Ned Sparks
Ned Sparks was a Canadian
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 character actor
Character actor
A character actor is one who predominantly plays unusual or eccentric characters. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a character actor as "an actor who specializes in character parts", defining character part in turn as "an acting role displaying pronounced or unusual characteristics or...

. Sparks was well known for his deadpan
Deadpan is a form of comic delivery in which humor is presented without a change in emotion or body language, usually speaking in a casual, monotone, solemn, blunt, disgusted or matter-of-fact voice and expressing an unflappably calm, archly insincere or artificially grave demeanor...

 expression and deep, gravelly voice.

Early life and career

Born Edward Arthur Sparkman in Guelph
Guelph is a city in Ontario, Canada.Guelph may also refer to:* Guelph , consisting of the City of Guelph, Ontario* Guelph , as the above* University of Guelph, in the same city...

, Ontario
Ontario is a province of Canada, located in east-central Canada. It is Canada's most populous province and second largest in total area. It is home to the nation's most populous city, Toronto, and the nation's capital, Ottawa....

, Sparks left home at age 16 where he attempted to work as a gold prospector
Prospecting is the physical search for minerals, fossils, precious metals or mineral specimens, and is also known as fossicking.Prospecting is a small-scale form of mineral exploration which is an organised, large scale effort undertaken by mineral resource companies to find commercially viable ore...

 on the Klondike Gold Rush
Klondike Gold Rush
The Klondike Gold Rush, also called the Yukon Gold Rush, the Alaska Gold Rush and the Last Great Gold Rush, was an attempt by an estimated 100,000 people to travel to the Klondike region the Yukon in north-western Canada between 1897 and 1899 in the hope of successfully prospecting for gold...

. After running out of money, he won a spot as a singer on a traveling musical company's tour. At age 19, he returned to Canada where he briefly attended a Toronto
Toronto is the provincial capital of Ontario and the largest city in Canada. It is located in Southern Ontario on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. A relatively modern city, Toronto's history dates back to the late-18th century, when its land was first purchased by the British monarchy from...

A seminary, theological college, or divinity school is an institution of secondary or post-secondary education for educating students in theology, generally to prepare them for ordination as clergy or for other ministry...

. After leaving the seminary, he worked for the railroad and worked in theater in Toronto. In 1907, he left Toronto to try his hand in the Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

 in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...


While working on Broadway, Sparks developed his trademark deadpan expression while portraying the role of a desk clerk in the play Little Miss Brown. His success on the stage soon caught the attention of MGM's Louis B. Mayer
Louis B. Mayer
Louis Burt Mayer born Lazar Meir was an American film producer. He is generally cited as the creator of the "star system" within Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in its golden years. Known always as Louis B...

 who signed Sparks to a six picture deal. Sparks began appearing in numerous silent film
Silent film
A silent film is a film with no synchronized recorded sound, especially with no spoken dialogue. In silent films for entertainment the dialogue is transmitted through muted gestures, pantomime and title cards...

s before finally making his "talkie
Sound film
A sound film is a motion picture with synchronized sound, or sound technologically coupled to image, as opposed to a silent film. The first known public exhibition of projected sound films took place in Paris in 1900, but decades would pass before sound motion pictures were made commercially...

" debut in the 1928 film The Big Noise.

In the 1930s, Sparks became known for portraying dour-faced, sarcastic, cigar-chomping characters. He became so associated with the type that, in 1936, The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

reported that Sparks had his face insured for USD
United States dollar
The United States dollar , also referred to as the American dollar, is the official currency of the United States of America. It is divided into 100 smaller units called cents or pennies....

$100,000 with Lloyd's of London
Lloyd's of London
Lloyd's, also known as Lloyd's of London, is a British insurance and reinsurance market. It serves as a partially mutualised marketplace where multiple financial backers, underwriters, or members, whether individuals or corporations, come together to pool and spread risk...

. The market agreed to pay the sum to any photographer who could capture Sparks smiling (Sparks later admitted that the story was a publicity stunt and he was only insured for $10,000). Sparks was also caricatured in cartoons including the Jack-in-the-Box character in the Disney short Broken Toys (1935), and the jester in Mother Goose Goes Hollywood
Mother Goose Goes Hollywood
Mother Goose Goes Hollywood is an 1938 Walt Disney animated short featuring parodies of Mother Goose nursery rhymes and caricatures of Hollywood celebrities from the 1930s. It is the 73rd of the series....

(1938), a hermit crab
Hermit crab
Hermit crabs are decapod crustaceans of the superfamily Paguroidea. Most of the 1100 species possess an asymmetrical abdomen which is concealed in an empty gastropod shell that is carried around by the hermit crab.-Description:...

 in Tex Avery
Tex Avery
Frederick Bean "Fred/Tex" Avery was an American animator, cartoonist, voice actor and director, famous for producing animated cartoons during The Golden Age of Hollywood animation. He did his most significant work for the Warner Bros...

's Fresh Fish (1939), a chicken in Bob Clampett
Bob Clampett
Robert Emerson "Bob" Clampett was an American animator, producer, director, and puppeteer best known for his work on the Looney Tunes animated series from Warner Bros., and the television shows Time for Beany and Beany and Cecil...

's Slap Happy Pappy (1940) and a brief appearance in Friz Freleng
Friz Freleng
Isadore "Friz" Freleng was an animator, cartoonist, director, and producer best known for his work on the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons from Warner Bros....

's Warner Brothers cartoon Malibu Beach Party (1940).

During his career, Sparks appeared in ten stage productions and over 80 films. He retired from films in 1947.

Selected filmography

Year Title Role Other notes
1915 The Little Miss Brown Night clerk
1919 A Virtuous Vamp Mr. Bell
1920 Good References Peter Stearns
1922 The Bond Boy Cyrus Morgan
1923 Easter Bonnets
1924 The Law Forbids Clyde Vernon
1925 The Only Thing
The Only Thing
The Only Thing is a silent 1925 costume drama, starring Eleanor Boardman. This filmed marks the beginning of director's Jack Conway long career at MGM. The film is also notable for featuring, in her second film role, a young Joan Crawford, playing a minor part as a lady in waiting...

Gibson Alternative title: Four Flaming Days
1926 The Hidden Way Mulligan
1927 The Small Bachelor J. Hamilton Beamish
1928 The Magnificent Flirt Tim
1929 The Canary Murder Case
The Canary Murder Case (film)
The Canary Murder Case is a crime/mystery film made by Paramount Pictures, directed by Malcolm St. Clair and Frank Tuttle.The screenplay was written by S.S. Van Dine , Albert S. Le Vino and Florence Ryerson, based on novel The Canary Murder Case by S.S...

Tony Sheel
1929 Nothing But the Truth (1929 film)
Nothing But the Truth (1929 film)
Nothing But the Truth is a sound comedy film starring Richard Dix. The film was remade as Nothing But the Truth starring Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard.-Plot summary:...

Clarence van Dyke
1930 The Devil's Holiday
The Devil's Holiday
The Devil's Holiday is a film which tells the story of a golddigger who marries a young man for his money, but finds that she really loves him and wants to keep him despite his family's disapproval...

Charlie Thorne
1931 Iron Man
Iron Man (1931 film)
Iron Man is a 1931 drama film directed by Tod Browning and starring Lew Ayres, Robert Armstrong and Jean Harlow. It is a bit of an anomaly for Browning, who is more associated with horror and melodrama than sports films....

1932 The Miracle Man
The Miracle Man (1932 film)
The Miracle Man is a 1932 drama film directed by Norman Z. McLeod, starring Sylvia Sidney and featuring Boris Karloff. It is a remake of the 1919 film of the same name. The film was originally supposed to star Tyrone Power Sr, as the Preacher/Patriarch, but he died before major filming got underway...

Harry Evans Credited as Ned A. Sparks
1932 The Crusader
The Crusader (1932 film)
The Crusader is a 1932 American drama film directed by Frank R. Strayer and starring Evelyn Brent.- Cast :* Evelyn Brent as Tess Brandon* H. B. Warner as Phillip Brandon* Lew Cody as Jimmie Dale* Ned Sparks as Eddie Crane* Walter Byron as Joe Carson...

1933 42nd Street
42nd Street (film)
-Cast:*Warner Baxter as Julian Marsh, director*Bebe Daniels as Dorothy Brock, star*George Brent as Pat Denning, Dorothy's old vaudeville partner*Ruby Keeler as Peggy Sawyer, the newcomer*Guy Kibbee as Abner Dillon, the show's backer...

Gold Diggers of 1933
Gold Diggers of 1933
Gold Diggers of 1933 is a pre-code Warner Bros. musical film directed by Mervyn LeRoy with songs by Harry Warren and Al Dubin , staged and choreographed by Busby Berkeley...

Barney Hopkins
Going Hollywood
Going Hollywood
Going Hollywood is an American black-and-white musical film directed by Raoul Walsh, starring Marion Davies and Bing Crosby, written by Donald Ogden Stewart, and released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The film tells the story of Sylvia , a French teacher at an all-girl school, who wants to find love...

Mr. Bert Conroy, Director Alternative title: Cinderella's Fella
Alice in Wonderland
Alice in Wonderland (1933 film)
Alice in Wonderland is a 1933 film version of the famous Alice novels of Lewis Carroll. The film was produced by Paramount Pictures, featuring an all-star cast. It is all live-action, except for the Walrus and The Carpenter sequence, which was animated by Leon Schlesinger Productions.Stars featured...

The Caterpillar
Caterpillar (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland)
The Caterpillar is a fictional character appearing in Lewis Carroll's book, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.-Appearance in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland:...

Lady for a Day
Lady for a Day
Lady for a Day is a 1933 American comedy-drama film directed by Frank Capra. The screenplay by Robert Riskin is based on the short story Madame La Gimp by Damon Runyon...

Happy McGuire
1934 Servants' Entrance
Servants' Entrance
Servants' Entrance is a comedy film starring Janet Gaynor. The movie was written by Samson Raphaelson from the Sigrid Boo novel and directed by Frank Lloyd, with a cartoon sequence by Walt Disney in which an understandably startled Gaynor sings a song while obstreperous animated singing silverware...

Hjalmar Gnu
Imitation of Life
Imitation of Life (1934 film)
Imitation of Life is a 1934 American drama film directed by John M. Stahl. The screenplay by William Hurlbut, based on Fannie Hurst's 1933 novel of the same name, was augmented by eight additional uncredited writers, including Preston Sturges and Finley Peter Dunne...

Elmer Smith
1935 George White's 1935 Scandals
George White's 1935 Scandals
George White's 1935 Scandals is an American musical film, written by Jack Yellen and produced in 1935 by Fox Film Corporation . It was a follow-up to the 1934 release, George White's Scandals.-Plot:The film centers on real-life stage and screen producer George White as he gathers acts for his new...

Elmer White
1937 One in a Million Daniel "Danny" Simpson
1937 Wake Up and Live
Wake Up and Live
Wake Up and Live is a 1937 Fox musical film directed by Sidney Lanfield and produced by Darryl F. Zanuck. The movie stars Walter Winchell, Ben Bernie and Alice Faye and was based upon the self-help bestseller by Dorothea Brande...

Steve Cluskey
1938 Hawaii Calls Strings
1939 The Star Maker Speed King
1941 For Beauty's Sake Jonathan B. Sweet
1947 Magic Town
Magic Town
Magic Town is a comedy film directed by William A. Wellman, starring James Stewart and Jane Wyman. It is one of the first films about the then-new science of public opinion polling...


External links

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