Classic Film Travel: Donald Meek
A popular character actor, Thomas Donald Meek was born on July 14, 1878 in Glasgow, Scotland, to Matthew and Annie Meek. Meek was one of four children with two older sisters named Annie and Maggie and a younger brother named Marcus. His family moved to Canada and later the United States, eventually settling in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
In Pennsylvania, Meek worked in dry goods sales, but was also eager to perform on stage. At the age of eight and long before his family moved, Meek expressed his interest in acting and appeared in public for the first time in a comic pantomime.
Next, Meek joined an acrobatic team called “The Marvells” that toured the US but left after sustaining many fractures after falling. After six months of recovery, he fought in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. There he was wounded in combat and also lost his hair after contracting yellow fever. When the First World War broke out, he reported again. Meek served as a sergeant in the Canadian Highlanders.
Acting would make Meek travel the world. He toured several countries as part of a stage version of Little Lord Fauntleroy and lost his Scottish accent during his wartime voyages. After his first Broadway roles, Meek found consistency in taking on comedic roles.
Meek married Isabella “Belle” Walkin in Boston in 1909 and the couple moved to Hollywood. The couple would stay together until Meek’s death.
As films grew in popularity, so did Meek’s interest in them. Although he worked in various studios, he quickly took on numerous roles and quickly became a sought-after character actor. Among his screen appearances were The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938), You can’t take it with you (1938), Stagecoach (1939), State fair (1945) and dozens more. In total, Meek would do over 120 rolls of film.
Although Meek wanted to retire one day and grow hybrid roses, he was unable to make that dream come true. He died of leukemia on November 18, 1946. At the time of his death, he was working on one Magical city (1947). Meek was 68 years old.
Today some of Meek’s residences have been preserved.
In 1910, Meek and his wife lived at 105 Clarendon St. in Boston, Massachusetts, although the house no longer stands.
They lived in California in the 1930s. In 1936 they lived on 11200 Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles, California, but that house no longer exists. However, her 1940s house on Mandeville Canyon Rd. From 1977 stands. The house housed Meek, his wife and their cook Edna Leslie. This is home today:
Your house in 1500 Beverwil Dr. still stands today and is shown here:
Meek was posthumously awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Its star is on the east side of the 1700 block of Vine Street in Los Angeles.
Although there are few tributes to Meek, his face is still familiar to fans of classic films.
–Annette Bochenek for Classic Movie Hub
Annette Bochenek writes our monthly column Classic Movie Travels. Here you can read all the articles on Annette’s classic travel films.
Annette Bochenek from Chicago, Illinois is a PhD student at Dominican University and an independent researcher on Hollywood’s Golden Age. She runs the Hometowns to Hollywood blog, where she writes about her travels exploring the legacies and hometowns of the stars of the Golden Age. Annette also moderates the film series “Hometowns to Hollywood” in the entire Chicago area. She has appeared in Turner Classic Movies and is the President of the Chicago Chapter of TCM Backlot. Not only does she write for Classic Movie Hub, but also for Quarterly silent film, Nostalgia digest, and Chicago Art Deco SocietyMagazine.