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On This Day with Professor Jeff Stein

Anglican Priest to movie star officiate

If you're a movie fan, you may recall the 1934 film "It Happened One Night" and the pivotal scene where would-be bride Claudette Colbert leaves her fiancé at the altar of their garden wedding to run away with Clark Gable.

The man preparing to officiate at the ceremony was Iowa native Neal Dodd. He was a popular choice to play such a role since he was in real life an Anglican priest.

Father Dood first appeared in a film in 1920, the same year he became the founding secretary of the Motion Picture Relief Fund. He was the first clergyman to become a member of the Screen Actors Guild. You may recall him from roles in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," where he played the Senate chaplain, and his last role in 1951, as a priest in "Here Comes the Groom."

He officiated at 300 weddings on film, and more than 700 in real life...including performing the wedding ceremony for Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. He also served as a technical advisor on religious material for several films.

Father Dodd donated all his acting fees to charity. Much of it went to the church he founded with a Christmas Eve mass in 1918, St. Mary of the Angels Anglican Church in Los Angeles. He died in 1966 at age 86; his ashes are interred at the church he built.

He became known as the Padre of Hollywood for the number of roles he played, officiating at weddings. Father Neal Dodd, born in Fort Madison, on this date in 1879.

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