Here are 10 things you should know about character actor Frank McHugh, born 122 years ago today. We’ll watch just about any movie he appears in.
As we advised you to do, we recorded the first eleven entries in RKO’s “The Falcon” series of mysteries on TCM the other day, and by last night, we’d worked our way up to watching the third one, The Falcon Takes Over.
The Falcon movies aren’t great, but they have a certain frothy charm, the repartee’s enjoyable enough, and at least some of them feature both Allen Jenkins and James Gleason in supporting roles, and that’s a combination that’s hard to beat.
We were especially looking forward to this picture because it’s based on Raymond Chandler‘s Farewell, My Lovely. In this version, it’s George Sanders as The Falcon, not Philip Marlowe, who solves the crime, but it was fun to see a familiar story played out in a different style, a different city (NYC rather than Los Angeles) and with a different set of characters.
One recognizes the source material right away, as just two minutes in, Moose Malloy has already made an appearance, and his name is…Moose Malloy. And the lost love he’s trying to track down is named Velma.
In fact, the filmmakers didn’t bother to change many of the characters’ names: Jessie Florian, Jules Amthor, Ann Riordan and Laird Burnett are all present and accounted for.
The Falcon Takes Over doesn’t stack up to Murder, My Sweet (1944) or Farewell, My Lovely (1975); it’s an entirely different kind of picture. But it is just smidge darker than the typical Falcon picture, and we found that suited us just fine.
Comic relief and sidekick extraordinaire Frank McHugh was born 118 years ago today in Homestead, Pennsylvania. If you’re not sure you recall McHugh’s name, you’ll surely recognize his face if you’ve seen even a few movies from the 1930s and ’40s.
Here are our ten Frank McHugh trivia tidbits:
- Frank McHugh’s parents ran a stock company, and as a child, he occasionally appeared in their productions. He also toured in vaudeville before making his Broadway debut in The Fall Guy in 1925, a play cowritten by George Abbott and character actor James Gleason.
- McHugh, who signed with First National/Warner Brothers as a contract player in 1930, appeared in more than 90 pictures over the next twelve years.
- Frank McHugh made 11 pictures with his pal James Cagney (they were both, along with Pat O’Brien and others, a part of Hollywood’s Irish Mafia).
- McHugh also appeared in 12 pictures with fellow character actor Allen Jenkins.
- Frank McHugh twice reprised in a remake a character he’d already played in the original version of that film: in One Way Passage (1932) and ‘Til We Meet Again (1940), he played a thief eluding Chinese authorities, and in both The Crowd Roars (1932) and Indianapolis Speedway (1939), he played a character named Spud Connors.
- Two of McHugh’s siblings, Matt McHugh and Kitty McHugh, were also film actors. Matt had appearances in more than 220 movies, shorts and TV series to his credit, and Kitty compiled 60 appearances in film and on television.
- Frank McHugh was an eager participant in USO tours during World War II and he was also a member of the Hollywood Victory Caravan, a troupe of 21 stars that traveled the US by train for three weeks, performing along the way to raise money for the Army and Navy Relief Fund.
- McHugh’s USO efforts earned him a citation from the army “for exceptionally meritorious service while working as a member of an entertainment unit” that was signed by Major General Raymond S. McLain.
- Frank McHugh starred in his own radio program, Hotel for Pets, from 1954-56. Some oldtime radio references list the progam as a soap opera, but that somehow seems unlikely to us.
- McHugh and his wife, Dorothy, were married from 1933 until his death in 1981. They had three children together and two grandchildren.
Happy birthday, Mr. McHugh, wherever you may be!