Actor Leon Ames

Leon Ames (born Harry Wycoff; January 20, 1902 – October 12, 1993) was an American film and television actor. He is best remembered for playing father figures in such films as Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) with Judy Garland as one of his daughters, Little Women (1949), On Moonlight Bay (1951), and By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953). The fathers whom Ames portrayed were often somewhat stuffy and exasperated by the younger generation, but ultimately kind and understanding. Probably his best-known purely dramatic role was as DA Kyle Sackett in the crime film The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946).

Early years

Leon Ames was born on January 20, 1902, in Portland, Indiana, son of Charles Elmer Wycoff and his wife Cora Ames De Moss. Some sources list his original last name as “Wykoff” or “Waycoff”, and in his early films, he acted under the name Leon Waycoff. In 1935, Ames explained that he changed his name because Waycoff was often misspelled and mispronounced. Ames was his mother’s maiden name.

He attended Indiana University at Bloomington, and he served in the United States Army during World War I, first in field artillery and later in the flying corps.


Ames’ involvement with entertainment began when he worked as stage manager for the Charles K. Champlin Theatre Company. He ventured into acting with the group and progressed to having the lead in a production of Tomorrow and Tomorrow in Los Angeles. He acted for three years with the Stuart Walker Stock Company in Cincinnati, Ohio.

He debuted on Broadway in It Pays to Sin (1933). His other Broadway credits include Howie (1958), Winesburg, Ohio, (1958), Slightly Married (1943), The Russian People (1942), Little Darling (1942), Guest in the House (1942), The Land Is Bright (1941), The Male Animal (1940), Thirsty Soil (1937), A House in the Country (1937), and Bright Honor (1936).


Ames made his film debut in Quick Millions in 1931. Later, during the 1940s, he was under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Among his important roles at MGM is his 1944 portrayal of Mr. Smith in the studio’s massive hit and subsequent classic Meet Me in St. Louis.

Ames also appears in a featured role in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), portraying the district attorney Kyle Sackett. He appears too in the Doris Day-Gordon MacRae film On Moonlight Bay (1951), in its sequel By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953), and in Peyton Place (1957). He performs the role of Samuel Eaton, Alfred Eaton’s (Paul Newman) father, in From the Terrace (1960). In the 1961 Walt Disney comedy The Absent-Minded Professor, he is the college president Rufus Daggett and can be seen once again in that role in the film’s 1963 sequel Son of Flubber. In 1970, he was cast as Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox in the action war film Tora! Tora! Tora! His last screen role is in Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) in which he plays Kathleen Turner’s character’s grandfather Barney Alvorg.

Radio and television

Ames’ first radio broadcast was in January 1942 on Grand Central Station.

His television roles included leads in the adaptations of Life With Father (1953–55):604 and Father of the Bride (1961–62).:336-337 His presence in the latter program was such that, after the show had been on the air a few months, Ames’ role was increased because “‘father, as played by veteran character actor Leon Ames became the dominant figure in the whole show.”

Ames had the title role of judge John Cooper in the syndicated series Frontier Judge:370 and played Howard McMann in Bewitched.

He joined the cast of Mister Ed (1963–66) as Wilbur Post’s neighbor, retired Colonel Gordon Kirkwood,:701 after the death of actor Larry Keating, who had played Post’s original neighbor Roger Addison. Ames also appeared in episodes of the NBC anthology series The Barbara Stanwyck Show, and on the short-lived CBS legal drama Storefront Lawyers.

He played the part of Grandpa Willis in “The Jeffersons” episode “Jenny’s Grandparents” (Season 2, episode 10 1975).

Other professional activities

Ames was one of the founders of the Screen Actors Guild in 1933. He served as its president in 1957. During the 1960s, Ames owned several Ford dealerships in California.

Personal life

Ames was the father of Robert Fletcher, but abandoned his wife and their infant son around 1923.

Ames wed actress Christine Gossett in 1938. The couple had a daughter, Shelley (b. 1940), and a son, Leon (b. 1943). Christine retired early from acting to raise their family. They remained married until Ames’ death in 1993.

Ames supported Barry Goldwater in the 1964 United States presidential election.


On February 12, 1964, Ames and his wife were held hostage in their home as an intruder demanded $50,000 before he would free them. Ames called his business partner, who obtained the money from a bank and delivered it to the house as instructed. After inspecting the cash, the kidnapper left Ames in the house, bound with tape, and instructed Mrs. Ames to drive him in the couple’s car. He also forced both the business partner and a guest in the Ames house into the trunk. Eventually, police (who had been alerted by the partner while he was picking up the money) surrounded the car and freed the hostages.


On October 12, 1993, Ames died in Laguna Beach, California, of complications after suffering a stroke. He was 91. His gravesite is at Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.


In 1980, after 50 years in show business, Leon Ames received the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award.

Complete filmography

  • Quick Millions (1931) as Hood (as Leon Waycoff)
  • Cannonball Express (1932) as Jack Logan (as Leon Waycoff)
  • Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) as Pierre Dupin (as Leon Waycoff)
  • Stowaway (1932) as Tommy (as Leon Waycoff)
  • State’s Attorney (1932) as First Trial Prosecutor (uncredited)
  • The Famous Ferguson Case (1932) as Judd Brooks (as Leon Waycoff)
  • Thirteen Women (1932) (scenes cut)
  • A Successful Calamity (1932) as Barney Davis – Witon’s Junior Associate (as Leon Waycoff)
  • That’s My Boy (1932) as Al Williams (as Leon Waycoff)
  • Uptown New York (1932) as Max Silver (as Leon Waycoff)
  • Silver Dollar (1932) as Yates’ Secretary (uncredited)
  • Parachute Jumper (1933) as Pilot with Alabama (uncredited)
  • Forgotten (1933) as Louie Strauss (as Leon Waycoff)
  • Alimony Madness (1933) as John Thurman (as Leon Waycoff)
  • The Man Who Dared (1933) as (as Leon Waycoff)
  • Ship of Wanted Men (1933) as Capt. John Holden (as Leon Waycoff)
  • Only Yesterday (1933) as Lee (uncredited)
  • The Crosby Case (1934) as Clifford Mulford (uncredited)
  • I’ll Tell the World (1934) as Spud Marshall (as Leon Waycoff)
  • Now I’ll Tell (1934) as Max (as Leon Waycoff)
  • The Count of Monte Cristo (1934) as Beauchamp (uncredited)
  • Mutiny Ahead (1935) as McMurtrie
  • Rescue Squad (1935) as Lester Vaughn (as Leon Waycoff)
  • Reckless (1935) as Ralph Watson (as Leon Waycoff)
  • Strangers All (1935) as Frank Walker
  • Get That Man (1935) as Don Clayton / McDonald (as Leon Waycoff)
  • Death in the Air (1936) as Carl Goering
  • Song of Revolt (1937, Short) as Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle
  • Soak the Poor (1937, Short) as Special Investigator Stanton
  • Charlie Chan on Broadway (1937) as Buzz Moran
  • Dangerously Yours (1937) as Phil
  • Murder in Greenwich Village (1937) as Rodney Hunter
  • 45 Fathers (1937) as Vincent
  • The Spy Ring (1938) as Frank Denton
  • International Settlement (1938) as Monte Silvers
  • Walking Down Broadway (1938) as Frank Gatty
  • Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938) as Ex-Chauffeur (uncredited)
  • Island in the Sky (1938) as Marty Butler
  • Come On, Leathernecks! (1938) as Otto Wagner / Baroni
  • Mysterious Mr. Moto (1938) as Paul Brissac
  • Suez (1938) as Napoleon III – Emperor of France
  • Cipher Bureau (1938) as Maj. Philip Waring
  • Strange Faces (1938) as Joe Gurney
  • Secrets of a Nurse (1938) as Joe Largo
  • Mr. Sheldon Goes to Town (1939 short) as Salesman
  • Risky Business (1939) as Hinge Jackson
  • Blackwell’s Island (1939) as County Prosecutor Ballinger (uncredited)
  • I Was a Convict (1939) as Jackson
  • Panama Patrol (1939) as Maj. Phillip Waring
  • Mr. Moto in Danger Island (1939) as Commissioner Madero
  • Code of the Streets (1939) as “Chick” Foster
  • Man of Conquest (1939) as John Hoskins
  • Help Wanted (1939, Short) as J. T. Evans – Labor Commissioner (uncredited)
  • Fugitive at Large (1939) as Carter
  • Thunder Afloat (1939) as Recruiting Officer (uncredited)
  • Calling All Marines (1939) as Murdock
  • Pack Up Your Troubles (1939) as Adjutant
  • Marshal of Mesa City (1939) as Sheriff Jud Cronin
  • Legion of Lost Flyers (1939) as Smythe
  • East Side Kids (1940) as Pat O’Day
  • No Greater Sin (1941) as Dr. Edward Cavanaugh
  • Ellery Queen and the Murder Ring (1941) as John Stack
  • Crime Doctor (1943) as William Wheeler
  • The Iron Major (1943) as Robert ‘Bob’ Stewart
  • Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944) as Lieut. Jurika
  • The Thin Man Goes Home (1945) as Edgar Draque
  • Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) as Mr. Alonzo Smith
  • Between Two Women (1945) as Mr. Masters (uncredited)
  • Fall Guy (1945 short) as Floyd Parkson
  • Son of Lassie (1945) as Anton
  • Anchors Aweigh (1945) as Admiral’s Aide
  • Week-End at the Waldorf (1945) as Henry Burton
  • Yolanda and the Thief (1945) as Mr. Candle
  • They Were Expendable (1945) as Major James Morton
  • The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) as Kyle Sackett
  • No Leave, No Love (1946) as Colonel Elliott
  • The Cockeyed Miracle (1946) as Ralph Humphrey
  • The Show-Off (1946) as Frank Harlin
  • The Great Morgan (1946) as K.F. Studio Exec
  • Lady in the Lake (1947) as Derace Kingsby
  • Undercover Maisie (1947) as Amor aka Willis Farnes
  • Song of the Thin Man (1947) as Mitchell Talbin
  • The Amazing Mr. Nordill (1947, Short) as Everett Nordill, aka Everton
  • Merton of the Movies (1947) as Lawrence Rupert
  • Alias a Gentleman (1948) as Matt Enley
  • On an Island with You (1948) as Commander Harrison
  • The Velvet Touch (1948) as Gordon Dunning
  • A Date with Judy (1948) as Lucien T. Pringle
  • Little Women (1949) as Mr. March
  • Any Number Can Play (1949) as Dr. Palmer
  • Scene of the Crime (1949) as Capt. A.C. Forster
  • Battleground (1949) as The Chaplain
  • Ambush (1950) as Maj. C.E. Breverly
  • The Big Hangover (1950) as Carl Bellcap
  • The Skipper Surprised His Wife (1950) as Dr. Philip Abbott
  • Crisis (1950) as Sam Proctor
  • The Happy Years (1950) as Samuel H. Stover – Sr.
  • Dial 1119 (1950) as Earl
  • Watch the Birdie (1950) as Grantland D. Farns
  • On Moonlight Bay (1951) as George Winfield
  • Cattle Drive (1951) as Chester Graham Sr.
  • It’s a Big Country (1951) as Secret Service Man
  • Angel Face (1952) as Fred Barrett
  • By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953) as George Winfield
  • Let’s Do It Again (1953) as Chet Stuart
  • Sabre Jet (1953) as Lt. Col. George Eckert
  • Engagement Party (1956 short) as Elliott Winston
  • Peyton Place (1957) as Mr. Harrington
  • From the Terrace (1960) as Samuel Eaton
  • Maggie (1960, TV Movie) as Mark Bradley
  • The Absent-Minded Professor (1961) as President Rufus Daggett
  • Son of Flubber (1963) as President Rufus Daggett
  • The Misadventures of Merlin Jones (1964) as Judge Holmsby / Lex Fortas
  • The Monkey’s Uncle (1965) as Judge Holmsby
  • On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970) as Burt Clews
  • Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) as Frank Knox
  • Toklat (1971) as Old Man / Narrator
  • Hammersmith Is Out (1972) as General Sam Pembroke
  • Brother of the Wind (1973) as Narrator (voice)
  • The Meal (1975) as Bernard Wallace Kroger
  • Timber Tramps (1975) as Deacon
  • Sherlock Holmes in New York (1976, TV Movie) as Daniel Furman
  • Claws (1977) as Ben Jones, Forest Commissioner
  • The Best Place to Be (1979, TV Movie) as William Callahan
  • Just You and Me, Kid (1979) as Manduke the Magnificent
  • Testament (1983) as Henry Abhart
  • Jake Speed (1986) as Pop Winston
  • Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) as Barney Alvorg (final film role)
  • Partial television credits

  • Life with Father (1953-1955) as Clarence Day, Sr.
  • Westinghouse Studio One (1958), episode “Tongue of Angels” as Cyrus Walker
  • Father of the Bride (1961-1962) as Stanley Banks
  • The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1970), episode “Wedding Day?????” as Bradford Williams
  • Bewitched (1970), episode “What Makes Darrin Run?” as Howard McMann
  • Mister Ed (1963-1965) as Gordon Kirkwood
  • My Three Sons (Season 9 episode 2- 1968) as Dr. Osborne
  • The Andy Griffith Show (season 7, episode 9) as Mr. Hampton
  • The Jeffersons (Season 2, episode 10 – 1975) as Grandpa Willis in the episode “Jenny’s Grandparents.”
  • External Links

    Actor Leon Ames – Wikipedia

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