The lights and the crowds, the stars and applause; for most people, it’s just a dream. But for one Warwick boy, Broadway and Hollywood were his destiny.
Arthur Preston Aylsworth was born in the village of Apponaug on Aug. 12, 1883. His father, Oscar, and his mother, Georgianna (Howard), were both Rhode Island natives and he grew up in a home in Warwick with his sisters Maud and Grace. Two other siblings, Oscar and Lillian, had died as children, before he was born.
While he was still very young, his parents were divorced, and his father, a traveling salesman and former store clerk, moved to Public Street in Providence. On Sept. 18, 1893, he married Sarah Sayles.
Standing just a little over 6 feet tall, with black hair and dark eyes, Aylsworth had star quality and perfect comedic timing. Leaving Rhode Island and his job as an insurance office clerk, he set out for California as a young man. In San Francisco, he rented a room in a large boarding house on Furk Street while he honed his acting skills.
On June 20, 1912, he married actress Sadie Harris, whose sister Rose was the wife of theater owner Lew Fields. Sadie died at the age of 45 on May 15, 1933, in New York City, leaving Aylsworth a widower.
Ironically, it was at the very beginning of his career that he would win the role that would go down in history as one of his best performances – that of the amusing hotel clerk in “Overnight,” which premiered in 1915. Two years later, he would appear in “Dew Drop Inn,” billed as “a rollicking roadhouse revel of fun, music and girls.”
In 1937, he acted alongside famous cowboy celebrity Buck Jones in Universal Pictures “Sandflow.” The 1939 film “What A Life” paired him with two future stars – a young Jackie Cooper, who later went on to play the editor of The Daily Planet in the Superman movies starring Christopher Reeve, and Hedda Hooper, who would go on to play roles in the television shows “I Love Lucy” and “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
Over the course of his career, Aylsworth would act in over a hundred films and Broadway musicals, including the 1940 Oscar-winning movie “The Grapes of Wrath” with Henry Fonda, the star of later films such as “Twelve Angry Men” and “On Golden Pond.”
As he approached his 60s, Aylsworth was residing on Norwich Avenue in Sherman Oaks, California. Still working in film, he was represented by the Mitchel Getz Agency on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.
He died at the age of 63 on June 26, 1946, in Los Angeles, and was interred at the Chapel of the Pines Crematory in that city.
For Arthur Aylsworth, the road from an insurance office in Rhode Island to a sound stage in Hollywood was a smooth one. From sharing the spotlight on the film “Test Pilot” in 1938 with Clark Gable and Lionel Barrymore, to carousing with the likes of Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney in 1939’s “The Oklahoma Kid,” Aylsworth proved that anyone, anywhere, could become a star that that eternally shines.