MONTY WOOLLEY, American actor, died (b: 1888); Born Edgar Montillion Woolley in New York City, Woolley was a professor and lecturer at Yale University (one of his students was Thornton Wilder) where Cole Porter was an intimate friend and classmate. He began acting on Broadway in 1936.
He was typecast as the wasp-tongued, supercilious sophisticate. His most famous role is that of the cranky radio wag forced to stay immobile because of a seemingly-injured hip in 1942’s The Man Who Came to Dinner, which he had performed onstage before taking it to Hollywood. In the film, he caricatured Alexander Woollcott, a radio and press celebrity of the 1930s and 1940s.
Like Clifton Webb (another larger-than-life personality), Woolley signed with 20th Century Fox in the 1940s and appeared in many films through the mid-1950s. He played himself in Warner Brothers’ highly fictionalized and execrable film biography of Cole Porter, Night and Day (1946), which left out Porter’s (and Woolley’s) sexuality. Woolley and Cole Porter enjoyed many amusing disreputable adventures together in New York and on foreign travels.
According to Bennet Cerf in his 1944 book Try and Stop Me, Woolley was at a dinner party and suddenly belched. A woman sitting nearby glared at him; he glared back and said, “What did you expect–chimes?” Cerf said that Woolley liked his own impromptu line so much he insisted that it be added to the script of his next stage role.