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Dudley Digges

Biography: 

(1879-1947)

Dublin-born, Dudley Digges was the finest character actor of the Broadway stage during the first half of the 20th century. A man capable of projecting into an astonishing variety of different roles, he won the affectionate regard of his colleagues for his strict adherence to the proprieties of a performance and his avoidance of scene stealing. His name had little marquee value until a series of performances late in his career made him a critical cause, as a grandfather in "On Borrowed Time" (1938) or saloonkeeper Harry Hope in "The Iceman Cometh." He was long associated with the Theater Guild, appearing in numbers of their productions. A specialist in Shaw, Digges could play the classic repertory as well as modern experimental drama.

Trained at the Abbey Theater, where he was among the cohort of founding actors in 1902, he had from the first a profound intellectual engagement with the theater of ideas. His performance in St. John Ervine's "John Ferguson" in New York cemented his reputation in Broadway acting circles and gave the Theater Guild its first hit. For a period of seven years he worked as stage manager for George Arliss's company, giving him a broad grasp of dramaturgy. He departed when Arliss went into the movies.

When Broadway became financially unsettled in the wake of the 1929 stock market crash, Digges himself went to Hollywood, developing a parallel career as a film supporting actor. He brought the same modesty and tact to his screen roles as he did to stage, often being the most effective player in B movies such as "The Invisible Man" as in the major releases such as "Mutiny on the Bounty" or "The Light That Failed." David S. Shields/ALS