Nothing says 'Old Hollywood' like an actor and his smoking pipe. In the second of our continuing series on famous pipe smokers we catalog ten of our favorite pipe smoking actors. If you missed the first installment, find our list of favorite pipe smoking authors here.
With over 300 hit songs to his credit, Bing Crosby is one of America’s most beloved crooners and stars of the Silver Screen. Best known for his work with Bob Hope and for 1954’s White Christmas, he was a departure from the traditional male Hollywood star of that time period, but audiences loved him for his charismatic smiles and smooth voice.
Among Crosby’s lesser-known accomplishments is his accidental involvement in the founding of Silicon Valley as an angel investor to one of the companies responsible for its founding.
When not working, Crosby was an avid golfer, traveling all over the world to play and eventually meeting his end after an 18-hole round. He established an amateur tournament and even competed in a few himself. He also loved his smoking pipe for most of his life. Hundreds of photographs can be found with one of his long-stemmed pipes in hand.
Cary Grant was born in England and named Archie Leach. He would survive much early life turmoil and work as a performer with theaters and circus-style acts until finally changing his name and moving to Broadway and then Hollywood.
Always charming and debonair on screen, Cary Grant had a tumultuous personal life from earliest memory until his death. He was married five times and considered controlling by many of his wives. As often seems to be the case, great genius life outside of the stories was much more challenging than within them.
The American Film Institute named Cary Grant the second Greatest Male Star of All Time (after Humphrey Bogart). He never won a traditional Oscar, but his genius was recognized with an honorary one at the 42nd Academy Awards in 1970.
Grant can be found smoking a pipe in many of his movies and promotional photographs. Although he claimed, later in life, that LSD and a hypnotist helped him break ties to all types of tobacco, including his pipe.
It’s no secret that the actor, bodybuilder and former Governor of California has been an avid cigar smoker for most of his life. What is less known is that Schwarzenegger also has a tobacco pipe collection. Political commentators have actually made comments about Schwarzenegger taking the time to show off this collection at strategic moments throughout his career as both an actor and a statesman.
The Austrian-born giant man has played almost every classic action movie archetype we can think of, from a human-robot hybrid in the Terminator films to a small town sheriff who has to save his town in 2013’s The Last Stand. To our knowledge, he’s the only American to go from actor to statesman and back again within ten years.
Ralph Bellamy, an icon of the jokingly called “Irish Mafia” of Hollywood’s glory days. Although not as iconic as some of the other actors on this list, Bellamy spent 62 years on the stage, silver screen and on television which exposed him to popularity with more than one generation of American film goers. One of the founders of the Screen Actor’s Guild, Bellamy was a shining example of what a lifetime on the screen might look like.
Bellamy first gained notoriety as a character actor in the 1930’s and ‘40s. He has been described by Luc Santeas “the other guy...the school pal you forgot about until you saw his obituary, and then missed him without knowing why.” Case in point, Bellamy’s final movie 1990’s Pretty Woman. He played the grandfatherly shipping tycoon, bet you didn’t even know he was in it did you? But the movie wouldn’t have worked without him.
A pipe smoker most of his life, the most iconic example was in an ad for Union Leader tobacco in the mid-1930s.
You probably know Yul Brynner for his starring role in The King and I. He played King Mongkut of Siam on both the Broadway stage and in the movie version and was beloved by all who saw him play the role.
The Russian born Brynner’s career began as a musician in Parisian nightclubs, but he wouldn’t become synonymous with one of Broadway’s most legendary plays until 1951, after only two years of on Broadway experience. The film version would earn Brynner an Oscar and a place among the immortal figures of Hollywood.
The beloved narrator of the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon series enjoyed a long career as an actor, director and producer. Our personal favorite roll of William Conrad’s was as Marshal Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke--you know, the best western that ever was.
Conrad was known almost as much as a radio personality as he was for his roles on television and in films.
According to many articles and comments we found, William Conrad collected the now defunct, but once beloved Charatan pipes. However, we could not find a strong source to indicate this. There are several pictures of him smoking Charatans, so we know he owned at least a few.
A child of the south and World War II fighter pilot, Conrad was born to a movie family. His parents owned a movie theater in his home town of Lexington, Kentucky. He first began smoking a pipe, like so many other soldiers, during the war.
A legendary comedian, actor and writer, Stephen Fry is often so steeped in controversy that it overshadows his remarkable achievements. We’ve included him on our list, because there simply isn’t a more perfect example of a modern English pipe smoker in our lexicon.
Fry has been outspoken about his experiences living with Manic Depressive Disorder, how gay men are portrayed in media and about British politics.
In 2003 Stephen Fry was awarded the Pipe Smoker of the Year award by The Pipesmokers’ Council and gave a fun interview, which you can read more of here.
Remember the most famous father in American TV history? Yup, Jim Anderson of Father Knows Best was played by tobacco pipe collector and actor, Robert Young.
Robert Young was a veteran of over 100 films, but mostly of the quick-shoot and second choice variety. He did star alongside many Hollywood greats, but while under contract with MGM he didn’t achieve much commercial success. After “going freelance” in the 1940s and early 1950s it seemed that Young’s career was dwindling.
And then came television…
From 1954-1960 Robert Young played Jim Anderson, the insurance salesman dad on Father Knows Best. He won several Emmy Awards for his performance on the show. The show would reach new audiences, in reruns, for over four decades. When we think of the classic 1950s era American family, odds are pretty good we’re thinking of Anderson’s family from the iconic show.
You may remember him best from Gone with the Wind, but Clark Gable was so much bigger than even Rhett Butler. Dubbed “The King of Hollywood”, Hollywood’s most famous leading man was, not surprisingly, a big fan of his pipe.
Clark Gable came from a working-class background. Originally a theater actor, he moved to Hollywood with his much older wife, Josephine Dillon. Dillon was a former actress and helped teach Gable how to act, fixed his appearance and generally polished him into the leading man we know and love.
In most of his early films Clark Gable was cast as the villain. It wasn’t until after a chance illness found him loaned out from his studio to Columbia Pictures, where he made the Oscar-winning It Happened One Night and changed the course of his career. By the time 1939’s Gone with the Wind debuted Gable was a huge star and considered by most women to be the most masculine man in Hollywood.
The Savinelli series, Clark’s Favorite, was created as an honor to the famous leading man. However, it is a myth that these are a replica of the pipes smoked by Gable.
One of only five actors to be nominated for an Academy Award for his first feature film, Orson Welles is, surprisingly, best known as a director. Films like Citizen Kane and Touch of Evil.
Oh, and there was also War of the Worlds. Orson Welles directed the radio broadcast of the H.G. Wells novel that caused mass panic all over The United States.
An accomplished magician, pianist and even a novelist, Orson Welles was a multi-talented and somewhat tortured genius. He achieved much critical acclaim, but little commercial success.
When we look through this prestigious list of famous tobacco pipe smokers from Hollywood, we can’t help but think a quote from the great Orson Welles sums it up perfectly:
“Even if the good old days never existed, the fact that we can conceive such a world is, in fact, an affirmation of the human spirit.”
For those of us who honor this past-time of the future-past, we often think of it as a return to something simpler. As these famous gentleman perfectly display, simpler may be but an illusion, but it is one we think worth dreaming.