b. Edgar Montillion Woolley, 17 August 1888, New York City, New York, USA, d. 6 May 1963, Albany, New York, USA. Woolley studied at Harvard and Yale universities. After graduation, he became an English teacher at Yale; among his students were future distinguished literary figures Thornton Wilder and Stephen Vincent Benèt. Woolley also worked with drama students and in the early 30s directed productions in New York of several shows. Abandoning his teaching career, he performed in the musicals Jubilee (1935) and Knights Of Song (1938). In 1939 came the play by which he was ever afterwards associated, The Man Who Came To Dinner, in which he played the irascible Sheridan Whiteside. Coincident with his stage work, he appeared in films from 1937, including Everybody Sing (1938, featuring Fanny Brice, Judy Garland and Allan Jones) and The Girl Of The Golden West (1938, starring Nelson Eddy And Jeanette MacDonald and based upon the Sigmund Romberg - Gus Kahn Broadway show). He was in two Jack Benny films, Artists And Models Abroad (1938) and Man About Town (1939), and Dancing Co-Ed (1939).
In 1942 Woolley reprised his stage performance in The Man Who Came To Dinner, starred in both the wartime drama The Pied Piper, for which he was Oscar-nominated as Best Actor, and Life Begins At Eight-Thirty (1942), which was based on the Emlyn Williams play The Light Of Heart (the film’s UK title). Woolley co-starred with Gracie Fields in Holy Matrimony (1943), based by screenwriter Nunnally Johnson on Arnold Bennett’s novel, Buried Alive. For Since You Went Away (1944), a film that the noted New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther described as ‘A rather large dose of choking sentiment’, Woolley was nominated as Best Supporting Actor. He had a good supporting role in Irish Eyes Are Smiling (1944), a biopic of songwriter Ernest R. Ball, which starred Dick Haymes and June Haver. In 1945 Woolley and Fields were again co-starred, this time in Molly And Me, and he appeared as himself in Night And Day, the biopic of former classmate Porter’s life. Woolley had supporting roles in The Bishop’s Wife (1947) and Miss Tatlock’s Millions (1948), starred in As Young As You Feel (1951), and ended his film career with a supporting role as Omar in Kismet (1955).