“The Shining’s Delbert Grady – Philip Stone’s Most Famous Role”

I have watched Oscar and BAFTA award winning director, Stanley Kubrick’s modern day horror classic “The Shining” numerous times over the years. Each time I view it, I sit riveted in front of my television screen, knowing full well the ending, but still opting to take the descending journey into madness with the Overlook Hotel’s caretaker, Jack Torrance. I would imagine most who watch the film know that Torrance is portrayed by three time Academy Award winner Jack Nicholson, who, per his usual, acquits himself excellently in the role. In this film based on bestselling author Stephen King’s novel, there is, however, another actor that perhaps not as many people know about. The actor I am referring to is Philip Stone, the subject of this blog, and the man who appears as former Overlook caretaker, Delbert Grady. A role, that while there is no denying is short in terms of its screen duration, is paramount in regard to putting Nicholson’s character on a destructive path from which there is no return.

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Philip Stone was born on April 14, 1924 in Kirkstall, Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. The only difference between his birth name and the one he used as a professional actor was the removal of the letter ‘s’ from his last name, thus changing it from Stones to Stone. Those who were familiar with him, no doubt spotted him throughout the years in a variety of roles. In fact, in addition to being a prolific stage actor, his resume lists 106 different television and film productions that he was a part of during his career, including roles on television shows such as: “The Avengers” as Dr. Richard J. Tredding; “Coronation Street” as Detective Sergeant Sowman; “The Rat Catchers” as Brigadier Davidson; and as Sir John Gallagher on the show “Justice.”  He also played: the father of Malcolm McDowell’s villainous character Alex, in “A Clockwork Orange;” portrayed real life German general, Alfred Jodl, in the  film “Hitler: The Last Ten Days;was the Lyndon family lawyer, Graham, in “Barry Lyndon; and made an appearance as Captain Blumburtt in Oscar winning director Steven Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.”

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Stone dropped out of school at a young age to go to work at the Jonas Woodhead & Sons engineering firm in Leeds where he lived. When his country needed him in 1943, he answered the call, and served admirably in the Royal Air Force, during the Second World War. Prior to his military service, his love of acting took shape when he attended some drama classes at Leeds College. After returning from the war, he made up his mind to become a member of the acting profession, and proceeded to go after roles with an unrelenting zeal.

His first big break came in 1947 when he landed a supporting part in the play “The Sleeping Clergyman,” which was being staged at the Criterion Theatre. Sadly, however, his dreams would be put on hold for several years, due to his contracting tuberculosis. After going through the necessary treatment, he returned to work at the engineering company, but acting remained his first love. In 1953, he began to both act in and direct local productions at the Leeds Arts Centre, where he would wind up meeting and marrying Margaret Pickard, with whom he would have three children. In 1960, he moved to London, to make his mark. It was in London, where his career as an in demand character actor in television and film truly began to burgeon, and continued to flourish from that moment onward, until his passing on June 15, 2003. For a time, he also ran his own production company, “Philip Stone Productions,” 

While writing this blog, I stopped to ask myself the following question: What did I find so intriguing about Delbert Grady, that I would want to look into the life of the character actor who played him? At first it seems easy enough to dismiss Grady’s presence as nothing more than another vivid figment of Torrance’s imagination, like, for instance, Lloyd the Bartender (Joe Turkel). After all, Jack’s a recovering alcoholic, who’s been sober for less than a year, snowed in at a hotel, located miles from civilization and the nearest bar, even if he did feel like getting off the wagon to knock back some shots, or drink a few cold ones. In addition, the peace and quiet that was supposed to give him the requisite time to work on and complete his novel appears to be having the opposite effect; so who could really blame the guy if he was suffering from cabin fever – –  regardless of how big the cabin is. Therefore why should I spend so much time reflecting on the conversation that Grady has with Jack in the bathroom?

Warning: For those of you who have not seen the film, and want to, there are spoilers contained throughout the remainder of the blog.

For starters, Jack not only enlightens Grady regarding the horrid manner in which Grady disposed of his own family, but he also tells him that he, Grady, was the former caretaker of the Overlook. At first Grady denies having any such memory of serving in that occupation, but when Torrance pushes him on the issue, he is none too pleased. The following exchange of dialogue, although simplistic in the words that are spoken, has always been one of the main catalysts for my contemplations about “The Shining” after each viewing.

“Mr. Grady, you were the caretaker here.”

“I am sorry to differ with you sir, but you are the caretaker, you’ve always been the caretaker. I should know sir, I have always been here.”

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Rather than go into explanation, as to the meaning of the line, Grady informs Torrance that his son Danny (Danny Lloyd) has a special ability, one much greater perhaps than Jack has ever realized. Not only does he have an unusual gift, but he is attempting to use his ‘shining power’ to contact the Overlook’s cook, Dick Hallorann, (Scatman Crothers) to help save the day. Torrance admits that his son is a willful boy, but that a great deal of the blame falls on his wife, Wendy (Shelly Duvall) who interferes in things. After suggesting to Torrance that he speak with his family, he takes things a step further and says perhaps talking is not enough. Using cryptic language, thereby never actually using the words ‘murder’ or ‘kill,’ Grady informs Torrance that his girls didn’t like the Overlook, and one of them stole a pack of matches in an attempt to burn the hotel down. Furthermore, he lets Torrance know that he not only corrected her, but when his wife tried to keep him from carrying out his responsibilities, he corrected her as well.

If it were merely the one conversation Torrance had with Grady in the bathroom, preceded by several occasions of craving liquor so much that he conjured up a bartender named Lloyd, I would dismiss it all to be nothing more than meaningless delusions; the potency of Jack’s overactive imagination creating conversations he would forget about after a good night’s sleep . . . but not so fast. Danny and Wendy also see and hear strange ghostly images of figures from the Overlook Hotel’s notorious history. These ghostly figures let me as a viewer know that what is taking place is not just imagination, but the awakening of the dormant evil that is trapped inside the hotel. For example, Grady’s brutally murdered twin girls (Lisa & Louise Burns) appear to Danny several times throughout the movie, at one point imploring him to stay with them so they can all play together forever. There is also the tuxedo attired, injured man, (Norman Gay) who has blood caked down the front of his face, but still raises his cocktail glass to Wendy and says, “great party isn’t it,”  Not to mention the literal river of blood that erupts forth from the elevator as Wendy is frantically searching the hotel to find Danny.

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Why does Grady say those lines to Torrance in the bathroom? Why would Jack Torrance have always been the caretaker, and how has Grady always been with the hotel? There is no explanation given; it is left to the viewer to speculate. The same way, the final frame of the film, made my jaw drop the first time I viewed it, as the camera focuses in on a picture which reads: “Overlook Hotel, July 4th Ball, 1921.” The picture speaks theoretical volumes, but, just like the conversation, offers no clear cut, concise information. The only concrete thing I was able to take away from the photo was that Jack Torrance looks exactly the same in 1921 as he does in the present; once again leaving further speculation up for discussion. I would love to hear any of your thoughts regarding those or any other aspects of the film.

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About robbinsrealm

I was born in Smithtown, New York, and grew up, worked, and lived in various areas of Long Island before moving to Boca Raton, Florida where I now make my home. In addition to being an aspiring writer, I am also an English teacher. I have a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master’s Degree in Education, both from Adelphi University in Garden City, New York. In my spare time you will find me engrossed in books, watching movies, socializing with friends, or just staying active.
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29 Responses to “The Shining’s Delbert Grady – Philip Stone’s Most Famous Role”

  1. Tom says:

    A very interesting post Robbin, nice insight. I do hold that bathroom scene in high regard myself, but as to speculation on the things that go on, I do not want to say because the mystery is what makes this film so much fun!

  2. robbinsrealm says:

    Thank you for reading and commenting; it is most appreciated. I am glad you found the blog interesting.

  3. A tribute to the man who played Delbert Grady! Nice choice, Robbin. Well done. ML

  4. robbinsrealm says:

    Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

  5. Awesome article!! It’s nice to see another actor, in a Jack Nicholson film, get some love. I haven’t seen The Shining in years. I’ll have to watch it again.

    • robbinsrealm says:

      Thank you very much for reading my blog and your compliment regarding my work. I greatly appreciate your taking the time to do both. Of course, I think Nicholson is a phenomenal actor, but both his character and the film itself has been written and spoken about countless times. I don’t know if you saw the movie “Room 237,” but the entire film deals with a select group of people and their opinions regarding the hidden meanings that, they feel, speak to what Kubrick was really trying to say to the viewer about “The Shining.”

  6. I’ve never seen that “Room 237”. I have Amazon Prime, and it looks like it’s available for streaming. I’ll have to check it out!

  7. caragale says:

    LOVE The Shining and LOVE creepy, creepy Mr. Grady! Nice to learn so much more about the actor. Great job! 🙂

    • robbinsrealm says:

      I love “The Shining” also. I wanted to pay tribute to the film, but at the same time do something other than just adding my own critique of the movie, or discussing whether or not I agree or disagree with the theories that have been put forth in discussions regarding the movie’s hidden meanings. That is how I came up with the idea to explore the actor who played Grady.

      Thank you for reading and for your compliment. Both are very much appreciated.

  8. Pingback: The Liebster Award | Return to the 80s

  9. Jame Dunkt says:

    Thanks for your enjoyable musings, Robbin. I’ve always thought that Philip Stone’s performance is one of the highlights of the film. He plays the part so well, and delivers his lines with such confidence and presence. And what great lines he has–the conversation in the bathroom with Nicolson is one of those compelling dialogue scenes that stay in the memory. Stone isn’t in the slightest overshadowed by Nicolson’s almost pantomimic outpourings and reactions. I think that Kubrick has got it absolutely right, how the camera switches from one character to the other as the scene plays out, and as the Stone character shifts from obsequiousness to dominance while Nicolson’s moves from a cocky interrogating to some sort of shocked, crazy acceptance of the role he is to play in the regime of terrible malice that pervades The Overlook. He’s hooked in to The Overlook’s spiral down in to doom now, and he doesn’t know that his fate is to try to murder those he was once close to before he himself is sacrificed and then absorbed in to its phantom world. This is creepiness of the first order!

    I’ve always thought that the evil entity (whatever it is) which lurks ever-present In The Overlook and brings about madness and tragedy over and over again to those unlucky enough to be there when it wells up in the dark, cold winters, actually absorbs it’s victims in to some sort of ghostly time warp. That time warp is 1921, and you are integrated in to its phantom era when you yourself have become both victim and perpetrator. That’s why all the victim-perpetrators are ghostly participants in scenes set in a sort of phantom 1921 which transcends itself in to the human world over and over again each time winter comes and there are newcomers to prey on. That’s why Lloyd the bartender and Delbert Grady the waiter and every other spectral presence in The Overlook is rooted in this other-worldly 1921. There are little flashes which hint that bad things, really bad things, happened at The Outlook in 1921, during the big new year’s party. The man man with cleaved, stitched head who jocularly remarks “Great party!” Is one of the unsettling hints of depravity and carnage. And so finally Jack Torrance, having become a perpetrator of brutal murder and a victim of the madness which inevitably ends in the deaths of all those absorbed in to the evil in The Overlook, is himself absorbed in to the spectral embrace of the never-ending new year’s party of 1921 at The Overlook. That’s why he becomes part of the photograph of the new year’s party of 1921.

    That’s my stab at the enigma of the final zoom-in to the photograph.

    • robbinsrealm says:

      Thank you very much for reading and commenting. I greatly appreciate it. I also want to thank you for sharing your interesting thoughts on both the scene between Stone and Nicholson, and your theory regarding the hotel.

  10. Jame Dunkt says:

    In reading about The Shining since I wrote the words above, I see that the party at The Overlook is a 4th July event and not a new year’s party.

  11. Kristie says:

    Wow! Awesome article on Mr Grady! It’s al

  12. Kristie says:

    Wow! Awesome article on Delbert Grady! Also nice to know other people found the movie as intriguing, yet puzzling at times, as me! I’ve bee a fan of this movie for the longest and happened to find it on DVD out here in Louisiana where I’m from! Once again, thx for posting this blog! It really helped my suspense…

    • robbinsrealm says:

      Thank you so very much for taking time out of your day to not only read my blog, but to write your wonderful compliment, it is greatly appreciated. I love the movie, but since there has been so much written about it the film itself, as well as all of the conspiracy theories regarding the movie, I wanted to write about it from a different perspective. I have always been interested in the character of Delbert Grady, so I figured why not explore the life of the actor who played him.

  13. Ted Merriweather says:

    I’ve watched “The Shining” many times, and I have always enjoyed Phillip Stone’s performance as Delbert Grady. Thanks for this blog post.

    • robbinsrealm says:

      You’re welcome! I thank you very much for reading and commenting on my blog,

      I love the movie, and I think Stone’s short, but impactful performance as Delbert Grady was worth exploring in greater detail; that is the main reason I wrote the blog.

  14. filmfunkel says:

    Stone is such an unsung hero in this film. He doesn’t call attention to himself and yet no one ever forgets him. Excellent bio-post, I’m glad none of your details needed “cor-r-r-recting”! 😀

    The booze (also known as ‘spirits’) plays an odd role as Jack never actually drinks it. Jack, dancing away from the bar, is immediately bumped by Grady & they both go to the bathroom.

    Grady hands down new marching orders for Jack to follow. As Jack acquiesces, he comes ‘under the influence’ and the conversation symbolizes Jack’s ‘imbibing’ of the Overlook Spirits.

    Grady is the evil in the area from before the Overlook was built. He either
    A) Assigns Jack a role of caretaker reserved for him
    B) Invokes fate by saying Jack’s always been the caretaker or
    C) Jack might be a reincarnation summoned back for re-possession. He also could be a descendant of his look-alike in the picture.

    Need to watch this again soon. 🙂

  15. robbinsrealm says:

    He really is a great addition to a fantastic film, and as you stated he doesn’t call attention to himself, but his presence is palpable. The reasons you gave, as to why Grady exists, are excellent. I had never considered choice B before, so I am glad you gave me something new to think about regarding the movie.

    Thank you very much for reading and for your compliment on my post.

  16. James says:

    I believe Delbert is the devil. Thus the line “I’ve always been here. ” He is my favorite character in the movie and I so appreciate you giving the devil his due, so to speak. Love Phillips and love Delbert. Thank you again!

    • robbinsrealm says:

      Interesting thought about Mr. Grady being the devil, that is a line of thinking that I’ve never entertained.

      Thank you so very much for taking the time to read and comment. I greatly appreciate it.

  17. Scott says:

    In King’s earlier novels, the underlying themes usually involve “History Repeats”. The hotel was built on an indian burial which provided like a ghost corporate hiearchy. Movie did not explain this too well except at the end where Wendy views room with the skeletons.

  18. Kate Stones says:

    Hello Robbin, I only just discovered this wonderful article and thread about my father, Philip Stone. What a thoughtful and generous tribute. Thank you so much. This scene with Jack is undeniably one of dad’s greatest moments on screen, and as a performer myself, I find it fascinating to watch what dad does with his body and face, to turn the power balance of the scene around. When he says “I’m sorry to differ with you sir, but YOU are the caretaker…” he simply moves his chin down by about a centimeter and everything shifts gear! At the beginning of the scene he very much plays himself – diffident and kindly, fussing over spillages – that’s how he was. But he had an under current of rage that was never expressed in his daily life, that enabled him to play those psychological heavyweights – Nazis, spys, interrogators, detectives, archbishops and psychopaths, with that relentless stillness, which was such a great contrast to Jack in that scene. I think the way he delivers the line ‘nigger cook’ is so chilling too – brutal, with that light tenor voice of his.
    A biographical note – I only have one brother, there was no third child in the family. My brother Matthew was born in 1963, and myself in 1967. I’m currently working up a solo piece using the character of Medea as a starting point of reference – looking at female violence and infanticide, so the nature of violence and evil are on my mind at the moment.
    All the best! Kate Stones

  19. George Thomson says:

    What if Jack froze to death in the maze then after dying his body leaves his soul, now he’s a ghost looking down at his frozen dead body in complete shock. He heads back to the overlook in denial of seeing himself frozen stiff covered in ice and snow “Just gotta get warm and I’ll be fine”. Upon entering the huge double doors and walking in the Colorado lounge Jack pulls up a chair and sits at the roaring fire in an attempt to get warm after a good 30 minutes the ice and snow are dripping off him and he’s damp and still ice cold despite the fact her been sitting in right of the fire.”Well that’s just great, Jack said I’m gonna catch a cold, I can’t be sick I’m the caretaker until May 5th, how can I do my job if I get sick, I need a drink ” so he heads for the gold room and Lloyd is behind the bar asks “what’ll it be” Jack said “ohhh I’ll have a shot of Jack Daniels and some ice” Lloyd said “Very well sir”.Jack goes into his wallet to hand Lloyd a $20 and said “keep em comming, that should cover I for a while” Lloyd said “Your moneys no good sir, drinks on the house”. Jack felt as if Lloyd and him had a similar conversation in the past , he was about to say ” I’m the kinda man who likes to know who’s buying my drinks Lloyd ” but knew Lloyd would just say “its not a matter that concerns you, at least not at this moment in time” so he just” said “I’m not gonna argue with that “. Jack said ” Lloyd another shot please if its not too much trouble” Lloyd said “No trouble at all sir” suddenly the gold room went from just jack and Lloyd in it to a full party of people dressed in 1920’s style fashion. Jack gets up to go to the toilet when he spots Grady, who is a tray of advocat walks into jack and spills on his jacket. Jack gets a weird feeling of dejavu Grady said “oh I’m terribly sorry sir, its advocat om afraid it tends to stain a little water should do the trick, now sir if you don’t mind following me to the toilet” but Grady had wanted to get Jack in the toilet to speak to him in private “there we are sir good as new”
    Jack said “You cant tell me that spilling the advocat on me was an accident now because I know you’ve done it too me before we were standing right here about two months ago having a conversation” . Grady said” your correct sir I had to have word in private with you about a matter of concern, I see you didn’t take care off the matter at hand you let your wife and son outsmart you” jack said ” where is Wendy and Danny anyway Grady said ” you let them get away sir your 5 year old son outsmarted you and got away with his mother in the vehicle that cook came up in they left you to die in the snow, at least you got him that’s one concellation I suppose”
    Jack said ” you mean I’m dead” Grady said “yes you failed and your stuck here forever”. Then suddenly the Grady twins appeared in the toilets and just looked at each other and grinded said “forever and ever and ever ” then walked towards the wall and disappeared through it. Jack said “nothing I can do about it now think ill get head to the bar and get a few shots for the shock eh Grady” Grady said “quite right sir” Jack said “I think we’ve spent enough time in here we had better get out otherwise Lloyd night think were queer” Grady smiled and said ” that’s a good point sir”.

  20. Hi there, I really enjoyed reading your article about Philip Stone and the comments that follow. Have a good day! best wishes from London, UK.

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