Leon Ames was born Harry Wycoff on January 20, 1902 in Portland, Indiana, son of Charles Elmer Wycoff and his wife Cora A. De Moss.. Some sources list his original last name as “Wykoff” or “Waycoff,” and in his early films he acted under the name Leon Waycoff. Ames made his film debut in Quick Millions (1931). During the 1940s he was under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Ames made his first radio appearance in January 1947 on Grand Central Station. Ames appeared in a featured role in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) as district attorney Kyle Sackett. He also appeared in the Doris Day-Gordon MacRae film On Moonlight Bay and in its sequel, By the Light of the Silvery Moon; and Peyton Place (1957). He played the role of Samuel Eaton, Alfred Eaton (Paul Newman)’s father, in From the Terrace (1960). He appeared in the 1961 Walt Disney comedy, The Absent-Minded Professor as Medfield College President Rufus Daggett, and in the 1963 sequel, Son of Flubber. In 1970, he played Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox in the action war film Tora! Tora! Tora!. His last film role was in Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), as Kathleen Turner’s character’s grandfather Barney Alvorg. His television roles included leads in the adaptations of Life With Father (1953–55) and Father of the Bride (1961–62). His presence in the latter program was such that, after the show had been on the air a few months, Ames’ role was increased because “‘father,’ as played by veteran character actor Leon Ameb, became the dominant figure in the whole show.” He co-starred on Mister Ed (1963–66) as Wilbur Post’s neighbor, Gordon “The Colonel” Kirkwood, after Larry Keating’s death. He also appeared in episodes of the NBC anthology series, The Barbara Stanwyck Show and on the short-lived CBS legal drama, Storefront Lawyers. He was one of the founders of the Screen Actors Guild in 1933. He served as its president in 1957. In 1980, after 50 years in show business, Leon Ames was presented with the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award.
On February 12, 1964, Ames and his wife were held hostage in their home as an intruder demanded $50,000 before he would free them. Ames called his business partner, who obtained the money from a bank and delivered it to the house as instructed. After inspecting the cash, the kidnapper left Ames in the house, bound with tape, and instructed Mrs. Ames to drive him in the couple’s car. He also forced both the business partner and a guest in the Ames house into the trunk. Eventually, police (who had been alerted by the partner while he was picking up the money) surrounded the car and freed the hostages.
- January, 20, 1902
- Portland, Indiana
- October, 12, 1993
- Los Angeles, California
Cause of Death
- Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills)
- Los Angeles, California