Charles Bickford and the Voice of an Era

Charles Bickford, a U.S. actor born in 1891, held several jobs at a young age, before entering the world of burlesque on a dare in 1911. Burlesque eventually led Bickford to Broadway, where he starred alongside James Cagney in Outside Looking In, in 1925. Shortly thereafter, he enjoyed success playing the role of Macready, in the 1928 Broadway production of Gods of the Lightning. The character Macready was based on the life of anarchist Ferdinando Nicola Sacco, who along with Bartolomeo Vanzetti, were tried and executed for armed robbery. Bickford’s intense, durable and dominating physical features, paired with his stern, authoritarian voice landed him several film, radio and television roles.

After he was contacted by Cecil B. DeMille, Charles Bickford accepted a studio contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM.) It was not long before he became dissatisfied with the work and the studio. Reluctantly, MGM executives released the disgruntled Bickford from his contract obligations; however, consequently he was blacklisted from the film studios. Bickford continued to work as an independent actor, where his greatest performances were found in supporting character roles. A Star is BornNot as a Stranger and The Farmer’s Daughter are among some of his most notable performances.

In 1936, Bickford costarred with Gary Cooper in the Lux Radio broadcast of The Virginian. In 1944, he accepted a role in the production of Song of Bernadette, sponsored by the Radio Hall of Fame. Charles Bickford would later play a reoccurring role in the NBC televised series, The Virginian. He died shortly after filming an episode of the series in 1967.

Enjoy Charles Bickford in this Radio Hall of Fame Broadcast

"Stars and Stripes Forever" from July 2, 1944