This reliable second lead played gangsters, best friends, neighbors and the occasional romantic hero in countless films and TV shows from 1932 through the 1980s. Talbot's colorful childhood was like something from a melodrama: born on a riverboat, he was abducted by his grandmother after his mother's early death. By his teen years, Talbot was a sideshow magician, and by the late 20s was running The Lyle Talbot Players in Nebraska. When talking pictures became popular, Talbot headed West. The handsome, husky actor with stage training and a broad grin quickly found work.
In the two-year period 1932-34, Talbot made an amazing 28 films, mostly for Warner Brothers and First National. He supported or co-starred with such luminaries as Carole Lombard ("No More Orchids" 1932), Bette Davis ("Three on a Match" 1932, "Fog Over Frisco" 1934 and several others), Ginger Rogers ("The Thirteenth Guest" 1932, "A Shriek in the Night" 1933), Barbara Stanwyck ("The Purchase Price", 1932 "Ladies They Talk About" 1933, "A Lost Lady" 1934), Shirley Temple ("Our Little Girl" 1935), Marion Davies ("Page Miss Glory" 1935), Mae West ("Go West, Young Man" 1936), Susan Hayward ("With a Song in My Heart" 1952), and Marilyn Monroe ("There's No Business Like Show Business" 1954). Joan Blondell, Ann Dvorak and Loretta Young were frequent co-stars, alternately romanced and menaced by Talbot; he even co-starred with The Three Stooges, in 1951's "Gold Raiders".
By the mid-1930s (when he became a founding member of Screen Actors Guild), it was obvious that Talbot would not become a star. His SAG involvement angered some studio heads, but the actor never wanted for employment. He freelanced for both major studios and poverty row houses, making such forgettable fare as "Trapped by Television" (1936), "Mexican Spitfire's Elephant" (1942), "Batman and Robin" (1949), and several films with the notorious director/writer Ed Wood, Jr.: "Glen or Glenda?" and "Crossroad Avenger" (both 1953), "Jailbait" (1954) and "Plan Nine from Outer Space" (1956). Among Talbot's few high-budget films at this point in his career was his last, "Sunrise at Campobello" (1960).
Talbot entered the TV industry early, playing "The Lone Ranger"'s banker on the ABC series (1949-65). He also had continuing roles as an irritating neighbor on "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" (ABC, 1952-66), Bob Cummings' Army buddy on "Love That Bob" (NBC, CBS, 1955-59) and roles on "Commando Cody" (NBC, 1955), "Leave It To Beaver" (CBS, ABC, 1957-63), "Pursuit" (CBS, 1958-59) and "Ben Jerrod" (NBC, 1963). He continued working on TV through the 1980s, guesting on such shows as "Alfred Hitchcock Presents", "Charlie's Angels", "Who's the Boss?" and his swan song, as Stephanie's grandfather on "Newhart".
Talbot never gave up his love of the stage, and as early as the mid-30s took time off from films to appear in shows. Talbot was on Broadway from 1938-40 in "Separate Rooms", and later appeared in regional productions of "South Pacific" and "The Odd Couple" (both 1968-69), "The Little Foxes" (1970), and "Camelot" (1973). In 1972, he directed his TV co-stars Ozzie and Harriet Nelson in "The Marriage-Go-Round" in Florida. Talbot was retired professionally, but still active socially and working on his memoirs when he died at 94 in 1996.