James Austin Gleason (May 23, 1882 – April 12, 1959) was an American actor born in New York City. He was also a playwright andscreenwriter.
Coming from theatrical stock, as a schoolboy he made stage appearances while on holiday. He began earning his living at the age of thirteen, being a messenger boy, printer's devil, assistant in an electrical store and a lift boy. He enlisted in the army at age 16 and served 3 years in the Philippines.
On discharge, he began his stage career, later taking it up professionally. He played in London for two years and following his return to the United States, he began in films by writing dialogue for "comedies". He also wrote several plays. His first film acting was in the filmThe Count of Ten (1927) by Universal. In 1931, he co-starred with Robert Armstrong in the radio sitcom Gleason and Armstrong.
Balding and slender with a craggy voice and a master of the double-take, Gleason portrayed tough but warm-hearted characters, usually with a New York background. He appeared in several movies with his wife Lucille.
Gleason co-wrote The Broadway Melody, the second film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, and had a small uncredited role in it. Gleason also co-wrote and briefly appeared as a hot dog vendor in the 1934 Janet Gaynor vehicle Change of Heart. He played a milk cart driver who gives lessons in marriage to Judy Garland and Robert Walker in the 1945 film The Clock, while Lucille played his wife. In the same year, he played the bartender in the film adaptation of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
Gleason also is remembered for playing police inspector Oscar Piper in a series of six Hildegarde Withers mystery films during the 1930s, starting with Penguin Pool Murder.
He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as boxing manager Max 'Pop' Corkle in the 1941 film Here Comes Mr. Jordan.
Gleason also appeared on television, including the Reed Hadley legal drama The Public Defender, ABC's The Real McCoys, and the Christmas 1957 episode of John Payne's The Restless Gun on NBC. In "The Child" Gleason and Anthony Caruso played Roman Catholic priests who run an orphanage. Dan Blocker, just launching his acting career, also guest starred in the episode.
James and Lucille Gleason had a son, actor Russell Gleason (1908-1945), who died after falling from the window ledge of a hotel in midtown Manhattan, on Christmas night in 1945, just before his army regiment was due to leave for a posting in Europe, several months after the end of hostilities there and elsewhere. His death has been variously described both as suicidal and as accidental. Russell's most prominent role had been as Muller in the Academy Award-winning version of All Quiet on the Western Front (1930). Russell Gleason was married to Cynthia Lindsay, a former Busby Berkeley chorus girl who later wrote a biography of family friend Boris Karloff.
James Gleason was interred in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.