January 20, 1902
Portland, Indiana, United States
October 12, 1993
Laguna Beach, California, United States
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Pleasant-looking, dapper, often mustachioed character actor best known for his paternal roles and a wide variety of professional types. Ames, who early in his career used the surname of "Waycoff," made his screen debut as the romantic hero in Robert Florey's striking horror film, "Murders in the Rue Morgue" (1932). Shortly afterward, Ames played a role as important as any he played onscreen when, in 1933, he was one of 19 actors who met to form the Screen Actors Guild. In an organization whose ranks eventually swelled to well over 80,000, Ames, card number 15, served long and well as a member of the board for over 30 years and also as recording secretary (1947-48), first vice president (1952-56) and president (1957-58).Waycoff adopted the surname "Ames" beginning with the film "Strangers All" (1935) and continued his long stage ("It Pays to Sin" 1933, "Bright Honor" 1936) and screen ("The Mysterious Mr. Moto" 1938, "Man of Conquest" 1939) apprenticeship in dozens of minor and then supporting roles. Ames gained increased prominence at MGM in the 1940s after he gave a marvelous performance as the harassed head of the Smith household in Vincente Minnelli's delightful period musical, "Meet Me in St. Louis" (1944). Thereafter he was immediately typecast as forceful, but warm and benevolent, fathers and professional men in films ranging from "Yolanda and the Thief" (1945) to "Battleground" (1949). Although he gave a strong performance as the shrewd prosecuting attorney in "The Postman Always Rings Twice" (1946), Ames returned to his paternal role on the television series, "Life With Father" (1953-55) and "Father of the Bride" (1961-62). He also later played neighbor Gordon Kirkwood in TV's "Mr. Ed" (1961-66). In a film and TV career spanning hundreds of credits covering more than half a century (his last feature part was as Kathleen Turner's grandfather in "Peggy Sue Got Married" 1986), the always-welcome Ames brought to his roles his attractive, commanding voice and a smooth professionalism.