Born in Davenport, Iowa on August 9, 1895, Nat Pendleton came from a privileged background as the son of a well-to-do prominent lawyer who was descended from Revolutionary War hero Nathaniel Greene. Not long after Pendleton's birth, his father moved the family to New York. Although he often played simple-minded characters, in actuality Pendleton was a highly intelligent man who graduated from Columbia University with a degree in economics and spoke four languages fluently. While at Columbia, he won several wrestling championships. He later competed as a wrestler during the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium. Losing just one match during the competition, he was awarded a silver medal.

Nat PendletonNat PendletonNat PendletonNat Pendleton

LEFT: May 1940 issue of Physical Culture with Nat Pendleton on the cover. CENTER A: Wrestling in the 1930s. CENTER B: Mid 1920s photo. RIGHT: Mid 1930s MGM portrait

After his return, he became a professional wrestler but turned to acting after an embarrassing loss. In the mid to late 1920s, he was cast in several plays on Broadway, which proved to be a launching board to his film career. Initially under contract to Paramount, Pendleton worked at Fox, Warner Bros., and Columbia, but the most prestigious film work came at MGM, where he acted in such top films as The Thin Man (1934; with William Powell and Myrna Loy) and The Great Ziegfeld (1936; with William Powell and Myrna Loy). He was also a fixture in the Dr. Kildare series of films in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

the films of nat pendleton

Exposure (1932)

Nat Pendleton

Pendleton portrays a maniacal killer in the low-budget drama Exposure

Baby Face (1933)

Barbara Stanwyck and Nat Pendleton

With Barbara Stanwyck in the racy pre-Code Warner Bros. drama Baby Face

The Gay Bride (1934)

Nat Pendleton, Carole Lombard, and Chester Morris

With Carole Lombard and Chester Morris in the MGM comedy The Gay Bride

Manhattan Melodrama (1934)

Nat Pendleton, Myrna Loy, and Clark Gable

From the MGM crime drama Manhattan Melodrama with Myrna Loy and Clark Gable

Sing and Like It (1934)

Nat Pendleton and Pert Kelton

With Pert Kelton in the RKO comedy Sing and Like It

Reckless (1935)

William Powell and Nat Pendleton

From the MGM musical Reckless with William Powell

The Great Ziegfeld (1936)

Nat Pendleton and William PowellNat PendletonNat Pendleton

LEFT: With William Powell as Florenz Ziegfeld in the MGM biopic The Great Ziegfeld. CENTER and RIGHT: Pendleton as Eugen Sandow

Life Begins at College (1937)

Joan Davis and Nat Pendleton

From the Ritz Brothers vehicle Life Begins at College with Joan Davis

Swing Your Lady (1938)

Frank McHugh, Nat Pendleton, and Humphrey Bogart

From the romantic comedy Swing Your Lady with Frank McHugh and Humphrey Bogart

At the Circus (1939)

Chico Marx, Nat Pendleton, and Groucho Marx

With Chico Marx and Groucho Marx in the MGM comedy At the Circus

The Golden Fleecing (1940)

Virginia Grey, Nat Pendleton, and Lew AyresNat Pendleton, Lew Ayres, and Virginia Grey

From the MGM comedy The Golden Fleecing with Virginia Grey and Lew Ayres

Buck Privates (1941)

Nat Pendleton

As Sergeant Collins in the Universal comedy Buck Privates

Top Sergeant Mulligan (1941)

Marjorie Reynolds, Nat Pendleton, and Carol Hughes

With Marjorie Reynolds and Carol Hughes in the Monogram comedy Top Sergeant Mulligan

Scared to Death (1947)

Bela Lugosi

Lobby card from Scared to Death. Also pictured are Gladys Blake, Bela Lugosi, and Angelo Rossitto

later years

While he was never a big star, Nat Pendleton worked in many films from the 1920s through the 1940s. Wisely investing his earnings, Pendleton retired from films in 1947, after the releases of Scared to Death (1947; with Bela Lugosi) and Buck Privates Go Home (1947; with Bud Abbott and Lou Costello). Afterward, Pendleton moved to San Diego but would, on occasion, tackle a television role in the 1950s. He passed away from a heart attack on October 12, 1967, at the age of 72. He was survived by his second wife, Barbara.

Pendleton had a much younger brother, Steve Pendleton (1908-1984), who was a character actor in films and television from the 1930s through the 1970s and got his start on stage in the 1920s.

nat pendleton dvds available from


Buck Privates Come Home (1947) with Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, and Don Porter
Scared to Death (1947) with Bela Lugosi, George Zucco, Molly Lamont, Joyce Compton, and Gladys Blake
Death Valley (1946) with Robert Lowery and Sterling Holloway
Swing Fever (1943) with Kay Kyser, Marilyn Maxwell, William Gargan, Lena Horne, Morris Ankrum, and Maxie Rosenbloom
Dr. Gillespie's Criminal Case (1943) with Lionel Barrymore, Van Johnson, Keye Luke, Margaret O'Brien, Donna Reed, William Lundigan, and Marilyn Maxwell
Dr. Gillespie's New Assistant (1942) with Lionel Barrymore, Van Johnson, Susan Peters, Keye Luke, and Stephen McNally
Calling Dr. Gillespie (1942) with Lionel Barrymore, Philip Dorn, and Donna Reed
The Mad Doctor of Market Street (1942) with Una Merkel, Lionel Atwill, and Anne Nagel
Jail House Blues (1942) with Anne Gwynne, Robert Paige, Reed Hadley, and Paul Fix
Top Sergeant Mulligan (1941) with Carol Hughes, Sterling Holloway, Tom Neal, Frank Faylen, and Betty Blythe
Buck Privates (1941) Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, The Andrews Sisters, Jane Frazee, and Shemp Howard
Flight Command (1940) with Robert Taylor, Ruth Hussey, Walter Pidgeon, Paul Kelly, Shepperd Strudwick, Red Skelton, and Dick Purcell
Dr. Kildare's Crisis (1940) with Lew Ayres, Lionel Barrymore, Laraine Day, and Robert Young
Dr. Kildare Goes Home (1940) with Lew Ayres, Lionel Barrymore, Laraine Day, and Gene Lockhart
The Golden Fleecing (1940) with Lew Ayres, Rita Johnson, Lloyd Nolan, Virginia Grey, Leon Errol, Ralph Byrd, and William Demarest
Phantom Raiders (1940) with Walter Pidgeon, Donald Meek, Florence Rice, and Cecil Kellaway
Dr. Kildare's Strange Case (1940) with Lew Ayres, Lionel Barrymore, Laraine Day, and Shepperd Strudwick
The Ghost Comes Home (1940) with Frank Morgan, Billie Burke, Ann Rutherford, Reginald Owen, and Donald Meek
Northwest Passage (1940) with Spencer Tracy, Robert Young, Walter Brennan, Ruth Hussey, Donald MacBride, and Isabel Jewell
The Secret of Dr. Kildare (1939) with Lew Ayres, Lionel Barrymore, Lionel Atwill, and Laraine Day
Another Thin Man (1939) with William Powell, Myrna Loy, Virginia Grey, Otto Kruger, C. Aubrey Smith, Ruth Hussey, Tom Neal, and Sheldon Leonard
At the Circus (1939) with the Marx Brothers, Florence Rice, Eve Arden, and Margaret Dumont
On Borrowed Time (1939) with Lionel Barrymore, Cedric Hardwicke, Beulah Bondi, Una Merkel, Bobs Watson, and Phillip Terry
6,000 Enemies (1939) with Walter Pidgeon, Rita Johnson, Paul Kelly, Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams, Raymond Hatton, and Tom Neal
It's a Wonderful World (1939) with Claudette Colbert, James Stewart, Guy Kibbee, Edgar Kennedy, Andy Clyde, and Hans Conried
Calling Dr. Kildare (1939) with Lew Ayres, Lionel Barrymore, Laraine Day, Lana Turner, and Phillip Terry
Burn 'Em Up O'Connor (1939) with Dennis O'Keefe, Cecilia Parker, Harry Carey, Alan Curtis, and Tom Neal
Young Dr. Kildare (1938) with Lionel Barrymore, Lew Ayres, and Monty Woolley
The Crowd Roars (1938) with Robert Taylor, Edward Arnold, Frank Morgan, Maureen O'Sullivan, William Gargan, Lionel Stander, Jane Wyman, Don 'Red' Barry, and Isabel Jewell
The Chaser (1938) with Dennis O'Keefe, Ann Morriss, and Lewis Stone
The Shopworn Angel (1938) with Margaret Sullavan, James Stewart, Walter Pidgeon, Hattie McDaniel, and Alan Curtis
Fast Company (1938) with Melvyn Douglas, Florence Rice, Shepperd Strudwick, Louis Calhern, Douglass Dumbrille, George Zucco, and Dwight Frye
Arsene Lupin Returns (1938) with Melvyn Douglas, Virginia Bruce, Monty Woolley, and George Zucco
Swing Your Lady (1938) with Humphrey Bogart, Louise Fazenda, Penny Singleton, and Ronald Reagan
Life Begins in College (1937) with Joan Davis, Tony Martin, Gloria Stuart, and the Ritz Brothers
Gangway (1937) with Jessie Matthews
Song of the City (1937) with Margaret Lindsay, Dean Jagger, J. Carrol Naish, and Dennis Morgan
Under Cover of Night (1937) with Edmund Lowe, Florence Rice, and Dean Jagger
Sing Me a Love Song (1936) with James Melton, Patricia Ellis, Hugh Herbert, and Zasu Pitts
Two in a Crowd (1936) with Joan Bennett, Joel McCrea, Alison Skipworth, Reginald Denny, Elisha Cook Jr., Andy Clyde, and Donald Meek
The Luckiest Girl in the World (1936) with Jane Wyatt, Louis Hayward, and Eugene Pallette
Sworn Enemy (1936) with Robert Young and Florence Rice
Trapped by Television (1936) with Mary Astor, Lyle Talbot, and Joyce Compton
The Great Ziegfeld (1936) with William Powell, Myrna Loy, Luise Rainer, Frank Morgan, Fanny Brice, Virginia Bruce, Reginald Owen, and Ray Bolger
The Garden Murder Case (1936) with Edmund Lowe, Virginia Bruce, Benita Hume, Gene Lockhart, and H.B. Warner
It's in the Air (1935) with Jack Benny, Ted Healy, and Una Merkel
Here Comes the Band (1935) with Ted Lewis, Virginia Bruce, Ted Healy, and Spanky McFarland
Calm Yourself (1935) with Robert Young, Madge Evans, Betty Furness, Ralph Morgan, and Raymond Hatton
Murder in the Fleet (1935) with Robert Taylor, Jean Parker, Ted Healy, Una Merkel, and Jean Hersholt
Reckless (1935) with Jean Harlow, William Powell, Franchot Tone, Ted Healy, and Rosalind Russell
Baby Face Harrington (1935) with Charles Butterworth, Una Merkel, and Eugene Pallette
Times Square Lady (1935) with Robert Taylor, Virginia Bruce, Helen Twelvetrees, and Isabel Jewell
The Gay Bride (1934) with Carole Lombard, Chester Morris, Zasu Pitts, and Leo Carrillo
Death on the Diamond (1934) with Robert Young, Madge Evans, Ted Healy, Paul Kelly, and Mickey Rooney
Straight Is the Way (1934) with Franchot Tone and May Robson
The Girl from Missouri (1934) with Jean Harlow, Lionel Barrymore, Franchot Tone, Lewis Stone, Patsy Kelly, Alan Mowbray, and Clara Blandick
The Cat's-Paw (1934) with Harold Lloyd and Una Merkel
The Defense Rests (1934) with Jack Holt and Jean Arthur
The Thin Man (1934) with William Powell, Myrna Loy, Maureen O'Sullivan, Minna Gombell, and Cesar Romero
Manhattan Melodrama (1934) with Clark Gable, William Powell, Myrna Loy, Leo Carrillo, Isabel Jewell, and Mickey Rooney
Sing and Like It (1934) with Zasu Pitts, Pert Kelton, and Edward Everett Horton
Lazy River (1934) with Jean Parker, Robert Young, and Ted Healy
Fugitive Lovers (1934) with Robert Montgomery, Madge Evans, Ted Healy, Larry Fine, Moe Howard, and Curly Howard
Baby Face (1933) with Barbara Stanwyck, George Brent, and John Wayne
College Coach (1933) with Dick Powell, Ann Dvorak, Pat O'Brien, Lyle Talbot, Hugh Herbert, and Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams
The Chief (1933) with Ed Wynn, Dorothy Mackaill, and Mickey Rooney
Penthouse (1933) with Warner Baxter, Myrna Loy, Charles Butterworth, and Mae Clarke
Lady for a Day (1933) with Warren William, May Robson, Guy Kibbee, Glenda Farrell, and Jean Parker
Child of Manhattan (1933) with Nancy Carroll, John Boles, Buck Jones, Clara Blandick, Jane Darwell, and Betty Grable
Goldie Gets Along (1933) with Lili Damita
Whistling in the Dark (1933) with Ernest Truex, Una Merkel, and Edward Arnold
The Sign of the Cross (1932) with Fredric March, Claudette Colbert, and Charles Laughton
Deception (1932) with Leo Carrillo, Dickie Moore, and Thelma Todd
The Night Club Lady (1932) with Adolphe Menjou and Mayo Methot
Exposure (1932) with Lila Lee
By Whose Hand? (1932) with Ben Lyon and Dwight Frye
Attorney for the Defense (1932) with Edmund Lowe, Evelyn Brent, and Dwight Frye
Hell Fire Austin (1932) with Ken Maynard
A Fool's Advice (1932) with Frank Fay and Franklin Pangborn
The Secret Witness (1931) with Una Merkel and Zasu Pitts
Blonde Crazy (1931) with James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Louis Calhern, Ray Milland
The Spirit of Notre Dame (1931) with Lew Ayres, Sally Blane, and Andy Devine
The Star Witness (1931) with Walter Huston, Sally Blane, and Dickie Moore
Mr. Lemon of Orange (1931) with Fifi D'Orsay
Fair Warning (1931) with George O'Brien and George Brent
The Sea Wolf (1930) with Milton Sills
The Big Pond (1930) with Maurice Chevalier and Claudette Colbert
The Laughing Lady (1929) with Ruth Chatterton
Let's Get Married (1926) with Richard Dix
The Hoosier Schoolmaster (1924) with Henry Hull

Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, episode The Big Payoff, originally aired December 28, 1956
The George Gobel Show, two appearances, 1955-1956

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Watch Nat Pendleton's 1936 comedic crime drama Trapped by Television
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