He made his film debut in 1918, in Young America, a silent movie.
They met as early Dec 1919 on the vaudeville circuit but as of Dec 1920 Howard also formed a duet with Mildred Barker first in "The Honeymoon" followed by a, reportedly fast moving, sketch full of laughs and situations called "Good Medicine". In this skit Howard played a doctor who's client showed every symptom known to medical science appears. After telling her the truth, that she is all right, the patient (played by Lillian Schaffner), informs the medic that she is the donor of a big hospital...in search for someone to lead it.
Since June 14. 1911 Mildred was married to the actor Roy
McNicol (later a well known painter) and on Sep 9.
1915 their son Roy B. McNicol was born. Mildred's marriage to Roy didn't
survive and they divorced prior to 1920. Tragically at 5 years old her son
died, after an illness of three days, on Jan 30. 1921 at the Merchants'
Hotel, Johnstown, Pa. Mildred was appearing at the Majestic, Johnstown, at
the time of her son's death.
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. 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.
(Pictured above) 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)
In radio's Jane Arden (1938-1939) he played Jack Galloway, a city editor of the Comet-Globe. He was also the first actor to portray the Sergeant Velie in the hour long first radio series The Adventures of Ellery Queen (1939).
He played the role of Will Brown, Homer's father, on radio's The Aldrich Family and later reprised the role on the NBC television series.
By 1940 Smith was married to Lillian Goodman, a vaudeville singer/dancer who up to 1930 performed in vaudeville. She had been a part "Gus Edwards and his Song Revue," with Edwards, Lillian Boardman, a beautiful blonde soprano, and a company of 25 personally developed protégés in a musical extravaganza during 1910s. They lived in Manhattan.
Smith himself had New York stage appearances in Solitaire (1942), Decision (1944) and Dear Ruth (1944-1946).
In 1944 former N.Y. stage producer Murray Phillips' widow Lucille Phillips (né Arnold), fell head over heels in love with an actor, Howard Smith. Physically Howard, with his portly belly, towered over Lucy. Her daughter Peggy describes him in her memoirs:
"Huge and genial, with a deep rumbling laugh, Smith's talent commanded high respect in theatrical circles. Coming from a vaudeville background he had mastered a comedic sense of timing that was the envy of all his peers. With his bright blue eyes, shock of white hair and baby-smooth skin, he resembled a robust, beardless Santa Claus. Howard adored my mother, and she him. They danced the night away to Eddie Duchin's music at the Astor Hotel Roof, went for Sunday drives in the country, and savored gourmet candle-lit dinners.
The romance progressed and in December of 1949, Howard had been offered leading roles in two new plays slated for Broadway. One was a comedy, and because most of his successes had always been in comedies, he was pre-disposed to accept that play over the other which was a drama "Death of a Salesman". Before choosing, however, he brought both scripts home to Lucille and asked her to have me read them. By then I had achieved a fairly respected reputation in the theatre as a press representative and writer."
Director Kazan had reached out into what seemed the totally wrong direction for Howard Smith, the shouting comic who played in farces where he played the standard bewildered father of teenage girls. He read the play and refused the part, surely the best he had ever been offered in his life. Kazan,... tried to change his mind. "That play is terrible," he'd say. "Who's going to want to see something that sad?"
Finally a meeting was fixed with Howard and Arthur Miller. Miller, pretending ignorance asked him to tell him why he was so against the play. "That poor man, for God's sake; the rotten things his sons say to him and his boss. Everybody's so down on him. It's just awful!"
"Except Charley," Miller replied and he could see Smith's eyes change. He stopped moving. "Charley gives Willy good advice, lends him money, always makes time for him during office hours... Charley really tries, Howard."
Howard sat there staring. Finally he said, "I'll think about it." That night he accepted the role. His instinct were as right for it as his personality.
So Smith created the role of Charley in the original Broadway production of Death of a Salesman (1949-1950) but he may be best remembered for his recreation of the role in the 1951 screen version.
As a balding, heavy-set American character actor, he relocated to Hollywood in 1946 and specialized in judges, police officers, corporate bigwigs and assorted choleric authoritarians.
On Sep 19. 1953 Lillian known to the stage as Lillian Boardman passed away in New York, aged 60.
On television, Smith played the overbearing boss Oliver Misrell in The Twilight Zone first-season episode, "A Stop at Willoughby" (1960) where angered by the loss of a major account he drove James Daly near crazy with the lecture, "You need to PUSH PUSH PUSH them!". He also appeared in the 1962 episode, "Cavender Is Coming" starring a young Carol Burnett. 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 (1961), as George Baxter's gruff client Harvey Griffin.
Smith died January 10, 1968, in a Hollywood hospital, following a heart attack. He was cremated and buried, next to his wife Lillian, at Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.
Page first published on Sep 1. 2017
Last updated Sep 1, 2017
b a c k t o L i s t o f S u s p e c t s