His stage debut was as a member of Frank Benson's company in 1898, playing in Shakespearean rep alongside actors such as Ellen Terry and Mrs Patrick Campbell. His earliest American work was as an actor and director from 1906, before moving to Hollywood in early 1929 (aged 51) to play older men's roles such as clerics, butlers, doctors, lords and diplomats.
Receiving fewer film roles during the 1940s (though he still managed to have been in over 100 films by 1949), he moved back to Broadway by mid-1940, appearing in Romeo and Juliet as Lord Capulet and continuing there until late 1955. By 1950 he had moved to American television in the diverse playhouse format. He married Nancie B. Marsland. He increased the sunkenness of his cheeks by having his four 12-year-molars removed. When he died from a heart attack he was buried at the Chapel of the Pines Crematory in Los Angeles.