At first when I saw the name Neil Hamilton in Hollywood Undressed, I thought I had no idea who he was. Wouldn't you know that after a bit of research, I did know of him, but hadn't realized what a long career he had.
Neil Hamilton (September 9, 1899 - September 24, 1984), was a star of both silent and talkie films. He made an astounding 268 films! But he is best known for his portrayal of Commissioner Gordon in the 1960s Batman t.v. series (which is, sadly, the way I knew of him). I hate to admit it, but I used to stay up as a kid and watch them on late-night t.v.
Neil Hamilton grew up Roman Catholic in Lynn, Massachusetts. Hamilton started out as a shirt model. His big break came in D.W. Griffith's, The White Rose (1923). In the 1920s, he was a leading man for Paramount, although most of his films are not familiar to many today. Some of the more popular films he appeared in were Brewster's Millions, Beau Gueste, and Tarzan.
- Neil appeared on the 1918 Thanksgiving cover of the Saturday Evening Post
- Neil's hobby was magic
- By the mid-1940s, his personal and professional life were at such a low point that he was seriously considering committing suicide. His plan was to jump from the mountains above Santa Monica, but on his walk he met a priest and told him the whole story. The priest encouraged him to make a novena, instead. At the end of the nine days of prayer, he was offered an acting job from Universal Studios and never looked back
- Neil Hamilton was a very distant cousin of Margaret Hamilton, The Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz
- Neil modeled as the Arrow Shirt Collar Man, complimentary to the Gibson Girl during its day, or more recently the Malboro Man or Brawny Man. Men wanted to be him and women wanted him. At one point the Arrow Collar Man received a staggering 17,000 letters a day!
Madame Sylvia had quite a fun episode with Neil Hamilton. At the time, Neil was living in what they referred to as Actors' Row on Malibu Beach. Sylvia described it as "a bunch of dinky shacks built on piling in the beach sands". Sylvia would go door to door on Actors' Row, giving massages.
One night after Sylvia stayed late at Anna Q. Nilsson's, she decided to stop by Neil's, because there was a light on. As Sylvia approached - all the lights went out! She knocked on the door, and no one answered. Sylvia heard a bunch of commotion going on inside, so when she found that the door was open, she went inside.
Naturally, Sylvia was quite confused. Why on Earth did they turn the lights off when she came up the drive? The response she got was "Whatinell do you want to drive around in that kind of roadster for?" (Hollywood Undressed, Page 72).
Turns out Sylvia drove the same style car as the policemen who were charged with enforcing prohibition. Seems that Neil and co might have been "having a good time" as they say. And this from a man who would play Commissioner Gordon!
Some Neil Hamilton Links:
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