skip navigation
Burgess Meredith

Burgess Meredith

Up
Down

share:

TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (5)

Recent DVDs

Stay Away Joe ... Elvis Presley, Burgess Meredith. The King steps into ranch life as a Navajo... more info $8.95was $14.98 Buy Now

Madame X ... Madame X, in it's sixth and most lavish screen version, gives glamorous Lana... more info $14.95was $14.98 Buy Now

Grumpier Old Men ... Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau and Ann Margret team up again in this hilarious... more info $6.95was $14.98 Buy Now

The Forgotten Village ... An excellent documentary depicting the modernization and conflict of a small... more info $5.95was $6.98 Buy Now

Psycho Circus: 3 Rings of... THE CREEPING FLESH: A Victorian-age scientist returns to Londonw ith his... more info $10.95was $14.98 Buy Now

Gi Joe a Real American Hero:... In the hands of G.I. Joe, the Broadcast Energy Transmitter is a device capable... more info $10.95was $14.97 Buy Now

Also Known As: Oliver Burgess Meredith, Buzz Meredith Died: September 9, 1997
Born: November 16, 1907 Cause of Death: melanoma, Alzheimer's disease and other complications from age
Birth Place: Cleveland, Ohio, USA Profession: actor, director, producer, director, clerk, reporter, editor, furnace cleaner, dishwasher, businessman, merchant seaman, salesman

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

he following year for his wonderfully crotchety and battle scarred, but still wise boxing manager Mickey Goldmill in the smash hit, "Rocky" (1976). The actor did not win either of these prizes, but victory finally came Meredithâ¿¿s way with a Best Supporting Actor Emmy for his performance in the television feature "Tail Gunner Joe" (NBC, 1977), which looked at the life of controversial senator Joseph McCarthy and cast Meredith as attorney Joseph Welch. The part had special meaning for Meredith, given how he himself had been vilified during that era, and Welch was one of the men instrumental in bringing about McCarthyâ¿¿s downfall.Like many older character players in their senior years, Meredithâ¿¿s big screen work would be all over the map in terms of quality, though he rarely put a foot wrong when it came to his performances. He managed to rise above a quartet of rotten horror films that included "Burnt Offerings" (1976), "The Sentinel" (1977), "Magic" (1978) and "The Manitou" (1978), and made the most of a prime role in the Goldie Hawn/Chevy Chase mystery-comedy hit "Foul Play" (1978). A boilerplate sequel, "Rocky II" (1979) had little of the pathos or humanity found in the original, but was...

he following year for his wonderfully crotchety and battle scarred, but still wise boxing manager Mickey Goldmill in the smash hit, "Rocky" (1976). The actor did not win either of these prizes, but victory finally came Meredithâ¿¿s way with a Best Supporting Actor Emmy for his performance in the television feature "Tail Gunner Joe" (NBC, 1977), which looked at the life of controversial senator Joseph McCarthy and cast Meredith as attorney Joseph Welch. The part had special meaning for Meredith, given how he himself had been vilified during that era, and Welch was one of the men instrumental in bringing about McCarthyâ¿¿s downfall.

Like many older character players in their senior years, Meredithâ¿¿s big screen work would be all over the map in terms of quality, though he rarely put a foot wrong when it came to his performances. He managed to rise above a quartet of rotten horror films that included "Burnt Offerings" (1976), "The Sentinel" (1977), "Magic" (1978) and "The Manitou" (1978), and made the most of a prime role in the Goldie Hawn/Chevy Chase mystery-comedy hit "Foul Play" (1978). A boilerplate sequel, "Rocky II" (1979) had little of the pathos or humanity found in the original, but was embraced by audiences anyway, while the Canadian tax shelter films "The Final Assignment" (1980) and "The Last Chase" (1981) were little seen. Better roles came in the stop-motion fantasy epic "Clash of the Titans" (1981) and "True Confessions" (1981), and the actor took his third bow as Mickey in "Rocky III" (1982), with the series still proving as popular as ever. Jean-Luc Godardâ¿¿s obscure "King Lear" (1987) featured Meredith in one of his more unusual assignments, sharing the screen with Brat Pack regular Molly Ringwald. That same year, the actor belatedly received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He also co-hosted the family program "Those Amazing Animals" (ABC, 1980-81) and tried his hand at situation comedy on the short-lived "All in the Family" spin-off, "Gloria" (CBS, 1982-83).

After being left out of the fourth chapter, Meredith returned as Mickey for a flashback sequence in the poorly received "Rocky V" (1990), but was much better served opposite Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in the comedy hit "Grumpy Old Men" (1993). Meredith also had intermittent TV roles during this period, including three appearances as a judge on "In the Heat of the Night" (NBC, 1988-1994) and an ill-advised remake of "Night of the Hunter" (ABC, 1991). He published his autobiography, So Far, So Good, in 1994 and rejoined Lemmon and Matthau for "Grumpier Old Men" (1995), which turned out to be his last theatrical film. Meredithâ¿¿s distinctive voice and delivery also made him a regular choice to narrate features and commercials, and he also provided voices for animation, including the title role of "Puff the Magic Dragon" in the original 1978 CBS special and two follow-ups. His final job was voicing a lead character in "Ripper" (1996), an interactive computer game that provided a 21st century spin on the Jack the Ripper case. A firm believer in animal rights, Meredith lived for a number of years on a Northern California farm and at one point, had several dozen different types of exotic waterfowl. Plagued by Alzheimerâ¿¿s disease in the latter years of his life, Meredith died of that malady and melanoma on Sept. 9, 1997.

By John Charlese Pyleâ¿¿s bestseller, Here is Your War. Chosen by Pyle himself for the part, Meredith received high marks for his performance and it turned out to be one of his career highlights. The envy of many of men around the world, Meredith wed actress and popular WWII pin-up Paulette Goddard in 1944. The two appeared together in Jean Renoirâ¿¿s romantic melodrama "The Diary of a Chambermaid" (1946), which Meredith also wrote, before eventually divorcing after five years of marriage. He did fine work as a troubled psychoanalyst in the solid British thriller, "Mine Own Executioner" (1947) and stepped behind the camera for his first directorial effort, "The Man on the Eiffel Tower" (1949), which met with a mixed response. The actor also made return trips to Broadway that decade via appearances in the title role of "Liliom" (1940), "Candida" (1942-43), and "The Playboy of the Western World" (1946-47). Meredith was not adverse to working on the fledgling medium of television and appeared on such early network shows as "Studio One" (CBS, 1948-1958), "Lights Out" (NBC, 1949-1952), "Tales of Tomorrow" (ABC, 1951-53), and "Omnibus" (CBS/ABC/NBC, 1952-1961).

An outspoken liberal, Meredith soon ran afoul of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Fortunately, the blacklist had no effect on Broadway employment, so Meredith expanded his stage repertoire by making his Broadway directorial bow with "Lo and Behold!" (1951-52). He also appeared in productions of such perennials as "The Teahouse of the August Moon" (1953-56) and "Major Barbara" (1957). Unfortunately, Meredithâ¿¿s seven-year absence from the big screen ended with an embarrassing, politically incorrect "yellowface" role as a Japanese interpreter in the limp military comedy "Joe Butterfly" (1957), evidently the result of his similar part in "Teahouse." The political drama "Advise & Consent" (1962) marked the first of five collaborations between Meredith and director Otto Preminger, followed shortly by "The Cardinal" (1963) and "In Harmâ¿¿s Way" (1965), and Meredith made guest star appearances in four famous episodes of "The Twilight Zone" (CBS, 1959-1963), "77 Sunset Strip" (ABC, 1958-1964), "Burkeâ¿¿s Law" (ABC, 1963-66), and "The Wild Wild West" (CBS, 1965-69). He also had a recurring role as a principal on the final season of the high school drama, "Mr. Novak" (NBC, 1963-65).

While never a major star, Meredith was consistently employed and well respected. However, his profile rose considerably and most unexpectedly when he was cast as the villainous Penguin on the "Batman" (ABC, 1966-68) TV series and in a 1966 feature film. The show quickly became a pop culture phenomenon and Meredithâ¿¿s comical performance as the waddling, top-hatted criminal endeared him to many of the children in the audience. For the first time, people started recognizing Meredith on the street, many displaying an irresistible urge to offer their own version of The Penguinâ¿¿s trademark quacking. While the campy "Batman" was dismissed by many critics as insipid, its humor was very much by design; Meredithâ¿¿s remaining film roles that decade tended to be in projects that were either unintentionally amusing, like Premingerâ¿¿s "Hurry Sundown" (1967) or comedies that failed to produce laughs, like the insipid Elvis Presley vehicle, "Stay Away, Joe" (1968). Another embarrassment came via Premingerâ¿¿s notorious stinker "Skidoo" (1969), which stranded Meredith and other Golden Age greats like Jackie Gleason, Groucho Marx and Meredithâ¿¿s "Batman" co-star Cesar Romero in a witless send-up of the counter culture movement. If "Skidoo" was not bad enough, Meredith then wrote, directed and co-starred in his own bizarre, equally ill-conceived comedy "The Yin and the Yang of Mr. Go" (1970), which accomplished nothing positive aside from providing Jeff Bridgesâ¿¿ big screen debut. Meredithâ¿¿s final collaboration with Preminger, "Such Good Friends" (1971), was an unsatisfying experience for the actor and he later said that it was the one movie he regretted doing. The adventure series "Search" (NBC, 1972-73) lasted only 14 episodes, but Meredith was gifted with a final trip to Broadway for a revival of "Ulysses in Nighttown" (1974), which the actor had first directed with great success off-Broadway 16 years earlier.

With the mid-1970s came two of Meredithâ¿¿s best roles. A strong performance that earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, "The Day of the Locust" (1975) featured Meredith as a fallen vaudeville performer reduced to being a door-to-door salesman. A second nomination in that same category was extended to Meredith t

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Maddening, The (1996)
2.
3.
 Across the Moon (1995) Barney
4.
 Grumpier Old Men (1995) Grandpa Gustafson
5.
 Camp Nowhere (1994) Feln
6.
 Grumpy Old Men (1993) Grandpa Gustafson
7.
 Mastergate (1992) Wylie Slaughter
8.
 Oddball Hall (1991)
9.
 Night Of The Hunter (1991) Birdy
10.
 State Of Grace (1990) Finn
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Held various jobs after leaving college
1929:
Stage debut with walk on role at Eva LeGallienne's Civic Repertory Theatre, NYC
1930:
Member of Civic Repertory Theater
1932:
Broadway debut in "Alice in Wonderland"
1933:
First lead role on stage in "Little Ol' Boy"
1934:
Made radio debut on the long-running serial "Red Davis"
1935:
Breakthrough stage performance as Mio in Maxwell Anderson's verse play "Winterset"; Anderson wrote the part expressly for Meredith
1936:
Film debut, recreating stage role of Mio in "Winterset"
1937:
Performed Hamlet on radio broadcast
1939:
Toured with Orson Welles in "Five Kings", playing Prince Hal to Welles' Falstaff
1939:
Won critical acclaim for performance as George in "Of Mice and Men"
1940:
Starred on Broadway in "Lilliom" opposite Ingrid Bergman
:
Served in the Army Air Corps during WWII
1945:
Had one of his best leading roles as Ernie Pyle in "The Story of G.I. Joe"
1946:
Produced and wrote "Diary of a Chambermaid" starring then-wife Paulette Goddard and directed by Jean Renoir; also acted
1949:
Feature directing debut "The Man on the Eiffel Tower"; co-directed with Charles Laughton; also starred;
:
Blacklisted during the 1950s
1950:
Stage directing debut "Happy as Larry"
1950:
First TV appearance as host of first two episodes of "Your Show of Shows" (NBC) in February
1952:
TV directorial debut "The Christmas Tie" episode of "Omnibus" (CBS)
1956:
Stage producing debut "Speaking of Murder"
1957:
Returned to features in the title role of "Joe Butterfly"
1961:
Appeared with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra as narrator and host
1962:
Made first of six films with Otto Preminger, "Advise and Consent"
:
TV series debut as regular in role of principal Martin Woodridge on "Mr Novack" (NBC)
:
Appeared as guest villain The Penguin on "Batman" (ABC)
1971:
Last feature collabortation with Preminger, "Such Good Friends"
:
Played Cameron on the NBC series "Search"
1974:
Recreated on Broadway his staging of the 1958 Off-Broadway play "Ulysses in Nighttown", adapted from the James Joyce novel; earned Tony nomination
1975:
Earned first Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor for "The Day of the Locust"
1976:
Co-starred in "Rocky" as the boxing trainer Mickey; received second Oscar nomination; played role in three of the four sequels ("Rocky II" 1979; "Rocky III" 1982: and "Rocky V" 1990)
1983:
Was featured as Sally Struthers' boss on the short-lived CBS sitcom "Gloria", a spin-off of "All in the Family"
1987:
Had title role in Jean-Luc Godard's "King Lear"
1993:
Co-starred in "Grumpy Old Men" as Jack Lemmon's father
1994:
Published memoir, "So Far, So Good"
1995:
Reprised role in "Grumpier Old Men"
1996:
Final film appearnace in Danny Huston's "The Maddening"
1996:
Final TV appearance as host of the PBS special "Preminger--Anatomy of a Filmmaker"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Amherst College: Amherst , Massachusetts -
Cathedral Choir School: New York , New York - 1920 - 1923
Hoosac Preparatory School: - 1923

Notes

Meredith received an honorary degree from Amherst College in 1939.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Helen Berrian Derby. Married 1932; divorced 1935.
wife:
Margaret H Frueauff. Married January 10, 1936; divorced July 19, 1938; sister of theatrical producer Antoinette Perry for whom the Tony Awards were named.
wife:
Paulette Goddard. Actor. Third wife; married May 21, 1944; divorced June 6, 1949; acted together in Jean Renoir's "Diary of a Chambermaid" (1946) and also the musical comedy "Second Chorus" (1940).
wife:
Kaja Sundsten. Ballet dancer. Survived him.
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Family close complete family listing

father:
William George Meredith. Physician.
mother:
Ida Beth Meredith.
son:
Jonathan Sanford Meredith. Survived him.
daughter:
Tala Beth Meredith. Survived him.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"So Far, So Good: A Memoir" Little, Brown

Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.

Click here to contribute