George Bancroft (actor)

George Bancroft (September 30, 1882 – October 2, 1956) was an American film actor, whose career spanned more than thirty years from 1925 to 1956. He was cast in many notable films alongside major film stars throughout his Hollywood years.[1]

George Bancroft
Bancroft in a 1938 promotional photo
Born(1882-09-30)September 30, 1882
DiedOctober 2, 1956(1956-10-02) (aged 74)
Alma materUnited States Naval Academy
Years active1925–1956

Early years

Bancroft was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1882. He attended Tomes Institute in Port Deposit, Maryland.[2]

Maritime work

After working on merchant marine vessels at age 14, Bancroft was an apprentice on USS Constellation and later served on USS Essex and West Indies. Additionally, during the Battle of Manila Bay (1898), he was a gunner on USS Baltimore.[3] During his days in the Navy, he staged plays aboard ship.[4]

In 1900, he swam underneath the hull of the battleship USS Oregon to check the extent of the damage after it struck a rock off the coast of China.[4] For this, he was appointed to the United States Naval Academy, but found it too restrictive for his tastes and left to pursue a theatrical career.[4][note 1][3]

Acting career

In 1901, Bancroft began acting in earnest, as he toured in plays and had juvenile leads in musical comedies. In vaudeville, he did blackface routines and impersonated celebrities.[3] His Broadway credits include the musical comedies Cinders (1923) and The Rise of Rosie O'Reilly (1923).[1]

One of his early films was The Journey's End (1921).[2] Bancroft's first starring role was in The Pony Express (1925), and the next year he played an important supporting role in a cast including Wallace Beery and Charles Farrell in the period naval widescreen epic Old Ironsides (1926), then went from historical pictures to the gritty world of the underground in Paramount Pictures productions such as von Sternberg's Underworld (1927) and The Docks of New York (1928). He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1929 for Thunderbolt,[note 2][5] played the title role in The Wolf of Wall Street (1929, released just prior to the Wall Street Crash), and appeared in Paramount's all-star revue Paramount on Parade (1930) and Rowland Brown's Blood Money (1933), condemned by the censors because they feared the film would "incite law-abiding citizens to crime."

Reportedly, he refused to fall down on set after a prop revolver was fired at him, saying "Just one bullet can't stop Bancroft!". By 1934, he had slipped to being a supporting actor, although he still appeared in such classics as Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) with Gary Cooper, Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) with James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart, Each Dawn I Die (1939) with Cagney and George Raft, and Stagecoach (1939) with John Wayne. In 1942, he left Hollywood to be a rancher.

Personal life

Bancroft first married actress Edna Brothers.[4] Three years later, he married musical comedy star Octavia Broske.[4] In 1934, Brothers sued him, claiming they had never divorced.[4] Two years later, the case was settled, and Brothers obtained a divorce.[4]


On October 2, 1956, Bancroft died in Santa Monica, California, at age 74.[2] He was interred there in the Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery.

Complete filmography


  1. The reference work American Classic Screen Profiles says of Bancroft, "He left the Academy after one year for a theatrical career."
  2. The Academy Awards Database provides this comment: "[NOTE: THIS IS NOT AN OFFICIAL NOMINATION. There were no announcements of nominations, no certificates of nomination or honorable mention, and only the winners (*) were revealed during the awards banquet on April 3, 1930. Though not official nominations, the additional names in each category, according to in-house records, were under consideration by the various boards of judges.]"


  1. "George Bancroft". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on 17 March 2018. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  2. Katchmer, George A. (2009). A Biographical Dictionary of Silent Film Western Actors and Actresses. McFarland. p. 15. ISBN 9781476609058. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  3. Tibbetts, John C.; Welsh, James M. (2010). American Classic Screen Profiles. Scarecrow Press. pp. 18–25. ISBN 9780810876774. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  4. "George Bancroft Dies at 74; Noted 'Heavy' in Hollywood". Springfield Leader and Press. Missouri, Springfield. Associated Press. October 4, 1956. p. 24. Retrieved March 16, 2018 via
  5. "("George Bancroft" search results)". Academy Awards Database.
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