Henry Gibson

This article is about the actor. For other people named Henry Gibson, see Henry Gibson (disambiguation).
Henry Gibson

Born James Bateman
(1935-09-21)September 21, 1935
Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died September 14, 2009(2009-09-14) (aged 73)
Malibu, California, U.S.
Cause of death Complications of cancer
Other names Olsen Gibson
Education Saint Joseph's Preparatory School
Alma mater Catholic University of America
Occupation Actor, Singer, Songwriter
Years active 1963–2008
Television Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (1967-1973)
Spouse(s) Lois Joan Geiger (m. 1966; d. 2007)
Children Jonathan David Gibson
Charles Alexander Gibson
James Gibson
Parent(s) Edmund Albert Bateman (father)
Dorothy Cassidy (mother)

Henry Gibson (September 21, 1935 – September 14, 2009),[1][2] born James Bateman, was an American actor, singer, and songwriter, best known as a cast member of the TV sketch-comedy series Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In from 1968 to 1971, for his portrayal of diminutive country star Haven Hamilton in Robert Altman's 1975 film Nashville, the "Illinois Nazi" leader in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers, and for his recurring role as Judge Clark Brown on Boston Legal. He also appeared on an episode of My Favorite Martian.

Early life

Gibson was born on September 21, 1935 as James Bateman[1][3] in Germantown, Philadelphia, the sixth of seven children of Edmund Albert Bateman and his wife Dorothy (née Cassidy). He attended Saint Joseph's Preparatory School, where he was president of the drama club.[4]

After graduating from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., he served as an intelligence officer in the United States Air Force.[3] Early in his career as a professional entertainer, he developed a comedy act in which he played a poet from Fairhope, Alabama. He adopted the stage name Henry Gibson, which is an oronym for the name of famed Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen.[3] He is also known to have used the name Olsen Gibson.[5]


Gibson's performing career began at the age of seven. He appeared in many stage and theater productions. Gibson made many appearances on Tonight Starring Jack Paar between 1957 and 1962, often reciting his poetry. His career took off when he performed in the Jerry Lewis film The Nutty Professor[3] (1963). This was followed in 1964 by his poetry-reciting cowboy character Quirt Manly on the popular show The Beverly Hillbillies.[6]

Gibson also appeared on The Dick Van Dyke Show, reading the poem "Keep a-Goin'", which he turned into a song in the Robert Altman movie Nashville (1975). He appeared in three other films directed by Altman: The Long Goodbye (starring Elliott Gould), A Perfect Couple, and Health. He appeared in The Incredible Shrinking Woman and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Nashville and won the National Society of Film Critics award for his role of country music singer Haven Hamilton.[1]

Gibson spent three years as part of the Laugh-In television show's cast, where he was nominated for a Golden Globe in 1971. He often played "The Poet", reciting poems with "sharp satirical or political themes".[7] Gibson would emerge from behind a stage flat, wearing a Nehru jacket and "hippie" beads and holding an outlandishly large artificial flower. He would state "[Title of poem] — by Henry Gibson" in an ironic Southern US accent, bow stiffly from the waist, recite his poem and return behind the flat. Gibson's routine was so memorable that John Wayne actually performed it once in his own inimitable style: "The Sky — by John Wayne. The Sky is blue/The Grass is green/Get off your butt/And join the Marines!", whereupon Wayne left the scene by smashing through the flat. Gibson also regularly appeared in the "Cocktail Party" segments as a Catholic priest, sipping tea. He would put the cup on the saucer, recite his one-liner in a grave and somber tone, then go back to sipping tea. He also made recurring appearances in the 1969–1974 anthology Love, American Style. In 1978, he appeared in The New Adventures Of Wonder Woman as the arch-villain Mariposa.

In 1980, he appeared on The Dukes of Hazzard, as Will Jason (Squirt), in the second-season episode "Find Loretta Lynn". The same year, he played the leader of the "Illinois Nazis" in the John Landis film The Blues Brothers, this became one of his best-known film roles. He made a brief appearance in Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia as an eccentric barfly. He also worked frequently as a voice actor in animation, most notably portraying Wilbur the pig in the popular Hanna-Barbera children's movie Charlotte's Web (1973) and later worked for them in the cartoon The Biskitts. He worked on the cartoon The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy as Lord Pain, King of the Hill as reporter Bob Jenkins, and Rocket Power as grouchy neighbor Merv Stimpleton.

In the 1989 Joe Dante comedy The 'Burbs, starring Tom Hanks, Gibson played the villain. He reunited with director Dante a year later when Gremlins 2: The New Batch was released in 1990. He performed a cameo as the office worker who is caught taking a smoking break on camera and fired by the sadistic boss. Guest-starring in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, he played the Ferengi "Nilva" in the 1998 episode, "Profit and Lace".

He had a leading role in a season 5 episode of Stargate SG-1 entitled "The Sentinel", as the character Marul. Gibson's last major roles were in the 2005 film Wedding Crashers, and as supporting character Judge Clark Brown on Boston Legal.

Personal life

On Wednesday, April 6, 1966, Gibson married Lois Joan Geiger, who was five years his senior. They had three sons together – Jonathan David Gibson, an executive at Universal Pictures, Charles Alexander Gibson, a director and visual effects supervisor, and James Gibson, a screenwriter.[1][3] His wife died on May 6, 2007, at age 77.[3][8]


On Monday, September 14, 2009, Gibson died of cancer at his home in Malibu, California, a week before his 74th birthday.[3] He was cremated at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.

Selected filmography


  1. 1 2 3 4 Barnes, Mike (2009-09-17). "'Laugh-In' ignited a rich comic career". The Hollywood Reporter. pp. 6, 15. Retrieved 2009-09-16.
  2. United States Social Security Death Index database, FamilySearch.org; accessed 17 February 2016, Henry Gibson, 14 Sep 2009; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing)
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 McLellan, Dennis (2009-09-17). "Actor was original cast member of 'Laugh-In'". Los Angeles Times. p. A24. Retrieved 2009-09-14.
  4. "Henry Gibson biography". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 2013-07-01.
  5. ""Gibson, Henry 1935–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. 2007. Encyclopedia.com.". www.encyclopedia.com. The Gale Group, Inc. Retrieved 2016-02-20.
  6. The Beverly Hillbillies, imbd.com; accessed February 14, 2016.
  7. Henry Gibson (I) — Biography
  8. Lois Gibson Malibu Times obituary May 9, 2007

External links

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