February 20 – Happy Birthday Malcolm Atterbury Jr.

112039145_137081903686I went all through elementary school, junior and senior high with a kid named Jeff Hardies. His dad was Charles Hardies Jr, an Amsterdam lawyer who would later become Montgomery County DA. Since Jeff and I lived just a few blocks from each other we used to pal around as kids. His Mom was a lot stricter than mine so I’d usually have to go over to his house instead of him coming to mine, which was fine with me since his backyard was bigger and he had a lot more toys and games than I did. One afternoon we were hitting plastic golf balls in his back yard and he told me his Aunt and Uncle were Hollywood television actors. I clearly remember thinking he was full of baloney and I most likely even told him so at the time.

So about a half-century later I’m searching for names of folks from Amsterdam who were born on February 20th so I can add them to my Birthday blog. I Googled, “born on February 20”  and hit “return” forgetting to add “Amsterdam, NY” as part of my search query. The name of the actor “Malcolm Atterbury” showed up somewhere in the results. I remembered his name and wanted to attach a face to it so I did a search on “Malcolm Atterbury” and found an old article about the actor written by Bob Cudmore for the Schenectady Gazette. Atterbury was a character actor who starred in several movies and TV shows back in the fifties and sixties. What I didn’t know until I read Cudmore’s piece was that Atterbury had married a girl from Amsterdam. Her name was Ellen. The two of them met in an acting school in New York City, fell in love and got hitched. Ellen’s last name was Hardies. Her father was Charles Hardies Sr, a former Montgomery County DA and Judge who also happened to be the father of Charles Hardies Jr. That made Ellen Hardies my buddy Jeff’s aunt and her husband Malcolm Atterbury, Jeff’s uncle.

According to the Cudmore article, Judge Hardies owned a camp up on Lake Pleasant near Speculator. Ellen and her new spouse summered there the year they were married. Malcolm fell in love with the place and decided he wanted to build and operate a summer theater in that area. They called it the Tamarac Playhouse. It attracted an impressive mix of young acting talent including Karl Malden and Amsterdam native Isadore Demsky. In fact, it was while he was working at Tamarac that Demsky decided to change his name to Kirk Douglas.

In 1941 Malcolm and Ellen stuck around Amsterdam for the winter. They moved into a home on …

I’ve already started work on the second volume of “A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam Birthdays” and Malcolm and Ellen Atterbury’s complete story will be featured in it. I will be sharing the complete posts of some of the Volume II birthday celebrants in future issues of the Amsterdam Birthday Blog Newsletter. If you are not yet a newsletter subscriber, you can sign up for free here.

This former Amsterdam-born amateur boxing champion was also born on February 20th.

One thought on “February 20 – Happy Birthday Malcolm Atterbury Jr.

  1. I devoted a good chunk of a chapter on him in my book “Where Do We Find Such Men”, mostly about his touring army camps for the USO with his stock company during WWII. Though he got no screen credit for North By Northwest, he set up one of the most iconic scenes in the film by remarking to Cary Grant, “That’s funny. They’re dusting crops where there ain’t no crops.”


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