James Barton

British actor of the 1920s through '60s who started out as a vaudeville song-and-dance man.
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Artist Biography

b. 1 November 1890, Gloucester City, New Jersey, USA, d. 19 February 1962, Mineola, Long Island, New York, USA. Barton started out as a song-and-dance man in vaudeville. Barton’s Terpsichorean skills must have been notable because Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson acknowledged his debt to the lesser-known dancer. Barton appeared in a silent film, Why Women Remarry (1923) and then in the 30s and early 40s played bit parts or minor roles in several films. Among these were His Family Tree (1935), Hideaway Girl (1936, which featured Robert Cummings, Martha Raye and Shirley Ross), and The Shepherd Of The Hills (1941, a brooding drama starring John Wayne). A well-remembered role of Barton’s was as barroom customer Kit Carson in The Time Of Your Life (1948), a film version of William Saroyan’s play. He had a supporting role in the stylish western Yellow Sky (1949, starring Gregory Peck), and in the turn-of-the-century musical The Daughter Of Rosie O’Grady (1950, starring June Haver and Gordon MacRae).

Also in 1950, Barton was in Wabash Avenue, a romantic drama with songs and starring Betty Grable; the film was a remake of Grable’s Coney Island (1943). He was in The Scarf, a gloomy thriller starring John Ireland and Mercedes McCambridge, and Here Comes The Groom (both 1951). The latter film was directed by Frank Capra and starred Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman. Among guest appearances were Louis Armstrong, Dorothy Lamour and Phil Harris; the song, ‘In The Cool, Cool, Cool Of The Evening’, by Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer, won an Academy Award. In the biopic Golden Girl (1951), Mitzi Gaynor portrayed nineteenth-century singer and showgirl Lois Crabtree with Barton as her father. Barton’s last films were The Naked Hills (1956), Quantez (1957), and The Misfits (1961). The latter movie starred Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe in their last appearances in films. Gable died before the film was released, Monroe in August 1961 by which time Barton was also dead. When Barton was working in Hollywood in the mid-30s he was already 45 and presumably his dancing days were done; even so, it is rather unfortunate that no one thought fit to depict this aspect of his talent on film. Given Robinson’s encomium, Barton must have been well worth seeing.