Joseph Sweeney - Rotten Tomatoes

Joseph Sweeney

Birthplace:   Not Available
Joseph Sweeney was a veteran character actor who worked primarily on the stage and, from the late '40s onward, television. He appeared in only a half-dozen movies, principally in the '50s, by which time he was in his seventies and his white hair and care-worn face made him ideal for avuncular parts; he generally played the kind of grandfatherly roles in which Harry Davenport had specialized during the previous decade. Born in Philadelphia in 1884 (some sources say 1890), Sweeney spent part of his youth living in a rooming house above another tenant who occasionally annoyed his neighbors by bouncing the oranges that he was juggling off the ceiling of his room -- that man was W.C. Fields, four years Sweeney's senior and attempting to start a career in vaudeville as a juggler. By the 1910s, Sweeney had embarked on an acting career that would take him to Broadway and major theatrical tours of the United States. Among the plays in which he acted during this period was The Clansman, the stage adaptation of Thomas Dixon's notorious book, which was also the source for The Birth of a Nation (1915). He later appeared with Helen Hayes and Herbert Marshall in Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's Ladies and Gentlemen (in a production that also included Roy Roberts and Robert Keith) and in plays such as George Washington Slept Here, Dear Old Darlin', A Slight Case of Murder, and Days to Remember. He was fully active on-stage into the '40s, but with the advent of commercial television at the end of the decade, he shifted over to the new medium. He was a regular on the CBS series Wesley in 1949 and appeared in installments of Lights Out, Kraft Television Theatre, Philco Television Playhouse, Campbell Television Soundstage, Studio One, Producers' Showcase, Playwrights '56, The U.S. Steel Hour, The Defenders, Car 54, Where Are You?, and Dr. Kildare during the 1950s and '60s, often in leading or major supporting roles. The most important of his television performances, however, was the 1954 Studio One production of Reginald Rose's Twelve Angry Men, as Juror #9, Mr. McCardle. He later repeated the role in Sidney Lumet's film adaptation -- the movie was Sweeney's movie tour de force, his every line and nuance spot-on perfect, and allowed the character actor to hold his own in what was otherwise a fairly star-heavy cast, including Henry Fonda (who also produced the film), Lee J. Cobb, and Jack Warden. Sweeney was also equally good at crafty and villainous roles, such as the larcenous former household employee in The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956), and his performances in period subjects were just as effective, such as in the Glenn Ford Western The Fastest Gun Alive (1956). Sweeney was a busy, active actor right up until the time of his death late in 1963 at age 79, appearing in more than a dozen television programs that year alone.

Highest Rated Movies



100% 12 Angry Men (Twelve Angry Men)
  • Juror No. 9
No Score Yet The Fastest Gun Alive
  • Reverend
75% The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit
  • Edward Schultz


No Score Yet Father Knows Best
  • Mr. Boomhauer
  • 1957
No Score Yet Playhouse 90
  • Mr. Gordon

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