American Character Actor. He specialized in the "average-Joe" parts, and was equally effective in sympathetic or unlikable roles. Faylen grew up in the theatre, as his parents were the vaudeville team of Ruf and Cusik. He attended St. Joseph's Preparatory College in Kirkwood, Missouri, but returned to vaudeville as a comic pantomimist. He toured the country throughout the late 20's and early 30's as a clown and a song-and-dance man. During a tour stop in Los Angeles, he was screen tested and began a 30-year career as one of Hollywood's most famous character actors. He made his film debut in Bullets or Ballots (1936). Amiable characters were his forte, but he also excelled in the portrayal of cold-hearted, sadistic heavies. His two most famous roles were that of the nasty male nurse attending to a drunken Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend (1945) and as Ernie the cabdriver in Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life (1946). This role inspired Jim Henson to name one of his most famous Muppets after Faylen's character (Ernie, of Burt and Ernie fame). His greatest fame came in television, as Dobie's dad, Herbert T. Gillis, in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1959). Faylen portrayed characters in numerous notable films including, The Grapes of Wrath (1941), Pride of the Yankees (1942), The Perils of Pauline (1948), Road to Rio (1948), Francis the Talking Mule (1951), Gunfight at the OK Corral (1965), The Monkey's Uncle (1968) and Funny Girl (1968).
Bio by: Craig Johnson