role in Alfred Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry (1955) as Harry, the corpse dragged all over the countryside by several other characters in this film. Philip had expected to have substantial lines to speak in the role but Hitchcock decided to kill off the character of Harry before he could utter one word. After this disappointment Philip decided to give up acting completely and turned his hand to landscape gardening.

A widower, Ernest married stage actress Mary Jane Barrett, appearing with her in New York in such plays as The Third Little Show, (1931), The Hook-Up (1935), and Fredericka (1937). They had one child, Barry Truex, who had an acting career of his own from 1949 to the early 1960s. His career began in 1949 when he played the role of Ernest's youngest son in the TV situation comedy The Truex Family broadcast on WPIX New York. All of Ernest Truex's immediate family had acting parts in this show which was co-written by his second son James Truex. In 1962 Barry would again play opposite his father Ernest in the episode "Kick the Can" of the TV series The Twilight Zone. Barry's most memorable film roles were in The Benny Goodman Story playing the young Benny Goodman (1956), Rockabilly Baby (1957), and Dragstrip Riot (1958). He also acted in numerous TV productions.

In 1934, Ernest Truex directed, co-produced, and starred in the play Sing and Whistle, which co-starred actress Sylvia Field who would later become his third wife upon his divorce from Mary Jane Barrett.


On June 26, 1973, Truex died of a heart attack at the age of 83.

Partial filmography


  1. "Ernest Truex Joins 'Pete and Gladys'". The Times. Indiana, Hammond. March 12, 1961. p. TV Section - 5. Retrieved October 23, 2019 via
  2. "Ernest Truex". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on October 23, 2019. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  3. Turnbull, Andrew. Scott Fitzgerald. New York: Scribner, 1962. p. 140
  4. "Occasional Performers in Plum's Plays". Wooster Sauce/By the Way. 59: 2. March 2015.
  5. Franken, Jerry (October 22, 1949). "The Truex Family". Billboard. p. 9. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  6. Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 525. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
  7. This Day in Twilight Zone History: Happy birthday to Ernest Truex
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