Image of James Flavin

James Flavin

American character actor whose career lasted nearly half a century. James Wilson Flavin Jr. was the son of a hotel waiter of Canadian-English extraction and a mother, Katherine, whose father was an Irish immigrant. (Thus Flavin, well-known in Hollywood as an "Irish" type, was only one-quarter Irish.) Flavin was born and raised in Portland, Maine (a fact that may have enrichened his later working relationship with director John Ford, also a Portland native). He attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, but (contrary to some sources) did not graduate. Instead he dropped out and returned to Portland where he drove a taxi. Then as now, summer stock companies flocked to Maine each year, and in 1929 he was asked to fill in for an actor. He did well with the part and the company manager offered him $150 per week to go with the troupe back to New York. Flavin accepted and by the spring of 1930 was living in a rooming house at 108 W. 87th Street in Manhattan. Flavin didn't manage to crack Broadway at this time (his Broadway debut would not occur for another thirty-nine years, in the 1971 revival of "The Front Page," in which Flavin played Murphy and briefly took over the lead role of Walter Burns from star Robert Ryan). He worked his way across the country in stock productions and tours, arriving in Los Angeles around 1932. He quickly made the transition to movies, landing the lead in his very first film, a Universal serial, The Airmail Mystery (1932). He also landed his leading lady, marrying the serial's female star Lucile Browne that same year. However, the serial marked virtually the last time that Flavin would play the lead in a film. Thereafter, he was restricted almost exclusively to supporting characters, many of them without so much as a name. He specialized in uniformed cops and hard-bitten detectives, but played chauffeurs, cabbies, and even a 16th-century palace guard with aplomb. Flavin appeared in nearly four hundred films between 1932 and 1971, and in almost a hundred television episodes before his final appearance, as President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Francis Gary Powers: The True Story of the U-2 Spy Incident (1976). Flavin died of a heart ailment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on April 23, 1976. His widow Lucile died seventeen days later. They were survived by their son, William James Flavin, subsequently a professor at the United States Army War College. James and Lucile Brown Flavin were buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.

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May 14, 1906 In Portland, Maine, USA
Movie/TV Credits:
First Appeared:
In the movie The Airmail Mystery 1932-03-28
Latest Project:
Movie Francis Gary Powers: The True Story of the U-2 Spy Incident 1976-09-29
Known For
Movie Francis Gary Powers: The True Story of the U-2 Spy Incident President Dwight D. Eisenhower 1976-09-29
Movie Good Times Detective Lieutenant 1967-05-05
Series Man with a Camera 1958-10-10
Movie Footsteps in the Night Mr. Bradbury 1957-04-14
Movie Never Say Goodbye Timmy 1956-03-10
Movie Mister Roberts Military Policeman 1955-07-10
Movie The Naked Street Attorney Michael X. Flanders 1955-08-01
Movie Apache Ambush Col. Marshall 1955-08-24
Movie Star of Texas Texas Rangers Capt. Sturdivant 1953-01-11
Movie Abbott and Costello Go to Mars First Policeman in Bank 1953-04-06
Movie Trouble Along the Way Coach Buck Holman 1953-04-04
Movie Fighting Coast Guard Commander Rogers 1951-05-31
Movie Rhubarb O'Leary, Manhattan Police Chief (uncredited) 1951-08-29
Movie Rock Island Trail Railroad Workman 1950-05-18
Movie Destination Murder Police Lt. Brewster 1950-06-09
Movie Armored Car Robbery Lt. Phillips 1950-06-08
Movie Homicide Det. Lt. Boylan 1949-04-02
Movie Mighty Joe Young Schultz 1949-07-27
Movie Prison Warden Guard Capt. Peter Butler 1949-10-29
Movie Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff Insp. Wellman 1949-08-22
Movie Blondie Hits the Jackpot Brophy 1949-09-08
Movie Nora Prentiss District Attorney 1947-02-22
Movie My Favorite Brunette Det. Lt. 'Mac' Hennessey (uncredited) 1947-03-19
Movie Song of the Thin Man Policeman Reardon (uncredited) 1947-08-28
Movie Desert Fury Sheriff Pat Johnson 1947-08-15
Movie Young Widow Subway Conductor (Uncredited) 1946-03-01
Movie Boys Ranch Policeman 1946-07-18
Movie Tars and Spars Chief Bosun Mate Gurney 1946-01-10
Movie Rendezvous with Annie Turnkey 1946-07-22
Movie Angel on My Shoulder Bellamy 1946-09-20
Movie Nobody Lives Forever Shake Thomas 1946-11-01
Movie The Strange Love of Martha Ivers Police Detective #1 1946-08-19
Movie Easy to Wed Joe 1946-07-25
Movie Circumstantial Evidence Guard 1945-04-20
Movie The Shanghai Cobra H.R. Jarvis 1945-09-29
Movie Mildred Pierce Detective (uncredited) 1945-10-20
Movie Once Upon a Time Man in Subway 1944-06-29
Movie Christmas Holiday Policeman (uncredited) 1944-01-01
Movie Hollywood Canteen Marine Sergeant (uncredited) 1944-12-15
Movie Action in the North Atlantic Merchant Marine School Lieutenant-Commander (uncredited) 1943-06-12
Movie Air Force Maj. A.M. Bagley 1943-03-20
Movie It Ain't Hay Cop (uncredited) 1943-03-10
Movie Heaven Can Wait Policeman (uncredited) 1943-08-05
Movie Corvette K-225 1st Lt. Bill Gardner 1943-09-29
Movie Riding High Train Conductor 1943-11-11
Movie Murder on the Waterfront Cmdr. Kalin 1943-09-18
Movie Swing Shift Maisie Radio Policeman (Uncredited) 1943-10-01
Movie A Yank on the Burma Road Police Dispatcher 1942-01-29
Movie Fingers at the Window Police Lieutenant Schaeffer 1942-04-22
Movie Ride 'Em Cowboy Railroad Detective #2 (uncredited) 1942-02-13
Movie Thru Different Eyes Thomas 1942-06-19
Movie Ten Gentlemen from West Point Capt. Luddy 1942-06-26
Movie Night in New Orleans Egan (Uncredited) 1942-07-01
Movie Buck Privates Recruiting Sergeant (uncredited) 1941-01-31
Movie Belle Starr Sergeant 1941-09-12
Movie Western Union Deputy Sheriff 1941-02-21
Movie The Wild Man of Borneo Policeman 1941-01-24
Movie Ride on Vaquero Officer Johnson 1941-04-18
Movie Ziegfeld Girl Buck (Uncredited) 1941-04-25
Movie La Conga Nights Grogin 1940-05-31
Movie Girl in 313 Det. Carvin 1940-05-31
Movie Florian Policeman 1940-06-05
Movie Johnny Apollo Prison Guard In Library (uncredited) 1940-04-19
Movie The Ghost Breakers Hotel Porter (uncredited) 1940-06-21
Movie The Fighting 69th Supply Sergeant (uncredited) 1940-01-27
Movie Queen of the Mob Third FBI Director 1940-06-28
Movie Broadway Melody of 1940 Clancy (uncredited) 1940-02-09
Movie Women Without Names Guard 1940-03-14
Movie And One Was Beautiful McRafferty 1940-04-05
Movie Tin Pan Alley Army Sergeant (uncredited) 1940-11-29
Movie The Great Profile Detective 1940-08-30
Movie North West Mounted Police Mountie 1940-10-22
Movie The Long Voyage Home Dock Policeman 1940-11-16
Movie Lucky Cisco Kid Ranch Foreman 1940-06-28
Movie Rhythm on the River Detective 1940-08-28
Movie Knute Rockne All American Army Assistant Coach (uncredited) 1940-10-05
Movie When the Daltons Rode Annabella's Brother 1940-08-23
Movie South of Pago Pago Cafe Customer 1940-07-19
Movie The Way of All Flesh Policeman 1940-07-05
Movie The Golden Fleecing Cop 1940-08-16
Movie Code of the Streets Doorman 1939-04-13
Movie Rose of Washington Square Guard (uncredited) 1939-05-05
Movie Sergeant Madden Police Interrogator 1939-03-24
Movie Everybody's Baby Police Announcer (uncredited) 1939-03-24
Movie Union Pacific Paddy (uncredited) 1939-05-05
Movie Jesse James Cavalry Captain (uncredited) 1939-01-14
Movie When Tomorrow Comes Coast Guard Man on Road 1939-08-11
Movie The Gracie Allen Murder Case Turnkey 1939-06-02
Movie The Cisco Kid and the Lady Sergeant 1939-12-29
Movie Irish Luck Fluger 1939-08-22
Movie The Roaring Twenties Policeman (uncredited) 1939-10-28
Movie Tell No Tales Officer Simmons 1939-06-12
Movie Night Spot Kidnapper 1938-02-25
Movie Alexander's Ragtime Band Army Captain (uncredited) 1938-05-24
Movie Mannequin Burly Man (Uncredited) 1938-01-21
Movie Everybody's Doing It Detective Hayes 1938-01-14
Movie Gateway Guard 1938-08-05
Movie Convicts at Large Detective Sgt. Berkovich 1938-12-14
Movie You Can't Take It with You Jailer (uncredited) 1938-09-01
Movie The Duke of West Point Plebe Hockey Coach 1938-12-29
Movie While New York Sleeps 2nd Cop 1938-12-16
Movie Lightning Carson Rides Again Justice Department Agent 1938-10-09
Movie Blondie Policeman in Accident Car (uncredited) 1938-11-30
Movie You Only Live Once State Trooper (uncredited) 1937-01-23
Movie Midnight Taxi Detective McCormick 1937-04-04
Movie Dangerous Number Cab Driver 1937-01-22
Movie Dangerously Yours Driver 1937-09-21
Movie Big Town Girl State Trooper 1937-12-03
Movie Hot Water Policeman (uncredited) 1937-09-24
Movie Charlie Chan at the Race Track Detective 1936-08-07
Movie The Daring Young Man Informant on Telephone 1935-07-17
Movie Public Hero Number 1 Flavin - Federal Agent (uncredited) 1935-05-31
Movie Special Agent Agent Arresting Julie (uncredited) 1935-09-14
Movie Beloved Wilcox 1934-01-22
Movie Baby Take a Bow Flannigan 1934-06-30
Movie Hello, Sister! Fireman 1933-04-14
Movie Only Yesterday Billy (Uncredited) 1933-11-01
Movie Ship of Wanted Men Frank Busch 1933-09-08
Movie The Airmail Mystery Bob Lee 1932-03-28
Movie The Most Dangerous Game First Mate on Yacht (uncredited) 1932-09-16