Lyle Talbot

Lyle Talbot (born Lisle Henderson; February 8, 1902 March 2, 1996) was an American actor on stage and screen, known for his career in film from 1931 to 1960 and for his appearances on television in the 1950s and 1960s. He played Ozzie Nelson's friend and neighbor, Joe Randolph, for ten years in the ABC situation comedy The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. He began his movie career under contract with Warner Bros. in the early days of sound film. He appeared in more than 150 films, first as a young matinee idol, the star of many B movies, and later as a character actor. He was a founding member of the Screen Actors Guild and later served on its board.[1] Talbot's long career as an actor is recounted in a book by his youngest daughter, The New Yorker writer Margaret Talbot, entitled The Entertainer: Movies, Magic and My Father's Twentieth Century (Riverhead Books 2012).[2]

Lyle Talbot
Frame from trailer for Havana Widows (1933)
Lisle Henderson

(1902-02-08)February 8, 1902
DiedMarch 2, 1996(1996-03-02) (aged 94)
Years active19311987
Elaine Melchior
(m. 1930; div. 1930)

Marguerite Cramer
(m. 1937; div. 1940)

Abigail Adams
(m. 1942; annulled 1942)

Keven McClure
(m. 1946; div. 1947)

Margaret Epple
(m. 1948; died 1989)
Children4; including David Talbot
Margaret Talbot
Stephen Talbot


Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and reared in Brainard, Nebraska (largely by his grandmother), Talbot graduated from high school in Omaha, Nebraska. He left home at 17, and began his career as a magician's assistant, becoming a leading actor in traveling tent shows in the American Midwest.[3]

He briefly established his own theater company in Memphis, Tennessee which included his father and stepmother, Ed and Anna Henderson. He went to Hollywood in 1931, when the film industry began producing movies with sound and needed "actors who could talk". His screen test at Warner Bros. was watched and appreciated by studio production chief Darryl F. Zanuck and, even more so, by director William Wellman who immediately wanted to cast Talbot.[4] Talbot became a contract player at Warners along with the likes of future stars Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart.


Film and stage

Most notable among Talbot's film work were his appearances in Three on a Match and 20,000 Years in Sing Sing (both 1932). He played a star running back in College Coach (1933) with Pat O'Brien and Dick Powell, romanced opera singer Grace Moore in One Night of Love in 1934, and pursued Mae West in Go West, Young Man (1936). He was a gangster in Ladies They Talk About and Heat Lightning and a doctor kicking a drinking habit in both "Mary Stevens, M.D." and Mandalay. He co-starred with Pat O'Brien in Oil for the Lamps of China (1935).

He would appear opposite Ann Dvorak, Carole Lombard, Barbara Stanwyck, Mary Astor, Ginger Rogers, Loretta Young, Glenda Farrell, Joan Blondell and Shirley Temple during his career, as well as sharing the screen with Humphrey Bogart, Spencer Tracy and Tyrone Power. Overall, Talbot would appear in some 150 movies.[5]

Early in his career at Warners, Talbot took part in one of Hollywood's most extravagant and ambitious publicity junkets, barnstorming across the country with Bette Davis, cowboy star Tom Mix, comedian Joe E. Brown, boxer Jack Dempsey and a host of WB actors and chorus girls on "the 42nd Street Special," a train covered in silver and gold leaf and electric lights. With stops in dozens of cities, they were promoting the new Busby Berkeley musical and ended up in Washington, D.C. at Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first inauguration in March 1933 in a show of the studio's support for the new president. The press dubbed Talbot the train's "Romeo" and described him as "handsome as hell" and "likable as a collie."[6]

Back in Hollywood, working long hours six days a week, Talbot became a co-founder of the Screen Actors Guild. His activism in SAG union affairs reportedly hurt his career.[7] Warner Bros. dropped him from its roster, and Talbot seldom received starring roles again. He became a capable character actor, playing affable neighbors or crafty villains with equal finesse. Talbot's supporting roles spanned the gamut, as he played cowboys, pirates, detectives, cops, surgeons, psychiatrists, soldiers, judges, newspaper editors, storekeepers, and boxers. In later years, he would claim to have never rejected a single role offered to him, including three now infamous Ed Wood, films: Glen or Glenda, Jail Bait and Plan 9 from Outer Space. Talbot worked with the Three Stooges in Gold Raiders, was the first actor to portray evil scientist Lex Luthor (wearing a "bald cap") onscreen in Atom Man vs. Superman (1950), played villains in four comedies with The Bowery Boys, and took the role of Commissioner Gordon in the 1949 serial Batman and Robin. His last film role was in Amazon Women on the Moon (1987).

Having started his career in the theater and later co-starred on Broadway in 1940-1941 in Separate Rooms, Talbot returned to the stage in the 1960s and 1970s, starring in national road company versions of Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker, Gore Vidal's The Best Man, Neil Simon's The Odd Couple and Barefoot in the Park, Arthur Sumner Long's play Never Too Late, and appearing as Captain Brackett in a 1967 revival of South Pacific (at Lincoln Center).[8] He also starred in Preston Jones' "The Last Meeting of the Knights of the White Magnolia" at the Alley Theater in Houston and the Chicago area Lincolnshire Theater.[9] He rode the wave of the dinner theater phenomenon in the 1970s, acting in light comedies onstage in various Midwestern towns where former television actors were major attractions. As early as 1962 Talbot directed and co-starred with Ozzie and Harriet Nelson and a young Sally "Hot Lips" Kellerman in "Marriage Go Round," a play Talbot and the Nelsons took on the road again in the early 1970s.


Although Talbot once starred in a film called Trapped by Television (1936), the invention of TV actually revived his acting career, as his movie roles faded. Talbot was a frequent presence on American television from the 1950s well into the 1970s with occasional appearances in the 1980s. From 1955–1966, he appeared in some seventy episodes of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, as neighbor Joe Randolph. He also had a recurring role (1955–58) as Robert Cummings's character's buddy from the Air Force, Paul Fonda, in numerous episodes of The Bob Cummings Show.[10]

During the 1950s/1960s, Talbot acted in every genre from westerns to comedies to mysteries. He played Colonel Billings three times on the syndicated western series, The Adventures of Kit Carson (1951–1955), and appeared four times as a judge on the syndicated western The Cisco Kid. He guest starred on Gene Autry's The Range Rider.

From 1950–1955, he was cast five times in different roles on the western, The Lone Ranger. In 1955, he appeared as Baylor in six episodes of the series, Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe. From 1953–1957, he was cast as different characters in four episodes of the anthology series, Lux Video Theatre. In 1967, he played Colonel Blake three times on The Beverly Hillbillies, and also appeared three times (between 1965–1971) on Green Acres. On one episode of Green Acres Talbot played himself, as a senator, in a spoof on actors who became politicians. In 1959, Talbot played Sheriff Clyde Chadwick in the episode "The Sanctuary" on Colt .45.[11]

Other guest appearances included Annie Oakley; It's a Great Life; The Public Defender; The Pride of the Family; Crossroads; Hey, Jeannie!; The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show; Broken Arrow; The Millionaire; Richard Diamond, Private Detective; Tales of Wells Fargo; Buckskin; Cimarron City; Angel; Hawaiian Eye; 77 Sunset Strip; Surfside 6; The Roaring 20s; The Restless Gun; Stagecoach West; The Red Skelton Show; The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok; Topper; The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin; Laredo; Perry Mason; The Real McCoys; Rawhide; Wagon Train; Charlie's Angels; Newhart; The Dukes of Hazzard; St. Elsewhere; and Who's the Boss?.

He appeared occasionally on television in his eighties and narrated two PBS biographies, The Case of Dashiell Hammett and World Without Walls about pioneering pilot Beryl Markham, both produced and written by his son, Stephen Talbot, formerly a recurring cast member, Gilbert Bates, on Leave It to Beaver, another series on which his father had also appeared. Talbot was the first live action actor to play two prominent DC Comics characters on-screen: the aforementioned Commissioner Gordon in Batman and Robin, and supervillain Lex Luthor in Atom Man vs. Superman (who at the time was simply known as Luthor). Talbot began a longstanding tradition of actors in these roles that were most recently filled by Gary Oldman and Kevin Spacey, respectively.[12]

Personal life

Talbot had several brief marriages, to Elaine Melchoir (1930), Marguerite Cramer (1937–40) Abigail Adams (1942) and Keven McClure (1946)[13] and a number of romantic entanglements.

In 1948, he married for the fifth time, to actress and singer Paula (née Margaret) Epple. She was 20, and he was a 46-year-old actor with a drinking problem.[14] Under Epple's influence, Talbot quit drinking. The couple had four children and they worked together on stage in summer stock and community theater. They remained married for more than forty years until her death in 1989.[15][16] Three of their four children became writers or journalists. Only Cynthia Talbot, the elder daughter, did not. She is a family physician and residency director in Portland, Oregon.

  • Stephen Talbot was for many years a reporter and documentary producer for KQED-TV in San Francisco and for the PBS series Frontline and "Frontline World" and became the executive producer of Sound Tracks: Music Without Borders. As a child actor, he played Gilbert on the hit television show Leave it to Beaver.
  • David Talbot is an author ("Brothers" about John F. and Robert F. Kennedy and "Season of the Witch" about San Francisco in the 1960s and 1970s) and the founder and editor of
  • Margaret Talbot of The New Yorker who wrote about her father's long career beginning in pre-Code Hollywood, why he never became a big star, and his role in founding the Screen Actors Guild, in her magazine's edition of October 1, 2012.[4]


On March 6, 1996, Talbot died at his home in San Francisco, California, aged 94, from congestive heart failure.[17]


Year Title Role Notes
1932 Unholy Love Dr. Jerome Preston 'Jerry' Gregory
Love Is a Racket Edw. Griswold 'Eddie' Shaw Alternative title: Such Things Happen
Stranger in Town Brice
The Purchase Price Eddie Fields
Miss Pinkerton Newspaper Editor Uncredited
The Thirteenth Guest Phil Winston
Klondike Dr. Robert Cromwell
Big City Blues Len 'Lenny' Sully Uncredited
Three on a Match Michael Loftus
No More Orchids Tony Gauge
20,000 Years in Sing Sing Bud Saunders
1933 Parachute Jumper Minor Role (scenes deleted)
Ladies They Talk About Don
42nd Street Geoffrey Warning Voice, Uncredited
Girl Missing Raymond Fox
The Life of Jimmy Dolan Doc Woods
She Had to Say Yes Daniel Drew
A Shriek in the Night Ted Kord
Mary Stevens, M.D. Don Andrews
College Coach Herbert P. 'Buck' Weaver
Havana Widows Bob Jones
1934 Mandalay Dr. Gregory Burton
Heat Lightning Jeff
Registered Nurse Dr. Greg Connolly
Fog Over Frisco Spencer Carlton
Return of the Terror Dr. Leonard Goodman
The Dragon Murder Case Dale Leland
One Night of Love Bill Houston
A Lost Lady Neil
Murder in the Clouds 'Three Star' Bob Halsey
The Secret Bride Trailer Narrator Voice, Uncredited
1935 Red Hot Tires Wallace Storm
While the Patient Slept Ross Lonergan
It Happened in New York Charley Barnes
Our Little Girl Rolfe Brent
Chinatown Squad Ted Lacey
Oil for the Lamps of China Jim
Page Miss Glory Slattery of the Express
The Case of the Lucky Legs Dr. Bob Doray
Broadway Hostess Lucky
1936 Boulder Dam Lacy
The Singing Kid Robert 'Bob' Carey
The Law in Her Hands Frank 'Legs' Gordon
Murder by an Aristocrat Dr. Allen Carick
Trapped by Television Fred Dennis
Go West, Young Man Francis X. Harrigan
Mind Your Own Business Crane
1937 Affairs of Cappy Ricks Bill Peck
What Price Vengeance? 'Dynamite' Hogan / Tom Connors
Three Legionnaires Pvt. Jimmy Barton
West Bound Limited Dave Tolliver aka Bob Kirk
Second Honeymoon Robert "Bob" Benton
1938 Change of Heart Phillip Reeves
Call of the Yukon Hugo Henderson
One Wild Night Singer Martin
Gateway Henry Porter
The Arkansas Traveler Matt Collins
I Stand Accused Charles Eastman
1939 Forged Passport Jack Scott
They Asked for It Marty Collins
Second Fiddle Willie Hogger
Torture Ship Lt. Bob Bennett
Miracle on Main Street Dick Porter
1940 He Married His Wife Paul Hunter
Parole Fixer Ross Waring
1942 She's in the Army Army Capt. Steve Russell
They Raid by Night Capt. Robert Owen
Mexican Spitfire's Elephant Reddy
1943 Man of Courage George Dickson
A Night for Crime Joe Powell
The Meanest Man in the World Bill Potts Uncredited
1944 Up in Arms Sgt. Gelsey
The Falcon Out West Tex Irwin
Gambler's Choice Yellow Gloves Weldon
Are These Our Parents? George Kent
Sensations of 1945 Randall
Dixie Jamboree Anthony 'Tony' Sardell
Trail to Gunsight U. S. Marshal Bill Hollister
Mystery of the River Boat Rudolph Toller Serial
One Body Too Many Jim Davis
1945 Sensation Hunters Randsll
1946 Gun Town Lucky Dorgan
Murder Is My Business Buell Renslow
Song of Arizona King Blaine
Strange Impersonation Inspector Malloy
Chick Carter, Detective Chick Carter
1947 Danger Street Charles Johnson
The Vigilante: Fighting Hero of the West George Pierce
1948 Devil's Cargo Johnny Morello
The Vicious Circle Miller
Joe Palooka in Winner Take All Henerson
Thunder in the Pines Nick Roulade
Parole, Inc. Police Commissioner Hughes
Appointment with Murder Fred M. Muller
Quick on the Trigger Garvey Yager
Shep Comes Home Dr. Wilson
Highway 13 Company Detective
1949 Joe Palooka in the Big Fight Lt. Muldoon
Fighting Fools Blinky Harris
The Mutineers Capt. Jim Duncan
Sky Dragon Andrew J. Barrett
Batman and Robin Commissioner Jim Gordon
Mississippi Rhythm
Ringside Radio Announcer
She Shoulda Said No! Police Captain Hayes
1950 Dick Tracy B.R. Ayne aka The Brain TV Series, 7 episodes
The Daltons' Women Jim Thorne
Everybody's Dancin' Contractor
Johnny One-Eye Official from District Attorney's Office
Champagne for Caesar Executive No. 2
Lucky Losers Bruce McDermott
Federal Man Agent Johnson
Atom Man vs. Superman Luthor / The Atom Man
Triple Trouble Prison Yard Guard Uncredited
Big Timber Logger #1
Border Rangers Ranger Capt. McLain
Cherokee Uprising Chief Marshal
The Jackpot Fred Burns
Revenue Agent Augustis King
The Du Pont Story Eugene du Pont
One Too Many Mr. Boyer
1950–1954 The Cisco Kid Various roles TV Series, 4 episodes
1950–1956 The Lone Ranger Various roles TV Series, 5 episodes
1951 Colorado Ambush Sheriff Ed Lowery
Blue Blood Teasdale
Abilene Trail Dr. Martin
Fingerprints Don't Lie Police Lt. Grayson
Fury of the Congo Grant
Mask of the Dragon Police Lt. Ralph McLaughlin
Man from Sonora Sheriff Frank Casey
The Scarf City Detective Uncredited
Hurricane Island Physician Uncredited
Oklahoma Justice Doc Willoughby Uncredited
Gold Raiders Taggert Alternative title: The Stooges Go West
Jungle Manhunt Dr. Mitchell Heller
Lawless Cowboys Rank - Town Banker Uncredited
Purple Heart Diary Maj. Green
Texas Lawmen Dr. Riley Uncredited
Stage to Blue River Perkins
1951–1956 The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok W.T. Emerson / Bank Teller / Blackburn TV Series, 4 episodes
1952 The Old West Doc Lockwood
Texas City Captain Hamilton
With a Song in My Heart Radio Director Uncredited
Outlaw Women Judge Roger Dixon
Kansas Territory Sam Collins Uncredited
African Treasure Roy DeHaven, alias Pat Gilroy
Down Among the Sheltering Palms Maj. Gerald Curwin Uncredited
Sea Tiger Mr. Williams, Insurance Man
Montana Incident Mooney
Untamed Women Col. Loring
Feudin' Fools Big Jim
Desperadoes' Outpost Walter Fleming
Son of Geronimo: Apache Avenger Col. Foster Serial, [Chs.5-6]
Wyoming Roundup Franklin
The Pathfinder British Ship Captain
1952-1954 Death Valley Days San Francisco Mayor / Dr. Harper / Silas Capshaw TV Series, 4 episodes
1953 Star of Texas Telegraph Operator
White Lightning Rocky Gibraltar
Trail Blazers Deputy Sheriff McLain
The Roy Rogers Show John Zachary TV Series, 1 episode
Glen or Glenda Insp. Warren
Mesa of Lost Women Narrator Voice
Clipped Wings Capt. Blair
Wings of the Hawk Jones Uncredited
The Great Adventures of Captain Kidd Boston Official Serial, Uncredited
Tumbleweed Weber
1954 Trader Tom of the China Seas Barent
Gunfighters of the Northwest Inspector Wheeler
Jail Bait Inspector Johns
The Mad Magician Program Hawker Uncredited
Captain Kidd and the Slave Girl Capt. Pace
The Desperado Judge Uncredited
Tobor the Great Admiral Uncredited
Two Guns and a Badge Doctor Uncredited
There's No Business Like Show Business Stage Manager Uncredited
The Steel Cage Square, Convict (segment "The Hostages")
1954–1958 December Bride Bill Monahan / Mr. Winters / Mr. Butterfield TV Series, 6 episodes
1955 Hallmark Hall of Fame TV Series, 1 episode
Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe Baylor TV Series, 6 episodes
Jail Busters Cy Bowman
Sudden Danger Harry Woodruff
1955–1959 The Bob Cummings Show Paul Fonda TV Series, 22 episodes
1956 Navy Log Captain Morgan TV Series, 1 episode
The Millionaire Joe Price TV Series, 1 episode
Calling Homicide Tony Fuller
The Great Man Harry Connors
1956–1966 The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet Joe Randolph TV Series, 71 episodes
1957 Science Fiction Theatre General Dothan TV Series, 1 episode
Tales of Wells Fargo Reporter TV Series, 1 episode
God Is My Partner Dr. Warburton, Psychiatrist
1958 M Squad Paul Crowley TV Series, 1 episode
The Notorious Mr. Monks Leonardo, Prosecuting Attorney
Leave It to Beaver Charles "Chuck" Dennison TV Series, 2 episodes
High School Confidential William Remington Kane
The Hot Angel Van Richards
1958–1959 The Restless Gun Various roles TV Series, 2 episodes
1959 City of Fear Chief Jensen
Plan 9 from Outer Space General Roberts
The Ann Sothern Show Finletter TV, 1 episode
1960 Sunrise at Campobello Mr. Brimmer
Surfside 6 Alan Crandell TV Series, 1 episode
Hawaiian Eye George Wallace TV Series, 1 episode
1960 The DuPont Show with June Allyson Mr. Anders CBS-TV, 1 episode, "The Trench Coat"
Richard Diamond, Private Detective Victor Long Episode: "The Lovely Fraud"
1961 Mister Ed George Hausner TV Series, 1 episode
Lawman Orville Luster TV Series, 1 episode
1962 Make Room for Daddy Dr. Crawford TV Series, 1 episode
Dennis the Menace Mayor TV Series, 1 episode
1962–1967 The Beverly Hillbillies Colonel Blake TV Series, 4 episodes
1963 Arrest and Trial Phil Paige TV Series, 1 episode
The Lucy Show Howard Wilcox / Mr. Stanford TV Series, 2 episodes
1964 77 Sunset Strip Tatum TV Series, 1 episode
Petticoat Junction Mr. Cheever TV Series, 1 episode
1965 Run for Your Life Steven Blakely TV Series, 1 episode
The Smothers Brothers Show Marty Miller TV Series, 1 episode
1965–1966 Laredo Various roles TV Series, 2 episodes
1968 Dragnet William Joseph Cornelius TV Series, 1 episode
1969 Green Acres Senator Lyle Talbot TV Series, 1 episode
1970 Here's Lucy Freddy Fox / Harry's Lawyer TV Series, 2 episodes
1972 O'Hara, U.S. Treasury Art Prescott TV Series, 1 episode
1973 Adam-12 Avery Dawson TV Series, 1 episode
1979 Charlie's Angels Mills TV Series, 1 episode
1984 The Dukes of Hazzard Carter Stewart TV Series, 1 episode
St. Elsewhere Johnny Barnes TV Series, 1 episode
1985 227 Harold TV Series, 1 episode
1986 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Mr. Fletcher TV Series, 1 episode
Who's the Boss? Ralph TV Series, 1 episode
1987 Newhart Cousin Ned TV Series, 1 episode, "It's My Party and I'll Die If I Want To"
Amazon Women on the Moon Prescott Townsend (segment "Amazon Women on the Moon"), Uncredited, (final film role)


  1. "The First Board (1933)".
  2. "Margaret Talbot's 'The Entertainer' an engaging tribute". The Los Angeles Times.
  3. "Out Loud: A Life in Hollywood". The New Yorker. September 24, 2012. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
  4. Mel Gussow (1996-03-05). "Lyle Talbot, 94, Charactor Actor And TV Neighbor". The New York Times. Retrieved 2017-07-08.
  5. "The Entertainer: Movies, Magic and My Father's Twentieth Century" by Margaret Talbot, Riverhead Books 2012 pp. 183-201.
  6. "The Entertainer: Movies, Magic, and My Father's Twentieth Century, Riverhead Books; ISBN 9781594487064". November 8, 2012.
  7. "South Pacific (Lincoln Center Revival, 1967)". Retrieved 2017-07-08.
  8. "'Knights' finally gets a shining production". 1979-06-08. Retrieved 2017-07-08.
  9. Margaret Talbot. The Entertainer: Movies, Magic, and My Father's Twentieth Century. ISBN 9781594487064. Retrieved 2017-07-08.
  10. "Colt .45". Retrieved December 22, 2012.
  11. "Lex Luthor: Who played the Superman villain best?". Digital Spy. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  12. Margaret Talbot. The Entertainer (2012)
  13. Peschel, Bill (2013-01-15). "Lucky Lyle Talbot". Retrieved 2017-07-08.
  14. "Film, TV actor Lyle Talbot dies, 94". SFGate. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  15. "At Home in Hollywood: Margaret Talbot's Memoir Recalls the Rambunctious Life and Times of Her Father, Actor Lyle Talbot". Vogue. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  16. "Overview for Lyle Talbot". Retrieved 2017-07-08.
Preceded by
Actors portraying Lex Luthor
for Atom Man vs. Superman
Succeeded by
Gene Hackman
for Superman, Superman II and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
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