Charles Coburn

Charles Coburn
Charles Coburn

from the trailer for
Rhapsody in Blue (1945)
Born Charles Douville Coburn
June 19, 1877(1877-06-19)
Macon, Georgia, U.S.
Died August 30, 1961(1961-08-30) (aged 84)
Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1901–61
Spouse Ivah Wills (1906-37; her death)
Winifred Natzka (1959-61; his death)

Charles Douville Coburn (June 19, 1877 – August 30, 1961) was an American film and theater actor.[1]



Coburn was born in Macon, Georgia,[2] the son of Scots-Irish Americans Emma Louise Sprigman and Moses Douville Coburn. Growing up in Savannah, he started out doing odd jobs at the local Savannah Theater, handing out programs, ushering, or being the doorman. By age 17 or 18, he was the theater manager.[3][4] He later became an actor, making his debut on Broadway in 1901. Coburn formed an acting company with actress Ivah Wills in 1905.[3][4] They married in 1906. In addition to managing the company, the couple performed frequently on Broadway.

After his wife's death in 1937, Coburn relocated to Los Angeles, California and began film work. He won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as a retired millionaire playing Cupid in The More the Merrier in 1943. He was also nominated for The Devil and Miss Jones in 1941 and The Green Years in 1946. Other notable film credits include Of Human Hearts (1938), The Lady Eve (1941), Kings Row (1942), The Constant Nymph (1943), Heaven Can Wait (1943), Wilson (1944), Impact (1949), The Paradine Case (1947), Everybody Does It (1950), Has Anybody Seen My Gal? (1952), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) and John Paul Jones (1959). He usually played comedic parts, but Kings Row and Wilson were dramatic parts, showing his versatility.

For his contributions to motion pictures, Coburn has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6240 Hollywood Boulevard.


Irving Leroy Ress (left), Charles Coburn (right), ca 1950.

In the 1940s, Coburn served as vice-president of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, a group opposed to alleged Communist infiltration and proselytization in Hollywood during the Cold War.[citation needed]


Coburn's first wife was Ivah Wills (ca. 1882–1937), an American actress and theatrical producer. In 1959, Coburn married Winifred Natzka (born February 16, 1921 – still alive ), who was more than 40 years his junior and the widow of Oscar Natzka, a famed New Zealand operatic bass baritone.


He died from a heart attack on August 30, 1961, in New York City, aged 84.

Selected filmography


  1. ^ Obituary Variety, September 6, 1971.
  2. ^ Background biodata for Charles Coburn
  3. ^ a b "Charles Coburn Collection". University of Georgia Libraries - Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library. 
  4. ^ a b "Charles Coburn (1877-1961)". The New Georgia Encyclopedia. 

External links

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