He starred in the 1940 film, Abe Lincoln in Illinois, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Actor category. His other films include Arsenic and Old Lace and The Old Dark House.
He graduated from Balliol College in Oxford and joined the Canadian Army during World War I, later becoming an Army instructor at Yale University.
He appeared in 1964 television ads for the campaign of the Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater of Arizona.
He was married three times and had three children. He had Geoffrey during his first marriage with Margery Fremantle. He had Anna & Daniel during his second marriage with stage actress Adrianne Allen.