• 24 July 1899
  •  Potsdam, New York, USA

Art Ellison


Art Ellison was born in 1899 in Potsdam, New York, and moved in 1914 with his family to Kansas City, Missouri. At the age of 18, he went to work at the Kansas City Power and Light Company (KCP&L) where he was employed in the credit department until he retired in 1966. Ellison got his first acting role in 1924, in a musical comedy held as a benefit for the Kansas City Women's Athletic Club building fund. After this experience on stage he joined the Chanticleer Players, an amateur group in Kansas City offering one act plays. He worked backstage and appeared in the farce pantomimes and tableaux between the acts. In 1930, Ellison joined the amateur Black-Friars, where he played a few leads, some character parts, and handled many other important duties behind the scenes. Much of Ellison's stage career was spent with the local productions of the University of Kansas City Playhouse (which later became the University of Missouri-Kansas City Theater), the Resident Theater, the Missouri Repertory Theater, and the Johnson County, Kansas Playhouse. He also played with the Provincials, the Jewish Community Theater, and Starlight Theater. During World War II, Ellison made USO appearances and recruiting records for the armed forces. He played several roles on "The Air Adventures of Jimmie Allen," a 1940s radio series produced in Kansas City and syndicated nationally, and he had a part in WDAF-TV's first program, as well as other television and radio shows, particularly for Kansas City Power and Light. He also frequently acted in industrial films made by the Calvin Company of Kansas City, as well as in a few made by Centron Corporation of Lawrence, Kansas. He had a role in Centron director Herk Harvey's 1962 feature film "Carnival of Souls," made in Lawrence, and upon his retirement from KCP&L in the mid-1960s, Ellison joined the Actors Equity Association and devoted all his time to acting. Between Kansas City theater performances and industrial films, he gained roles in the Hollywood films "Paper Moon" and "Shoot it Black--Shoot it Blue," and the network TV movies "Friendly Persuasion" and "Mary White," all of which were shot on location in the Kansas/Missouri area and recruited local acting talent. In 1979 Ellison suffered a stroke that prevented him from pursuing any further acting roles for ten years. He passed away in 1994, aged 94. Ellison was respected for his accuracy in mastering dialects and for his make-up ability, received several theater awards, and was well-known in the acting community of Kansas City. His twelve scrapbooks of materials devoted to theater and acting-related activities in Kansas City, dating from 1924 to 1992, are currently archived in the Western Historical Manuscript Collection of the University of Missouri-Kansas City.