Born Randolph Crane on Jan. 23, 1898, the actor Randolph Scott was born to a very prestigious family in the Queen City. Scott’s father George was a city alderman, Chairman of Charlotte’s Finance Committee, and CEO of an accounting firm since the 1890s. The elder Scott supervised the city’s first published financial statement in the early 1900s, and was recognized by the state for drafting North Carolina’s first certified public accountant law.
The Scott family, of which Randolph was the only son along with five sisters, moved to a home at 1132 Dilworth Road in 1927 that is still standing today. Randolph initially dreamed of becoming a star football player, and played for Georgia Tech until a back injury ended his athletic career. He returned to Charlotte to work in his father’s firm, but found that the world of accounting didn’t suit him. His father somehow become acquainted with producer Howard Hughes, and after Randolph showed an interest in acting the elder Scott wrote a letter of introduction to Hughes that his son took with him when he left for Hollywood in 1928.
Scott eventually caught the eye of legendary director Cecil B. DeMille, who sent him off to the Pasadena Playhouse to gain acting experience. Scott emerged from the Playhouse as a skilled actor and went on to star in many films in many different genres, but it is the Western that he is most often identified with. A slender and handsome 6 foot 2 with an easy charm and a drawling Southern accent, he became an iconic cowboy hero in the 1930s in films like The Last Round-Up, Wagon Wheels, and High, Wide and Handsome.
He was always the quiet-but-heroic type and never the outlaw. Although the cowboy genre made him a household name, he had several important non-Western roles including Pittsburgh with Marlene Dietrich and John Wayne, Go West, Young Man with Mae West, and even musicals such as Roberta‘ and Follow the Fleet with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Due to his Southern heritage Scott was considered for the role of Ashley Wilkes in Gone with the Wind, but he lost out to Leslie Howard. Another off-type role was in My Favorite Wife with Irene Dunne and Cary Grant.
He and the dashing Grant took to each other immediately and began living together as a bachelor couple, which caused a great deal of gossip in Hollywood circles that the two were homosexual. Whether anything was going on between them has been a source of great speculation, but there was never confirmation; the studio eventually pressured the two to end their arrangement and Scott eventually married. In 1944, he wed Patricia Stillman. The couple adopted two children and remained together until his death.
Scott’s career took off in the 1950’s, and from 1950-53 he was among Hollywood’s Top-Ten box office draws with Westerns like Colt .45, The Stranger Wore a Gun, and Man in the Saddle. After more than thirty years as an actor in over a hundred films he retired and spent lots of time in his hometown of Charlotte, where he became close friends with the Reverend Billy Graham. Randolph Scott died in March 1987 at the age of 89, and was interred at Elmwood Cemetery in Charlotte during a service presided over by Reverend Graham.
He was not one of the most famous actors of Hollywood’s golden age, but he had certainly come a long way from his roots in Dilworth. His visits to Charlotte to see his family and friends were always an occasion for stories in the local press, and he will always be remembered as one of the city’s sons who made good.
Moore, David A. “The Legend of Randolph Scott,” David Aaron Moore: Mystery, History, Murder & the Absurd, 2009. http://davidaaronmoore.blogspot.com/2009/12/legend-of-randolph-scott.html
Morrill, Dan. “Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission survey and research report on the Randolph Scott House,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission, 1988. http://www.cmhpf.org/Properties%20Foundation%20Reports/RScott.html
“Randolph Scott is Dead at 89; Laconic Cowboy-Film Actor.” New York Times, 3 March 1987.
“Randolph Scott Biography.” IMDB. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000068/bio