|An early portrait|
Born and raised in New Brunswick, Canada, his speech was accentless and could pass for American or British, as required. He didn't stay in Canada long; he left New Brunswick to join the Canadian army during World War One, and was seriously injured in a training accident which required more than a year of hospitalization. Upon his discharge, he made for Boston, Massachusetts, where he studied voice at the New England Conservatory of Music while working in a bank. His real aim was the stage, and he soon hit New York, quickly finding work in musical comedy and working steadily throughout the twenties. (It should be noted that there were many more stage productions in those days; actors, musicians, and all of the supporting workers like stagehands had many more opportunities to perfect their crafts.)
|With Donald Crisp and Roddy McDowall in How Green Was My Valley|
He was swept to theWest Coast with the early talkie musical craze. He always maintained an interest in live performance, and at he quite frequently returned to his stage work when he wasn't satisfied with the available film roles. Most of his film career was spent at MGM; he is probably best known today for his partnership at that studio with Greer Garson, which lasted through eight movies, ranging from light comedy (Julia Misbehaves) to historical biography (Madame Curie) to classic novel adaptation (That Forsyte Woman). They were uniquely suited to one another; both were distinctive but versatile, able to be funny or serious, and each could project an aura of sincerity and strength. Among their films together are at least two of the real greats, Mrs. Miniver and Madame Curie. But each of them was capable of pairing very successfully with another co-star, as Garson did with Robert Donat and Ronald Colman, and Pidgeon with Kay Francis and Myrna Loy.
|With Kay Francis and Deanna Durbin in It's a Date|
|With Ginger Rogers in Weekend at the Waldorf|
Pidgeon's deep voice, height, and air of strength made him an attractively masculine figure for ladies to contend over; he was manly but also gentlemanly (nearly always). Over the years, he moved gracefully from supporting player to leading man to, eventually, father-figure roles. He is the heroine's high-living father in The Last Time I Saw Paris, the starchy Admiral who is the father of Jane Powell in Hit the Deck, and, of course, most famously, the arrogant genius Doctor Morbius in Forbidden Planet, the father of Ann Francis' Altaira.
|Clem and Kay Miniver in their home bomb shelter|
I think my favorite of Pidgeon's later roles is his Senate Majority Leader in Otto Preminger's Advise and Consent; in fact, I think his loyal, reliable, hard-working character supports the entire film. He's there at the beginning, and he's there in the very last scene. I have to say that this is one of my favorite sixties movies all around. I love the cool concrete and marble neo-noir settings, the clash between progressive and reactionary forces (which sure hasn't changed much), the touches of sophisticated exoticism in the Greenwich Village scenes, and the adult love affair between grown-up people like the widowed majority leader and the hostess with the mostest, soignee Gene Tierney. And of course there are the wonderful performances, from every single actor, capped by Charles Laughton's fabulous Southern conservative (and I do mean fabulous!)
|With Charles Laughton in Advise and Consent|
With Charles Laughton in Advise and Consent