Adeline De Walt Reynolds

Adeline De Walt Reynolds (September 19, 1862 – August 13, 1961) was an American character actress who made her film debut at the age of 78 playing the grandmother of James Stewart in Come Live with Me (1941). She continued to play in about 25 films and numerous television series until her death.

Adeline De Walt Reynolds
Adeline De Walt Reynolds.jpg
Born(1862-09-19)September 19, 1862
near Vinton, Iowa, U.S.
DiedAugust 13, 1961(1961-08-13) (aged 98)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Years active1930s–1960
Frank Reynolds
(m. 1885; died 1905)

Early life and entrance into filmEdit

Adeline De Walt Reynolds was born one of ten children during the Civil War. One of her earliest memories was of Union soldiers returning from the War.[1] She wanted to be an actress since she was five years old, but her father - Jonathan DeWalt, a farmer - was opposed. As a young woman, she lied about her age (claiming 20 when actually 18) to get a rural area teaching job.[2] It was a difficult teaching assignment, and had been refused by several other teachers, but De Walt Reynolds eventually gained the support of the children and their families. However, after learning that her male colleagues earned more money than she did, and the school board refused to pay her the same rate, she left.[3]

She married Frank Reynolds, with whom she had four children, after leaving teaching. They initially lived in Vinton, Iowa, their hometown, but moved to Arcadia, Nebraska, after a year, and the birth of their first child, Mary in 1885. Reynolds' parents had moved to Arcadia a short time before, and they offered him the father's lumber business. They remained in Arcadia for five years, and had another child, William.[2] After 5 years, the family moved to Boston, and De Walt Reynolds attended and graduated from the Boston Conservatory of Speech. While in Boston, according to some accounts, in 1892 Sir Henry Irving offered De Walt Reynolds a spot in his touring company. It is said that she turned Irving's offer down to raise her children.[4][better source needed]

The family moved to Philadelphia, as well as several other cities, before eventually moving to San Francisco, where the couple had their final 2 children, Franklin and Lela.[1][2] After Reynolds' untimely death in 1905, she was forced to earn a living in order to raise her four children.[4][5] She began studies at a San Francisco secretarial school but the school was destroyed in San Francisco's 1906 earthquake and fire, which she witnessed and survived.[1] She continued to struggle to support her family. It was not until her youngest daughter, Lela, entered college at the University of California, that De Walt Reynolds once again focused on her own goals.[2] Encouraged by her daughter, De Walt Reynolds entered Berkeley at the age of 64. She majored in French and graduated with honors at 68.[2][6]

Upon graduation, De Walt Reynolds took acting courses at the university, under the tutelage of Professor von Neumeyer. While she was cast as Hecuba in a school production of The Trojan Women, she made contact with the celebrated stage actress Blanche Yurka, who had played the same role in a radio production of the play. The following year she traveled to Los Angeles and contacted Yurka, asking her advice on beginning a career in film. Yurka found an agent willing to take on an older client, and De Walt Reynolds was cast in a role in an Assistance League production of Landslide. Clarence Brown saw her in the production and cast her in his upcoming film.[2]

Film careerEdit

De Walt Reynolds made her film debut with a supporting role in Come Live with Me (1941), playing the grandmother of James Stewart. When asked if she was tired at the end of her first day on the set, she answered, "If you had waited 70 years to do something, you wouldn't be tired."[5] She received praise for that role. Clarence Brown called her a "potential star".[1] Though never achieving true film stardom, she played in about two dozen films until 1955, appearing as the mother of Charles Laughton in The Tuttles of Tahiti (1942) and as the mysterious Madame Zimba in Robert Siodmak's horror film Son of Dracula (1943). She was also memorable in the last scene of in Going My Way (1944) as Mother Fitzgibbon, who travels from Ireland to the United States to see her son. Her last film was The Ten Commandments (1956) where she portrayed a frail old woman in danger. She also appeared in numerous television series between 1950 and 1960. She played her last role at the age of 98 and was the oldest member of the Screen Actors Guild.[7] She also made publicity stories and photos which showed her practicing her fencing or doing calisthenics.[1]

De Walt Reynolds died on August 13,1961, one month before her 99th birthday. She is buried in Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles.[8][better source needed]

Partial filmographyEdit

Reynolds made guest appearances on television between 1950 and 1960. The programs include Have Gun – Will Travel, Shirley Temple's Storybook, Zane Grey Theatre, and Peter Gunn


  1. ^ a b c d e "Adeline De Walt Reynolds at DeMonies". The Des Moines Register. Retrieved June 20, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Adeline De Walt Reynolds, Movie Actress at Age of 80". The Mason City Globe-Gazette. January 31, 1941. p. 7. Retrieved June 20, 2015 – via  
  3. ^ "All Fairy Tales Aren't Fiction". The Lincoln Star. January 26, 1941. p. 49. Retrieved June 20, 2015 – via  
  4. ^ a b "Adeline De Walt Reynolds, Biography". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved June 20, 2015.
  5. ^ a b "Miss Reynolds, Actress at 70, Dies in Sleep". The Terre Haute Tribune. August 17, 1961. p. 24. Retrieved June 20, 2015 – via  
  6. ^ "Iowa Actress Dies". The Mason City Globe-Gazette. August 18, 1961. p. 1. Retrieved June 20, 2015 – via  
  7. ^ "Actress Dies". Pasadena Independent. August 18, 1961. p. 29. Retrieved June 20, 2015 – via  
  8. ^ Adeline De Walt Reynolds at Find A Grave

External linksEdit