Know Your Character Actor: Guy Kibbee

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August 18, 2014 by smumcounty

Character actor Guy Kibbee (1934)Guy Bridges Kibbee was born in El Paso, Texas in 1882. He got his start as an entertainer at the tender age of 13 on Mississippi riverboats. Shortly after the turn of the century, he made his way to New York where he appeared in off-Broadway productions and touring companies for the next twenty-five years. He finally made his way to the Broadway stage in 1930 with his appearance in “Torch Song”. It was this production that brought him to the attention of Hollywood.

Gold Diggers of 1933

Gold Diggers of 1933

He first signed with Paramount where he had his first on-screen role as a police commissioner in the Pre-Code drama “Stolen Heaven” (1931). Shortly after he made his way to Warner Brothers and became a regular in their stock company. It’s at Warner Brothers that his output really took off. From 1932 to 1937, when he was contracted to Warners he averaged ten films a year. He made eighteen movies in 1932 alone. Kibbee’s bald, bug-eyed, and portly demeanor was often used to portray officious, ineffectual business or political types who at times had a touch of the lascivious libertine. I can imagine the casting meetings at Warners now. “I’ve got a middle-aged family lawyer with a penchant for chorus girls.” (Gold Diggers of 1933) “Get me Kibbee!”

with Joan Crawford in "Rain"

with Joan Crawford in “Rain”

Notable films he made include “Rain” (1932) based on a short story by W. Somerset Maugham with Joan Crawford as a prostitute in the South Pacific and Walter Houston as the missionary who tries to reform her. Kibbee plays the ex-pat shopkeeper on the island on which they’re temporarily stranded. Gold Diggers was just one of the Busby Berkeley films in which Kibbee appeared in 1933 along with “42nd Street” and “Footlight Parade” where he appeared as partner to Jimmy Cagney in producing musical prologues to film screenings.

with Shirley Temple in "Captain January"

with Shirley Temple in “Captain January”

KibbeeCaptainBlood

Swashbuckling in “Captain Blood”

In 1934, Kibbee appeared as the lead in “Babbitt”, based on the novel by Sinclair Lewis. In “Captain January” (1934), Kibbee played the eponymous captain opposite Shirley Temple and Slim Summerville. In 1935, Kibbee got the chance at an action role when he appeared with Warner’s new star Error Flynn in “Captain Blood”. Kibbee ended the decade in Frank Capra’s classic “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939) playing the ineffectual governor who appoints Jimmy Stewart to the Senate.

with Eugene Pallette, Claude Rains, and Edward Arnold in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"

with Eugene Pallette, Claude Rains, and Edward Arnold in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”

In the 40’s, Kibbee got the chance to appear as the lead in an RKO series based on a character created by Clarence Budington Kelland for The Saturday Evening Post. “Scattergood Baines” appeared in 1944 and Kibbee’s portrayal of the canny, business-savvy yokel was popular enough to result in five sequels. In the late 40’s, Kibbee ended his career with a pair of John Ford westerns: “Fort Apache” (1948) and “3 Godfathers” (1948).

Kibbee died of complications arising from Parkinson’s Disease in 1956 in Long Island. Besides his extensive film career, Kibbee is also known for a dish he prepared in the film “Mary Jane’s Pa” (1935) which consists of a piece of bread with a hole in the center into which an egg is cracked, the whole thing then being fried. This delicacy is now known as Guy Kibbee Eggs.

Guy Kibbee Eggs

Guy Kibbee Eggs

Turner Classic Movies Tribute to Guy Kibbee

Mary Jane’s Pa Trailer

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One thought on “Know Your Character Actor: Guy Kibbee

  1. Rose says:

    Finayll! This is just what I was looking for.

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