Actor Biography

ELLIOT NUGENT

Born: 1896, Dover, OH

Died: 1980, New York, NY

Notable Films: The Unholy Three (1930), The Last Flight (1931), The Cat and the Canary (1939), The Male Animal (1942), My Favorite Brunette (1947), The Great Gatsby (1949)

Elliott Nugent had a highly successful career writing, directing and acting on Broadway and in Hollywood. He was born on September 20, 1896 in Dover, Ohio. His parents, John Charles (J.C.) and Grace Fertig Nugent, were vaudevillians whose act consisted of comic sketches. J.C. Nugent wrote his own comic dialogue and also supplied material to other acts. His father lacked a formal education, but Elliott Nugent went to Ohio State. After graduation (1920), Nugent moved to New York.

Throughout the 1920s, he had numerous acting jobs, including his first small role in the play Dulcy (1921-1922). Nugent and his father wrote a number of plays which were produced on Broadway. In 1929, he signed with MGM and moved to Hollywood. For several years, he acted and wrote screenplays (sometimes writing and acting in the same film), the most notable being Lon Chaney's last picture, The Unholy Three (1930). Many of his scripts were co-written by his father. On screen, he is pleasant looking, but lacks presence. A startling exception is his mostly mute, traumatized veteran in The Last Flight (1931), directed by William Dieterle.

Soon after his last credited film acting role in 1931, he began his career as a film director. Between 1932 and 1952, he directed 32 features for Paramount, RKO, and other studios. His films, pleasant and well paced, are mostly comedies. The stars include Bob Hope (appearing in five films), Bing Crosby (three films), Danny Kaye, Clifton Webb, and the comedic duo of George Burns and Gracie Allen.

Among his notable films are an enjoyable version of his own hit play, The Male Animal (1942), starring Henry Fonda, and a somewhat stiff attempt to capture the essense of The Great Gatsby (1949), as portrayed by Alan Ladd. During the 1940s, Nugent alternated between Hollywood and Broadway. On Broadway, he was author (with James Thurber) and star of the aformentioned hit play, The Male Animal, which ran in 1940, and starred in the successful comedies Without Love (1942) and The Voice of the Turtle (1943).

During the final years of his career, he appeared on television in a few episodes of Robert Montgomery Presents (in 1950 and 1954), Studio One (1957) and other series. He also produced three plays on Broadway, including The Seven Year Itch, which ran from 1952 to 1955. The combined effects of alcoholism and mental illness ended his career by 1960. He wrote an autobiography, Events Leading Up to the Comedy, in 1965. Elliott Nugent died in New York on August 9, 1980.