Tall, balding character actor in US films from 1921 until the year he died, usually portraying obstinate or irascible types.
A man so disagreeable on celluloid, Claude Gillingwater's characters seemed to subsist on a steady diet of persimmons. Fondly recalled as the cranky old skinflint whose seemingly cold heart could only be warmed by the actions of a cute little tyke, the tall and rangy Gillingwater invariably played much older than he was. He, with the omnipresent bushy brows, crop of silver hair and perpetually sour puss, had a much more versatile career than perhaps realized -- on both stage and in film. Most assuredly, this caustic screen image he perfected belied a softer, gentler off-screen demeanor for he was a kind and sympathetic gent and devoted husband to wife Carlyn Stiletz (or Stellith). Their only child, Claude Gillingwater Jr., briefly became an actor himself. Sadly, Gillingwater Sr.'s thriving character career ended on a grim and tragic note in 1939. A serious accident on the movie set of the picture Florida Special (1936) (he fell from a platform and injured his back) damaged his health and threatened his career, and the death of his long-time wife Carlyn left him irrevocably depressed. Fearing the possibility of becoming an invalid and wishing not to become a serious burden to anyone, the 69-year-old actor committed suicide at his Beverly Hills home with a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. Gillingwater left a fine Hollywood legacy and the fun of some of his old films is watching his vinegar turn to sugar.
Date of Birth 2 August 1870, Louisiana, Missouri
Date of Death 2 November 1939, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California (suicide)