While exploring Hamilton, you might come across a film or commercial production being set up and, if you are lucky, you may even witness an ongoing shoot in action. Filming in Hamilton was nearly unheard of 40 or 50 years ago, but now, with studios like the Hamilton Film Studio and Aeon, they are more common.
Hamilton has been home to many famous entertainers who have achieved great success around the world in television, music, film, and the theatre. Some of these people were born and raised right here in the city. Florence Lawrence, regarded as the world’s first movie star; Robert Beatty, a renowned film actor and BBC war correspondent during WWII; Stana Katic, who rose to prominence as ‘Detective Kate Beckett’ in the television series ‘Castle,’ and Kathleen Robertson, who played Clare Arnold in the TV series Beverly Hills, 90210, are among them.
Douglass Dumbrille was born on October 13, 1889 and was an avid sportsman in his school years. At 6’1″ tall, he had a particular talent for hockey and enjoyed other athletic activities as well. His father, Richard Willie Dumbrille (1859-1929) served as an excise and customs officer for the Canadian Customs Department. The family lived on Wellington Street South, number 39. In 1911 they moved to James Street South, number 244½.
Douglass Dumbrille began his career as a bank clerk, earning $8.66 a month, but later pursued an acting career and worked in various local theaters. He eventually moved to Chicago, where he joined multiple theatrical groups and travelled across the United States. Even though Dumbrille earned a similar salary to his previous job, he found success and fulfillment in his new career.
In 1924, Douglass caught the eye of James K. Hackett, a famous actor of the day, who invited him to Broadway. Dumbrille played Banquo in “Macbeth” and built up a sizable savings during its run. He returned to Hamilton and invested his money in onion farming. Unfortunately, his investment turned out to be a real stinker. Dumbrille quickly gave up on onions, sold the farm, and returned to the Great White Way. He was a regular on the stage, starring in dramas, rom-coms, and musical operettas. He made his silent screen debut as Thomas Jefferson in an educational film called “The Declaration of Independence” in Trenton, New Jersey, the silent film hub of America in the 1920s.
Dumbrille decided to try his luck in Hollywood when a new phenomenon called “Talkies” came out in 1927. He played his first significant talking-film role in 1931 as a harasser of a sea captain played by Gary Cooper in “His Woman.” Dumbrille had a versatile career in films; he portrayed wicked sheriffs in westerns, misleading suspects or doomed victims in murder mysteries, and manipulative politicians in political dramas. Douglass Dumbrille became the quintessential villain in Hollywood with his unconventional looks and rich voice. Featuring commanding eyes, chiseled features, a hooked nose, and a trimmed mustache, he earned his meat and potatoes playing the intimidating and unscrupulous businessmen that audiences loved to hate with great conviction. In his later years, Douglass changed his image by taking on more conventional and lovable roles in some well-known television programs of the 1950s and 1960s. Programs like Perry Mason (1957), The Untouchables (1959), Laramie (1959), and Petticoat Junction (1963)
He shared the screen with Pat O’Brien, Marion Davies, Barbara Stanwyck, and James Cagney. He also graced the screen in six cinematic masterpieces that vied for the coveted Oscar for Best Picture: I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932), The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935), Naughty Marietta (1935), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), Julius Caesar (1953), and The Ten Commandments in 1956. He was also considered one of the best in slapstick comedies. He appeared with legends like the Marx Brothers, Abbott & Costello, and Bob Hope. Douglass made his final acting appearance in 1966 as a doctor on Batman alongside Adam West and Burt Ward.
Douglass was married for 47 years to Jessie Lawson, who died in 1957. Together they had two sons: John, who lived in Los Angeles and Douglas Murray who lived in San Francisco. Douglas Dumbrille remarried at the age of 70 to actress Patricia Mowbray, who was just 28 years old. Patricia was the daughter of his friend and fellow character actor Alan Mowbray. The couple’s union lasted until Douglass’ death.
On April 2, 1974, Dumbrille suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 84. He was at the Motion Picture Country Home and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California, where he spent his last days. His final resting place is at Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery in North Hollywood, California.