Born in New York City on February 22, 1907, Sheldon Leonard grew up to be a six-foot actor who specialized in roles of supporting characters. His radio career includes shows such as Broadway is My Beat, a crime drama broadcast from Hollywood in 1949 starring Larry Thor as Detective Danny Clover.
In 1948, Leonard was in the cast of The Damon Runyon Theater, a dramatic anthology based on the stories of Damon Runyon. John Brown was “Broadway,” the narrator of the show, which also starred Anne Whitfield as Little Miss Marker and Gerald Mohr as Sorrowful Jones.
In addition, Leonard was cast in the situation comedy, The Halls of Ivy, about critical turning points in the lives of its characters. Ronald Coleman starred as William Todhunter Hall, president of an Ivy League college with Victoria Cromwell as his wife.
Leonard was periodically cast as a racetrack announcer in the highly successful comedy show, The Jack Benny Program. Benny would occasionally frequent the local racetrack where he encountered Leonard’s character on the program. Besides Jack Benny himself, Mary Livingstone, Dennis Day, Phil Harris, Don Wilson and Rochester were also on the show at the same time as Leonard.
Sheldon Leonard was a cast member on The Martin and Lewis Show on NBC Radio and other shows such as Johnny Fletcher, a comedy-detective drama that cast Bill Goodwin as Johnny, and Leonard playing the part of his pal, Sam. Leonard also played the part of Joe Crunchmiller, Judy’s boyfriend in the comedy, The Judy Canova Show.
The Lineup, a police drama that premiered on CBS in 1950, also cast Leonard as a regular on the show and he also appeared with Ann Southern on the situation comedy, Maisie.
Other series which Sheldon Leonard appeared in include, Honest Harold, Adventures of Maisie, Screen Director's Playhouse, Old Gold Comedy Theater, Richard Diamond Private Detective, The Saint and several episodes of Suspense.
>p>Sheldon Leonard realized much success as a director, writer and actor in film and television. His deep voice helped to land him the role of Nick the bartender in the classic movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, starring Donna Reed and Jimmy Stewart. Sheldon later said that the only reason he agreed to take the part was to get enough money to purchase Dodger baseball tickets.
As a director, Leonard cast Bill Cosby in I Spy, a television series, making Cosby one of televisions first leading men. In 1992, Leonard was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame for receiving five Emmys for producing and directing. An interesting bit of trivia about Sheldon Leonard is that he was given a posthumous tribute in the television comedy, The Big Bang Theory – when one lead character was named Sheldon and the other, Leonard.
Leonard was married to Frances Babor for 66 years and they had two children – a son and daughter. Sheldon Leonard passed away on January 10, 1997 and Frances died two years later at age 91. She was buried beside her Sheldon.