He began his movie career under contract to Warner Brothers in the early days of talking pictures and went on to appear in more than 150 films, first as a young matinee idol and later as a character actor and star of many B movies. He was a founding member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and later served on the board.
First hitting the road as a magician's assistant, Talbot became a leading actor in travelling tent shows in the Midwest and established his own theater company in Memphis, then went to Hollywood when the film industry began producing movies with sound and needed actors who could talk.
Most notable among his film work: his appearance in the classic pre-noir Three on a Match (1932) with Humphrey Bogart and Bette Davis, co-starring with Spencer Tracy in the prison movie 20,000 Years at Sing Sing, romancing opera singer Grace Moore in One Night of Love, and pursuing Mae West in Go West Young Man. He appeared opposite many famous actresses including Carole Lombard, Barbara Stanwyck, Mary Astor, Ginger Rogers and Shirley Temple. He also worked with the Three Stooges in The Stooges Go West, portrayed Lex Luthor in 1950's Atom Man vs. Superman, and played Commissioner Gordon in the 1949 serial Batman and Robin. His last movie role was in the Franklin Roosevelt biography, Sunrise at Campobello, in 1960.
In countless low-budget B-movie work, Talbot's roles spanned the gamut. He played cowboys, pirates, detectives, cops, surgeons, psychiatrists, soldiers, judges, newspaper editors, storekeepers and boxers. He also appeared in three infamous Edward D. Wood Jr. films: Glen or Glenda, Jail Bait and Plan 9 from Outer Space.
As his film career tapered off, Talbot became a familiar character actor on American television in the 1950s and 1960s as a regular on Ozzie and Harriet and as Bob Cummings' Air Force buddy Paul Fonda on The Bob Cummings Show. Talbot was also a guest star on such classic TV series as The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, Leave It to Beaver, The Lone Ranger; The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok; Topper; The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin; Perry Mason; Rawhide; Wagon Train; The Beverly Hillbillies; Green Acres; Charlie's Angels; Newhart; The Dukes of Hazzard; St. Elsewhere and Who's the Boss?.
Having started his career in the theater and later co-starred on Broadway in Separate Rooms, Talbot returned to the stage in the 1960s and 1970s, starring in national road company versions of Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker, Gore Vidal's political drama The Best Man, Neil Simon's The Odd Couple and Barefoot in the Park, and appearing in a revival of South Pacific at New York's Lincoln Center. He continued to appear occasionally on TV shows well into his 80s, and narrated two PBS biographies, The Case of Dashiell Hammett and World Without Walls about pioneering pilot Beryl Markham, produced and written by his son, Stephen Talbot.
Personal lifeThree of his four children became journalists: Stephen Talbot, who also played Gilbert Bates on Leave it to Beaver), is a documentary producer for the PBS series Frontline. David is the founder and editor of Salon.com, and Margaret is a staff writer for the New Yorker magazine. After several brief marriages, Talbot was married for over forty years to Margaret Talbot, who also used the stage name, Paula Talbot.
He died in 1996 at his home in San Francisco.
Lyle's granddaughter, Caitlin Talbot, is an actress at the American Conservatory of Theater in San Francisco.
Lyle Talbot Facts
|Birth Name||Lisle Henderson|
|Birthday||February 8, 1902|
|Birthplace||Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA|
|Date of death||March 2, 1996 (San Francisco, California, USA, age 94)|