One of the most familiar faces and voices in Hollywood films of the 1950s. Percy Helton acted almost from infancy, appearing in his father’s vaudeville act. The famed Broadway producer David Belasco cast Helton in a succession of child roles over several years, giving the boy an invaluable grounding in the technique and spirit of the theatre. George M. Cohan took Helton under his wing and used him in a number of plays.
Helton served in the US Army in Europe during World War I in the American Expeditionary Forces, and at war’s end returned to acting on the stage, carving out a substantial career as a juvenile in plays such as “One Sunday Afternoon” and “Young America”. In one of these plays he was required to shout and scream for much of the performance, and by the end of the run his voice had become permanently hoarse. He moved by necessity into character roles, working primarily on the stage until the late 1940s. Despite some early work as a juvenile in silent films, it was not until his brief but memorable appearance as a drunken Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street (1947) that he began to shift primarily into film work. His diminutive physique and unmistakable voice made him a fixture in a wide range of films and TV programs throughout the next two decades.
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