Charley Grapewin

Charley Grapewin bigraphy, stories - Film

Charley Grapewin : biography

December 20, 1869 – February 2, 1956

Charley Ellsworth Grapewin (December 20, 1869 – February 2, 1956) was an American vaudeville performer and a stage and film actor, who portrayed Uncle Henry in MGM’s The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Grandpa Joad in the film The Grapes of Wrath (1940). During the decade of the 1930s, Grapewin is credited with appearances in more American movies than anyone else.


Prior to The Wizard of Oz Grapewin appeared in MGM’s Broadway Melody of 1938 with both Judy Garland (Oz’s Dorothy) and Buddy Ebsen (Oz’s original Tin Man). He also appeared with Garland in Listen, Darling.

Partial filmography

  • The Millionaire (1931)
  • Hell’s House (1932)
  • The Big Timer (1932)
  • Are You Listening? (1932)
  • Lady and Gent (1932)
  • No Man of Her Own (1932)
  • The Kiss Before the Mirror (1933)
  • Heroes for Sale (1933)
  • Midnight Mary (1933)
  • Pilgrimage (1933)
  • Beauty for Sale (1933)
  • Torch Singer (1933)
  • Judge Priest (1934)
  • Caravan (1934)
  • The President Vanishes (1934)
  • Anne of Green Gables (1934)
  • Party Wire (1935)
  • Shanghai (1935)
  • Alice Adams (1935)
  • Rendezvous (1935)
  • Ah, Wilderness! (1935)
  • The Petrified Forest (1936)
  • Small Town Girl (1936)
  • Libeled Lady (1936)
  • Sinner Take All (1936)
  • The Good Earth (1937)
  • A Family Affair (1937)
  • Captains Courageous (1937)
  • Broadway Melody of 1938 (1937)
  • The Bad Man of Brimstone (1937)
  • Of Human Hearts (1938)
  • The Girl of the Golden West (1938)
  • Three Comrades (1938)
  • Three Loves Has Nancy (1938)
  • Listen, Darling (1938)
  • Stand Up and Fight (1939)
  • The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  • Dust Be My Destiny (1939)
  • The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
  • Johnny Apollo (1940)
  • Rhythm on the River (1940)
  • Tobacco Road (1941)
  • They Died with Their Boots On (1941)
  • Follow the Boys (1944)


Born in Xenia, Ohio, Charley Ellsworth Grapewin ran away from home to be a circus acrobat which led him to work as an aerialist and trapeze artist in a traveling circus before turning to acting. He traveled all over the world with the famous P. T. Barnum circus.

After this he went on and off of stage for the next thirty years, starting with various stock companies, and wrote stage plays as a vehicle for himself. His sole Broadway theatre credit was the short-lived play It’s Up To You John Henry in 1905.

Grapewin married actress Anna Chance (1875–1943) in 1896 and they remained a devoted couple until her death some 47 years later.

Grapewin began in silent films at the turn of the century. His very first films were two "moving image shorts" made by Frederick S. Armitage and released in November 1900; Chimmie Hicks at the Races (also known as Above the Limit) and Chimmie Hicks and the Rum Omelet, both shot in September and October 1900 and released in November of that year., Chimmie Hicks at the Races, accessed 02-19-2009, Chimmie Hicks and the Rum Omelet, accessed 02-19-2009 Library of Congress Moving Image Collection, "Chimmie Hicks at the races / American Mutoscope and Biograph Company", accessed 02-19-2009 During his long career, Grapewin appeared in more than one hundred films, including The Good Earth, The Grapes of Wrath, Tobacco Road and also for what is probably his most well-remembered role: as Uncle Henry in the MGM Technicolor extravaganza The Wizard of Oz, after which he had garnered a recurring role as Inspector Queen in the Ellery Queen film series of the early 1940s,.

Grapewin died in Corona, California at age 86 and his ashes are interred with his wife’s, in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California, at the Great Mausoleum’s Columbarium of Inspiration.