Howard Smith (actor)

Howard Irving Smith (August 12, 1893 in Attleboro, Massachusetts – January 10, 1968 in Hollywood, California) was an American character actor with a 50-year career in vaudeville, theatre, radio, films and television. In 1938 he performed in Orson Welles's short-lived stage production and once-lost film, Too Much Johnson, and in the celebrated radio production, "The War of the Worlds". He portrayed Charley in the original Broadway production of Death of a Salesman and recreated the role in the 1951 film version. On television Smith portrayed the gruff Harvey Griffin in the situation comedy, Hazel.

Howard Irving Smith
Howard Irving Smith

(1893-08-12)August 12, 1893
DiedJanuary 10, 1968(1968-01-10) (aged 74)
Other namesHoward I. Smith
Years active1918–1967
Spouse(s)Lillian Boardman
(m. 19??; died 1953)


Howard Smith, Mary Wickes, Orson Welles, Virginia Nicolson, William Herz, Erskine Sanford, Eustace Wyatt and Joseph Cotten outside the Stony Creek Theatre during the two-week run of the Mercury Theatre stage production of Too Much Johnson (August 16–29, 1938)

Howard Irving Smith[1] was born August 12, 1893, in Attleboro, Massachusetts,[2] to parents George H. Smith and Sybelle Pollard Smith.[3]

Smith began as a concert singer, but his hopes of an opera career were ended after his service in the 77th Infantry Division in World War I. Enrico Caruso suggested that he try a musical act in vaudeville. He formed a team with his friend Harry Meeker and later, as a comedian, he shared bills with Frank Fay, Sophie Tucker, James Barton and Bessie Clayton.[4]

In 1928, with big-time vaudeville ending, Smith landed a job on radio's popular The Collier Hour, and received $35 for three minutes work. His radio career continued with The March of Time, Cavalcade of America, Forty Minutes in Hollywood and Crime Doctor.[4] Smith created the role of Sergeant Velie in The Adventures of Ellery Queen.[5]: 8  He played the role of Will Brown, Homer's father, on radio's The Aldrich Family[5]: 21  and later reprised the role on the NBC television series.[6]: 23 

A member of the repertory company of Orson Welles's CBS Radio series The Mercury Theatre on the Air and The Campbell Playhouse, Smith played the role of the ill-fated bomber commander in the 1938 production of "The War of the Worlds".[7][8] Smith appears as Cuban plantation owner Joseph Johnson in Welles's rediscovered film Too Much Johnson — slapstick sequences that were to be integrated into a theatre production that was briefly staged in August 1938 before it was shelved.[9][10]: 50, 152–153 

After New York stage appearances in Solitaire, Decision and Dear Ruth, Smith created the role of Charley in the original Broadway production of Death of a Salesman.[11] He may be best remembered for his recreation of the role in the 1951 screen version.[12]

His other film credits include Kiss of Death, Call Northside 777, The Street with No Name, State of the Union, A Face in the Crowd and No Time for Sergeants.[13] He made his film debut in 1918, in Young America.[14]

On television, Smith played the overbearing boss Oliver Misrell in The Twilight Zone first-season episode, "A Stop at Willoughby" (1960), and also appeared in the 1962 episode, "Cavender Is Coming". In 1962 he was cast in the Perry Mason season six episode, "The Case of the Unsuitable Uncle", as character Frank Warden.

He was regularly featured on the 1960s TV series Hazel, as George Baxter's gruff client Harvey "Harv" Griffin.[6]: 322 [14]

His wife, actress and singer Lillian Boardman, died in 1953.[4] Smith died January 10, 1968, in Hollywood, following a heart attack.[14]: 239  He was cremated and buried at Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.[4][15]

Partial filmographyEdit


  1. ^ U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Retrieved 2014-12-19.
  2. ^ "Howard Smith". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2014-12-19.
  3. ^ Massachusetts, Birth Records, 1840-1915 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013. Retrieved 2014-12-19.
  4. ^ a b c d "Howard Smith, 73, An Actor, Is Dead; Performed for 50 Years in Vaudeville and on Air". The New York Times. January 11, 1968.
  5. ^ a b Dunning, John, On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 1998 ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3 hardcover; revised edition of Tune In Yesterday (1976)
  6. ^ a b Brooks, Tim, and Earle Marsh, The Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows 1946–Present. New York: Ballantine Books, 1988 (fourth edition), ISBN 0-345-35610-1
  7. ^ "The Mercury Theatre". RadioGOLDINdex. Retrieved 2014-12-19.
  8. ^ "Celebrating the 70th Anniversary of Orson Welles's panic radio broadcast The War of the Worlds". Wellesnet, October 26, 2008. Retrieved 2014-12-19.
  9. ^ "Too Much Johnson: Becoming Orson Welles". Movie Morlocks (blog), Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2014-12-19.
  10. ^ Wood, Bret, Orson Welles: A Bio-Bibliography. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1990 ISBN 0-313-26538-0
  11. ^ "Death of a Salesman". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2017-11-07.
  12. ^ "Howard I. Smith". AllMovie. Retrieved 2014-12-19.
  13. ^ "Howard Smith". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved 2017-11-07.
  14. ^ a b c Willis, John A., ed. (1983). Screen World [1969, Volume 20]. New York: Biblo and Tannen. ISBN 9780819603104. Retrieved 2014-12-19.
  15. ^ "Howard Smith". Find a Grave. Retrieved 2014-12-19.

External linksEdit