Sunday, December 12, 2010
Silent Film Star: Wallace Beery.
Wallace Fitzgerald Beery (April 1, 1885 – April 15, 1949), performed in 250 movies over a 36-year span.
He was a younger brother of actor/film executive William Beery and actor Noah Beery, who also had long careers in the motion picture industry. He was an uncle of actor, Noah Beery, Jr.
At the age of 16 Wallace Beery ran away from home and joined the Ringling Brothers Circus, as an assistant elephant trainer. He left two years later, after being clawed by a leopard. Beery found work in New York City in comic opera as a baritone and began to appear on Broadway. In 1913, he moved to Chicago to work for Essanay Studios, cast as Sweedie, The Swedish Maid, a character in drag. Later, he worked for the Essanay Studios.
In 1915, Beery starred with his wife Gloria Swanson in, Sweedie Goes to College. This marriage did not survive his drinking . Beery began playing villains, and portrayed Pancho Villa in Patria(1917), at a time when Villa was still active in Mexico. Beery reprised the role seventeen years later in one of MGM's biggest hits.
Wallace Beery's best known silent films: The Lost World (1925), Robin Hood with Douglas Fairbanks, Last of the Mohicans (1920), The Round-Up (1920), Old Ironsides (1926), Now We're in the Air (1927), The Usual Way (1913), Casey at the Bat (1927), and Beggars of Life (1928) with Louise Brooks.
Transition to sound
Irving Thalberg hired him under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as a character actor. Beery appeared in, The Big House(1930), for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor. The same year, he made, Min and Bill. He followed with, The Champ(1931), this time winning the Best Actor Oscar, and the role of Long John Silver in, Treasure Island (1934). The story is about,Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous 1883 novel Treasure Island. Jim Hawkins (Jackie Cooper) discovers a treasure map and travels on a sailing ship to a remote island, but pirates led by Long John Silver (Wallace Beery) threaten to take away the honest seafarers’ riches and lives.
He received a gold medal from the Venice Film Festival for his second performance as Pancho Villa in Viva Villa! (1934) with Fay Wray.
Other Beery films: Billy the Kid (1930), The Secret Six (1931) with Jean Harlow and Clark Gable, Hell Divers (1931) with Gable, Grand Hotel (1932) with Joan Crawford, Tugboat Annie (1933) with Dressler, Dinner at Eight (1933) opposite Harlow, The Bowery with George Raft and Pert Kelton that same year, China Seas (1935) with Gable and Harlow, and Eugene O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness! (1935).
He starred in several comedies with Marie Dressler and Marjorie Main, but his career began to decline in his last decade. In 1943 his brother Noah Beery appeared with him in the war-time film, Salute to the Marines, followed by Bad Bascomb (1946) and The Mighty McGurk (1947).
Beery's first wife was actress Gloria Swanson; the two performed onscreen together. Beery's second wife was Rita Gilman. They adopted Carol Ann, daughter of Rita Beery's cousin. Like his first, this marriage also ended in divorce.
Beery owned and flew his own planes, one a Howard DGA-11. On April 15, 1933 he was commissioned a lieutenant commander in A-V(S), USNR at NRAB Long Beach.
Other Wallace Beery films I have seen:
Treasure Island (1934)
A Date With Judy (1948)