Character actor Louis Calhern started off as a bit player and prop boy in touring burlesque companies. After a stint in the service in World War I, Louis returned to the stage, using his experience as a springboard to film. He worked in silent pictures for innovative and controversial director Lois Weber, one of Hollywood’s first female directors still revered today.
Louis’ varied roles showcased his versatility. He played the straight man to the zany Marx Brothers in the classic Duck Soup, a singing Buffalo Bill opposite Betty Hutton in Annie Get Your Gun and the shifty attorney keeping a young Marilyn Monroe as a mistress in The Asphalt Jungle. Louis also tackled Shakespeare, with the title roles in Julius Caesar and King Lear. In addition, he was directed by Alfred Hitchcock in Notorious.
Louis was married four times, including eleven years to Natalie Shaffer, best remembered as Lovely Howell on Gilligan’s Island.
While filming The Teahouse of the August Moon, on location in Nara, Japan, Louis suffered a fatal heart attack. He was replaced in his role by actor Paul Ford. Six years earlier, actor Frank Morgan (best known as The Wizard in The Wizard of Oz) suffered a fatal heart attack while shooting Annie Get Your Gun. He was replaced in his role by Louis Calhern.