The son of a Brooklyn, New York, stage manager, McCutcheon acted in some theatrical productions and also directed two films for Biograph in 1908 (At the Crossroads of Life and At the French Ball) before entering the British army at the outbreak of World War I. He later transferred to the British Royal Flying Corps where his battlefield heroics earned him the rank of major. Shortly after sustaining a severe head injury in combat, McCutcheon was dismissed from active service and returned to America with a metal plate in his skull. In 1917, the war hero married actress Pearl White, famous star of the 1914 Pathe serial The Perils of Pauline. Together they appeared in the 1919 serial The Black Secret and The Thief (1920). She divorced him in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1921.
Depressed and unemployed throughout most of the 1920s, the 47-year-old actor shot himself through the right temple with a large caliber handgun in his room at 6326 Lexington Avenue in Hollywood on January 27, 1928. At the scene, authorities found two cents, several newspaper clippings related to Pearl White's activities abroad, and a note from McCutcheon that read, "Have a drink," under a half-filled gin bottle.