Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 31, 1907, Eddie Quillan was seven years old and already performing in vaudeville with his sister and three brothers in an act called “The Rising Generation.” His parents, Joseph Quillan and Sarah Quillan, were well-known performers with Joseph himself managing the family act. Booked in such top places as the Orpheum Theatre, the kids eventually took a screen test for Mack Sennett but only Eddie was chosen. Beginning with the short film A Love Sundae (1926), Eddie would make nearly 20 two-reeler shorts with Sennett.
Freelancing a couple of years later, he played the lead in The Godless Girl (1928) and The Sophomore (1929) and received a contract at Pathe Studios, but he wasn’t really leading-man material what with his rubbery face and short stature. Nevertheless, his high energy and sharp comedy instincts earned him many support roles in such films as Big Money (1930), Girl Crazy (1932), Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) and The Grapes of Wrath (1940), to cite some of his more popular films.
Discouraged with playing simple roles such as bellhops, soda jerks, et al., he continued on in “B” pictures until Sensation Hunters (1945), when his film career finally fell away. He owned and operated a bowling alley for a time but eventually returned to the film industry, with middling results and infrequent appearances, among them Brigadoon (1954). Light-hearted fluff also came his way in the next decade with The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966), Angel in My Pocket (1969) and How to Frame a Figg (1971), but his contributions were relatively minor. His career experienced a minor resurgence during the 1960s and 1970s on TV when he guested on such series as Mannix (1967), Lucas Tanner (1974), Police Story (1973), and Baretta (1975). A close friendship with actor Michael Landon led to work for Eddie in several of Landon’s TV vehicles, including Little House on the Prairie (1974) and Father Murphy (1981) and “Highway to Heaven” (1984)_.
The never-married Eddie died in Burbank, California of cancer in 1990 at age 83, and was interred at the San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Mission Hills.
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