Biography

American actor Kenneth Harlan possessed the main prerequisite to succeed as a silent-movie leading man: he looked as though he'd just stepped out of an Arrow Collar ad. The nephew of rolypoly character actor Otis Harlan, Kenneth was on stage from the age of seven. He signed with D.W. Griffith's production company in the mid teens, though he was never actually directed by Griffith. Taking to the Roaring Twenties like a fish to water, Harlan spent as much time partying as he did acting; he also was quite a ladies' man, toting up seven marriages. Harlan's popularity was already on the wane when sound came in, so it didn't really matter that his voice had a surly edge to it which precluded future romantic leading roles. He remained in films as a supporting and bit actor in major features, and as a leading player in serials (Dick Tracy's G-Men [1937]) and short subjects (The Three Stooges' Movie Maniacs [1936]). It was clear that he couldn't muster much enthusiasm for the roles assigned him in the '30s; whenever appearing as a western villain, Harlan seldom bothered to dress the part, generally showing up on the set with a stetson hat and a modern business suit. Kenneth Harlan left acting in 1944 to become a reasonably successful actor's agent and restauranteur. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi