Henry Davenport was a character actor with a kind face and the most endearing grandfatherly quality, which I love. There is just something so wholesome and good about him.
Much to my surprise and delight, when I began to learn more about him, I discovered that he is the father of actor Arthur Rankin, and grandfather of Arthur Rankin, Jr. (who along with partner Jules Bass is responsible for the equally wholesome family entertainment 60s-70s stop-motion animation gems, Santa Claus Is Coming to Town and Frosty the Snowman, which I also happen to love).
Harry had a total of six children, and his daughters, Dorothy Davenport, Fannie "Ann" Davenport and Kate Davenport all became actresses. Some of his great-great-grandchildren are actors today, so the family's illustrious show business legacy continues. All can trace their roots to renowned 18th century Irish stage actor, Jack Johnson. Talk about a rich history and generations of talent! Harry Davenport is also connected to another famous acting clan—he and Lionel Barrymore were brothers-in-law.
Still working steadily at the time of his death in 1949, Harry had a fatal heart attack in Los Angeles at the age of 83. He is undoubtedly remembered for his significant contributions to film, but also as being a champion of the rights of actors and other stage craft professionals. Harry was responsible for the spearheading of the organization that later became the Actors Equity Association. Through the efforts of Harry and co-founder Eddie Foy, Sr., they put an end to the atrocious working conditions that were the plight of the American actor at the time.
Haven't you seen The Enchanted Forest (1945)? In this Cinecolor low-budget whimsical fantasy by PRC Studio, Harry Davenport plays Old John, a hermit who lives in the trunk of a hollowed out redwood tree, away from society and in harmony with nature. He is able to communicate with all the animal creatures and can hear the "voice" of the enchanted forest itself. There is a train wreck and Old John rescues a surviving baby boy from the river and raises him as his own, in the forest. The boy's mother, played by Brenda Joyce, pines for her son and begins to visit the forest to be near where she lost him. Meanwhile, the forest and all its inhabitants are threatened by loggers. The plots converge at the end in a good old-fashioned happy ending for all when Old John reunites the boy with his mother, and the forest is spared. Edmund Lowe also stars in this warm and charming family tale woven with moral values and environmentalism. I have to thank my mother for turning me on to this film; she had seen it as a child and thought it was great. I have to agree.
Watch this and then see these other four fantastic films.
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) Harry plays Grandpa in this wonderful musical (about my hometown!) starring Judy Garland.
Little Women (1949) This classic film version of Louisa May Alcott's autobiography about growing up with her three sisters during the Civil War stars June Allyson, Margaret O'Brien, Elizabeth Taylor and Janet Leigh. Harry Davenport gives a fine performance as Dr. Barnes.
Gone With the Wind (1939) Ten years earlier, Harry also played the role of a doctor (Dr. Meade) in this Victor Fleming masterpiece that won eight Academy Awards.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) Wise old King Louis XI is portrayed by Harry Davenport in this adaptation of the classic novel.
*Contributed by: "Deanna S." Date: Tues, Jan 24 2007 / 19:37:13 PST