|The 'brains' and 'action' heavies who had meaty roles and lots of dialog ... and the players who were fathers, ranch owners, lawman, mayors, judges, lawyers, storekeepers, newspaper editors, wardens, etc.|
(Courtesy of Jack Tillmany)
Pierre Frank Watkin
Sometimes referred to as:
(plural last name)
1887 - 1960
Pierre Frank Watkin was born in Iowa in 1887, and his parents owned a boarding house for theatrical performers in Sioux City, Iowa. Watkin became a busy man in stock/repertory theater, and newspaper clippings have him doing plays in Dubuque, Iowa in the 1910s, Pittsburg in the 1920s, and Wisconsin in the mid 1930s.
He was married at least twice. There was a 1909 marriage to Christie E. Mclennan. A newspaper article from September, 1932 reports the marriage of Watkin to actress and play producer Mary Hart in Reading, Pennsylvania (where Pierre's older brother William B. Watkin lived). The article also notes that Pierre was preparing for a role in "Manhattan Melodies" at the Longacre Theater in New York.
His Hollywood career ran from about 1935 until his death in 1960, and he free-lanced in over 300 films at various production companies. He was most often cast as a politician, doctor, lawyer, judge, businessman, etc. - basically, a person of power and authority or a distinguished sophisticate wearing a suit, white shirt and tie. Great director Frank Capra utilized Watkin in five of his film projects and those and some other Watkin movie appearances are listed below:
- One of Watkin's earliest roles was an unbilled part in the Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN (Frank Capra/Columbia, 1936).
- He was the worried attorney of Anthony P. Kirby (played by Edward Arnold) in YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU (Frank Capra/Columbia, 1938) which starred Jimmy Stewart, Jean Arthur and Lionel Barrymore.
- He was among the many politicians in MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (Frank Capra/Columbia, 1939), another pairing of Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur.
- His other two Capra films were the Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck MEET JOHN DOE (Frank Capra/Warner Bros., 1941) and STATE OF THE UNION (Frank Capra/MGM, 1948) with Spencer Tracy and Kathryn Hepburn.
- Watkin portrays Frank Twitchell, Lou Gehrig's father-in-law, in the Gary Cooper starrer, THE PRIDE OF THE YANKEES (Goldwyn, 1942).
- He was in a trio of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello comedies at Universal: IT AIN'T HAY (1943), HERE COME THE CO-EDS (1945) and LITTLE GIANT (1946).
- In THE STORY OF SEABISCUIT (Warner Bros., 1949), he was Charles Howard, Seabiscuit's owner.
Les Adams has Watkin identified in about forty B westerns and serials. I recall some memorable Pierre Watkin performances in the cowboy film and cliffhanger:
- He was rackets boss and master criminal "Crogan" in the fifteen episode THE GREEN HORNET STRIKES AGAIN (Universal, 1940).
- NEVADA CITY (Republic, 1941) is a tale of problems between the railroad and a stageline. Roy Rogers and Gabby Hayes discover that Watkin and his helper, Fred Kohler, Jr., are behind the chaos.
- Pierre is a crooked railroad tycoon in JESSE JAMES AT BAY (Republic, 1941), a good Roy Rogers film with Roy playing dual roles.
- In the Gene Autry SIOUX CITY SUE (Republic, 1946), Watkin is the head of Paragon Pictures and assigns a former cartoon producer to work with Autry. There's some funny moments as Gene's voice is used for cartoon character "Ding Dong Donkey".
- In THE WILD FRONTIER (Republic, 1947), the first of the 'Rocky' Lane adventures, Lane and John James are brothers and Watkin portrays their lawman father who is killed by outlaw leader Jack Holt.
- He was newspaper editor Perry White in the Kirk Alyn serials SUPERMAN (Columbia, 1948) and ATOM MAN VS. SUPERMAN (Columbia, 1950).
Watkin must have been dependable as he worked frequently at Republic Pictures. During 1936 - 1956, he did about fifty films for that studio. And he was one of many actors who made a successful transition to television and appeared in dozens of TV shows including several judge roles on PERRY MASON.
Some of you may recall Watkin as bank president "Mr. Skinner" in THE BANK DICK (Universal, 1940). His meeting with W. C. Fields (as the inebriated Egbert SousŤ) includes the "not so hearty handclasp" greeting.
Pierre passed away at his Los Angeles home on February 3, 1960. Cause of death was pneumonia and he also suffered from diabetes.
Good Pierre!(From Old Corral collection)
Above from left to right are Pierre Watkin, Ann Baldwin and Roy Rogers in a lobby card from WALL STREET COWBOY (Republic, 1939). In this oater set in modern times, Roy has a pair of sidekicks, Gabby Hayes and Raymond Hatton. Cattle rancher Watkin and his daughter Ann Baldwin aid Roy and his pals in saving the Circle R ranch.
Boo! Hiss! Bad Pierre!(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above from left to right are Roy Rogers, Pierre Watkin, Gabby Hayes and Chester Conklin in JESSE JAMES AT BAY (Republic, 1941).
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above from left to right are Hank Bell, Pierre Watkin, Gabby Hayes and William 'Billy' Benedict in another still from JESSE JAMES AT BAY (Republic, 1941).
In JJ AT BAY, the clean-shaven Pierre Watkin plays a crooked railroad tycoon, ably assisted by Hal Taliaferro (Wally Wales). Roy Rogers has a dual role - lawman Gabby Hayes gets help from his old pal Jesse James (played by Roy). Roy is also "Clint Burns" who is hired by Watkin to pretend to be Jesse and stir up trouble.
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Pierre Watkin: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0914246/
The Internet Broadway Database has Pierre Watkin in a half dozen 1920s - 1930s New York stage plays: https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/pierre-watkin-64195
The Playbill Vault website has additional info on Watkin's 1920s - 1930s stage plays: https://www.playbill.com/person/pierre-watkin-vault-0000096203
The Greetings from Sioux Falls, South Dakota website has a blurb on their Egyptian Theater. Quote: "September 17th, 1926 the Colonial reopened as The Egyptian Theater. The play that night was 7th Heaven, put on by the Pierre Watkin Players under the direction of Roy E. Hilliard.": https://www.greetingsfromsiouxfalls.com/egyptian-theater
The Family Search website (free), Ancestry.com (subscription), newspapers, California Death Index and the death certificate provide more on Pierre Watkin and family:
- 1900 census - the Watkin family own a boarding house in Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa - there's father C. H. Watkin, wife Eliz J. Watkin, and four sons including 13 year old Pierre F.:
1900 census takers sheet shows the Watkin boarding house with a dozen or so roomers listed as theatrical employees: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-267-11902-13785-36?cc=1325221&wc=MMPV-351:1674454930
- 1909 marriage record (not the marriage license) of Pierre F. Watkin and Christie E. Mclennan in Ottawa, Franklin County, Kansas. Both bride and groom are twenty one years old: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FWL3-NM6
- 1910 census - the Watkin family resided in Kansas, Jackson County, Missouri - there's father Charles H. Watkin, wife Elizabeth J. Watkin, and three sons including 22 year old Pierre F.: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/M2YD-Y4V
- 1917 World War I draft registration dated May 28, 1917 - 29 year old Pierre Frank Watkin is married, but his wife's name is not mentioned. He is residing in Kansas City, Missouri; birth date and place are December 29, 1887 and Cherokee, Iowa; and employer is Sidney Toler (of later Charlie Chan fame) in Portland, Maine: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-25077-39402-25?cc=1968530&wc=MMTJ-R2P:n1550912715
- September, 1932 newspapers report the marriage of Watkin to actress and play producer Mary Hart in Reading, Pennsylvania (where Pierre's older brother William B. Watkin lived).
- 1940 census - 52 year old Pierre Watkin (born Iowa) and 41 year old wife Mary H. Watkin (born Minnesota) are living in the Los Angeles area: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/K9HK-X7M
1940 census takers worksheet - Pierre and wife Mary own their home, but I could not make out the address. The occupation of both are motion picture actor and actress. Pierre reports that in 1939, he worked 26 weeks and earned $5000.00+; Mary worked 4 weeks and earned $1500.00: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-27797-1014-23?cc=2000219&wc=MMYH-F8L:n425298019
- 1942 World War II draft registration for Pierre Frank Watkin. His birth location and date are Cherokee, Iowa on December 29, 1887, and he and wife Mary Hart Watkin are residing at the Miramar Hotel, Santa Monica, California. He lists his occupation as "free lance actor" and employer as the Small Company in Los Angeles: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1-16387-10583-35?cc=1861144
- Death certificate - 72 year old Pierre Frank Watkin was born December 29, 1887 in Iowa; parents were unknown. He and wife Mary H. Watkin resided at 754 S. Burnside Avenue, Apartment 202, Los Angeles. His occupation was "Actor - Various Studios - Motion Pictures" and he passed away at his home on February 3, 1960. Cause of death was pneumonia and he also suffered from diabetes. Funeral director was Pierce Bros. Hollywood and burial at Valhalla Cemetery.
- You may want to go to the In Search Of ... page on the Old Corral and then to the California Death Index which mirrors the death certificate: Pierre F. Watkin was born December 29, 1887 in Iowa and passed away February 3, 1960 in the Los Angeles area. I was unable to find a corresponding record in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI), probably due to the family not filing for the death/burial benefit.
Find A Grave website notes that Pierre Watkin is interred in an unmarked grave at Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park, North Hollywood, California: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/7967613/pierre-watkin
Daniel Neyer's "The Files of Jerry Blake" serial website has a webpage on Pierre Watkin doing cliffhangers: https://filesofjerryblake.com/serial-character-actors-2/pierre-watkin/
Biography on Iowa native Pierre Watkin from the Des Moines Register newspaper: https://www.newspapers.com/clip/22523142/the-des-moines-register/
The Superman Supersite has a profile on Watkin: http://www.supermansupersite.com/pierrewatkin.html