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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Byron Foulger
Foulger in a 1960 episode of the anthology series One Step Beyond
Byron Kay Foulger[1]

(1898-08-27)August 27, 1898[2]
DiedApril 4, 1970(1970-04-04) (aged 71)
Years active1920–1970
(m. 1921)
Children2, including Rachel Ames

Byron Kay Foulger (August 27, 1898 – April 4, 1970) was an American character actor who over a 50-year career performed in hundreds of stage, film, and television productions.

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Early years

Born in Ogden, Utah, Byron was the second of four children of Annie Elizabeth (née Ingebertsen) of Norway and Arthur Kay Foulger, a native of Utah who worked as a carpenter for the region's railroad company.[3][4] Byron completed his primary and secondary education in local public schools before enrolling at the University of Utah, where he started acting through his participation in community theatre.[5] Foulger was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[6]


Foulger made his Broadway debut in March 1920 in a production of Medea featuring Moroni Olsen, and performed in four more productions with Olsen on the "Great White Way",[7] back-to-back, ending in April 1922.[8] He then toured with Olsen's stock company.[5]

By the early 1930s, Foulger was working at the Pasadena Playhouse as an actor, assistant director, and director.[9] In 1932 he began performing in films, initially in bit parts. His first three screen appearances are in Night World (1932), The Little Minister (1934), and The President's Mystery (1936), the latter based on a story by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He also starred in an exploitation film, It's All in Your Mind (1937, released 1938), in which Foulger, a timid bookkeeper, samples the fast life of nightclubs and parties. Byron Foulger's motion picture career, however, did not begin in earnest until 1937, after he performed in December of that year on NBC Radio opposite Mae West in a racy "Adam and Eve" sketch on the network's popular variety program The Chase and Sanborn Hour.[citation needed] That sketch and another performance by West with Charlie McCarthy during a later segment of the same program resulted in her being banned from NBC programming until 1950.[10] Foulger, who provided the voice of the serpent in the controversial biblical parody, was not banned for his brief supporting role; instead, his association with the sketch brought him widespread media attention and greater audience recognition. From that point on, he worked steadily in motion pictures.

Foulger played many parts–storekeepers, hotel desk clerks, morticians, professors, bank tellers, ministers, confidence men, and a host of other characterizations–usually timid, whining, weak-willed, shifty, sanctimonious, or sycophantic. His earliest films show him clean-shaven, but in the 1940s, he adopted a wispy mustache that emphasized his characters' worried demeanor. When the mustache went gray in the 1950s, he reverted to a clean-shaven look. Foulger was a resourceful actor, and often embellished his scripted lines with memorable bits of business; in The Falcon Strikes Back, for example, hotel clerk Foulger announces a homicide by bellowing across the lobby: "Mur-der! Mur-der!'

In real life, Foulger was not as much of a pushover as the characters he played. In one memorable incident at a party, he threatened to punch Errol Flynn for flirting with his wife, actress Dorothy Adams, to whom he was married from 1921 until his death in 1970.[5]

In the 1940s, Foulger was part of Preston Sturges' unofficial "stock company" of character actors, appearing in five films written by Sturges, The Great McGinty, Sullivan's Travels, The Palm Beach Story, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (recreating the role of McGinty's secretary he played in The Great McGinty), and The Great Moment. In A pictures, such as those of Sturges', Foulger often received no screen credit; in B movies such as 1939's The Man They Could Not Hang, he got more substantial, billed parts.[5]

By the late 1950s, Foulger was so well established as a mild-mannered worrywart that just the showing of his face would receive a welcoming audience laugh (as in the cameo-laden Frank Capra comedy Pocketful of Miracles). In a humorous coup, the actor was cast against type for the most prominent role of his career; he played the Devil opposite The Bowery Boys in Up in Smoke, and was billed in advertisements and posters as one of the film's three stars.

Beginning in 1950, Foulger made more than 90 appearances on television, in such programs as Death Valley Days, I Love Lucy, The Cisco Kid, My Little Margie, The Man Behind the Badge, The Lone Ranger, Maverick, Lawman, The Red Skelton Show, Rawhide, Wagon Train, Bonanza, Burke's Law, Daniel Boone, Hazel, The Patty Duke Show, The Monkees, Perry Mason, Laredo, Gunsmoke, and in 1965, The Beverly Hillbillies and The Addams Family. He played multiple-episode characters on Dennis the Menace (Mr. Timberlake), Lassie (Dan Porter) and The Andy Griffith Show (Fred, the hotel clerk). On Petticoat Junction he played two recurring roles: Mr. Guerney and engineer Wendell Gibbs.

His notable later television credits include the 1959 Twilight Zone episode "Walking Distance" in which actor Gig Young tells Foulger, who is portraying a drugstore counterman, that he thinks he has seen him before, to which Foulger replies, "I've got that kind of face."[5] A few examples of his other credits on television are his performances in the short-lived comedies My Mother the Car (as one of the villain's browbeaten advisors) and Captain Nice (as the hero's often silent father), as well as in two episodes of the crime drama The Mod Squad in 1968 and 1969.

Foulger's last performances were released in 1970, the year he died. They include the made-for-TV movie The Love War and in the feature films There Was a Crooked Man... and The Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County.


Foulger, at age 71, died of heart problems in Hollywood on April 4, 1970.



  1. ^ "Utah, County Marriages, 1871-1941", microfilm images of original Utah marriage license and certificate of Byron Kay Foulger and Dorothy I. Adams, license number 49300, April 13, 1926, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah. Retrieved via archives of FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah.
  2. ^ Byron Kay Foulger was born August 27, 1898, not in 1899. The 1898 birth year is confirmed in images of original federal, state, and county government records available for viewing without subscription in the online archives of FamilySearch; retrieved August 15, 2022. Some of those records include Foulger's entry in the "United States Census of 1900" for Ogden, Utah, June 11, 1900; his 1917 WWI military registration card; his 1926 application for a marriage license in Salt Lake City, Utah; and his records in both the "United States Veterans Administration Master Index" and the "United States Social Security Death Index". The birth year 1898 is also cited on Byron K. Foulger's memorial plaque at Inglewood Park Cemetery in Los Angeles County, California. See a photograph of that plaque on the Find a Grave website. An "1899" error in his entry in the "California Death Index, 1940-1997" may account for this incorrect year being perpetuated in many secondary sources.
  3. ^ "Thirteenth Census of the United States: 1910–Population", image of original enumeration page for Ogden City, Weber County, Utah, April 26, 1910, Bureau of the Census, Department of Commerce, Washington, D.C.; "Fourteenth Census of the United States: 1920–Population", Ogden City, Weber County, Utah, January 13, 1920. Retrieved via online FamilySearch archives, August 22, 2022.
  4. ^ "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Census Records (Worldwide), 1914–1960", database, household of Arthur Kay Foulger, 1914; FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, Retrieved August 22, 2022.
  5. ^ a b c d e Erickson, Hal Biography (Allmovie)
  6. ^ "Biographies: Latter-day Saint and/or Utah Film Personalities: F".
  7. ^ IBDB Search
  8. ^ Byron Foulger at the Internet Broadway Database
  9. ^ Motion Picture Daily, April 28, 1937, p. 6.
  10. ^ "Mae West Banned", recording of original broadcast of Mae West on The Chase and Sanborn Hour on NBC Radio, December 12, 1937. Full audio recording retrieved via Internet Archive, August 22, 2022. The "Adam and Eve" segment begins at 19:55 of the 55:55 recording.

External links

This page was last edited on 25 April 2024, at 04:03
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