Jean Hersholt

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Jean Hersholt
Jean Hersholt 1929.jpg
Hersholt in 1929
Jean Pierre Carl Buron [1]

(1886-07-12)12 July 1886
Copenhagen, Denmark
Died2 June 1956(1956-06-02) (aged 69)
Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California
Other namesJean Pierre Hersholt
Jean Buron Hersholt
Years active1906–1955
Via Hersholt
(m. 1914)
Children2 sons

Jean Pierre Carl Buron (12 July 1886 – 2 June 1956), known professionally as Jean Hersholt, was a Danish-American actor. He is best known for starring on the radio series Dr. Christian (1937–1954) and in the film Heidi (1937). [2] Asked how to pronounce his name, he told The Literary Digest , "In English, her'sholt; in Danish, hairs'hult." [3] Of his total credits, 75 were silent films and 65 were sound films (140 total); he directed four.


Early life

Hersholt was born Jean Pierre Carl Buron in Copenhagen, Denmark. Hersholt claimed to be born into a family of actors, [4] but in reality, both of his parents Henri Pierre Buron, the son of a French Catholic father and a Danish Protestant mother, and Clara (née Petersen), the daughter of a Danish Protestant father and a Danish Jewish mother, were hairdressers, though the father later was a cigar and wine retailer/vendor. [5] Hersholt appeared in two of the first short films of Danish film studio Nordisk Film in 1906, but did not find much success in his early years in Denmark. [6]

He was embroiled in a scandal surrounding the so-called "big sexual offence trial" in Copenhagen 1906/07 as an informant for the tabloid newspaper Middagsposten. [5] The ensuing moral panic and outing of several prominent men as homosexuals eventually involved Hersholt (then Buron), who was barely out of his teen years.. He reported to the police, admitted to prostitution, and was sentenced to 8 months in prison. [5]

Hersholt emigrated to the United States in 1913, and spent the remainder of his acting career in America.


Promotional flyer for Seattle station KIRO Drchristianad.jpg
Promotional flyer for Seattle station KIRO

Hersholt's best-remembered film roles include Marcus Schouler in Erich von Stroheim's 1924 Greed and Shirley Temple's beloved grandfather in the 1937 film version of the 1880 children's book, Heidi , written by Swiss author Johanna Spyri. During his long career in the movies, his roles ran the gamut from early silent villains to secondary parts in which his mild Danish accent and pleasant voice suited him to depict a succession of benevolent fathers, doctors, professors, and European noblemen. Hersholt's last role was in the 1955 movie Run for Cover .[ citation needed ]

In The Country Doctor (1936), a movie starring the Dionne quintuplets, Hersholt portrayed Dr. John Luke, a character based on Dr. Allan Roy Dafoe, the Canadian obstetrician who delivered and cared for the Dionne quintuplets. Two sequels followed. Hersholt wanted to do the role on radio, but could not get the rights. He decided to create his own doctor character for radio, and since he was a Hans Christian Andersen enthusiast, he borrowed that name for his character of the philosophical Dr. Paul Christian who practiced in the Midwest town of River's End with the assistance of Nurse Judy Price. With the opening theme music of "Rainbow on the River", Dr. Christian was introduced on CBS on 7 November 1937 on The Vaseline Program, or Dr. Christian's Office and later Dr. Christian.[ citation needed ]

The small-town physician's good humor, innate common sense, and scientific training helped drive off a series of villainous types who tried to interfere with the peaceful lifestyle of River's End. Produced by Dorothy McCann, the radio series became a popular long-running hit, continuing on CBS until 6 January 1954, with Hersholt so strongly identified with the role that he received mail asking for medical advice. Various spin-offs were produced, as Hersholt co-wrote a Dr. Christian novel and made a series of six family films as Christian from 1939 to 1941, for instance Dr. Christian Meets the Women in 1940. In 1956, his Dr. Christian character made the transition to television, scripted by Gene Roddenberry, with Macdonald Carey as his nephew Dr. Mark Christian. From the '30s through the '50s, Neil Reagan, brother of Ronald Reagan, directed the radio series Dr. Christian, starring Jean Hersholt.

In 1939, Hersholt helped form the Motion Picture Relief Fund to support industry employees with medical care when they were down on their luck. The fund was used to create the Motion Picture Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California, and it led to the creation in 1956 of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, an honorary Academy Award given to an "individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry". [7]

As president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Hersholt presented American film industry founders Colonel William N. Selig, Albert E. Smith, George K. Spoor, and Thomas Armat with special awards on the 20th anniversary of the academy's founding on March 20, 1948. [8]

Hersholt's large collection of Hans Christian Andersen books is now in the Library of Congress. He translated over 160 of Andersen's fairy tales into the English language. These were published in 1949 in six volumes as The Complete Andersen, this work is "... rated as the standard translation, being one of the best" in English. [9] Hersholt was appointed a knight of the Order of the Dannebrog in 1948, partly due to this endeavor. [10]

Hersholt appeared as the mystery guest on the popular CBS panel/quiz show What's My Line? on August 31, 1952.


Hersholt married Via Andersen on 11 April 1914. They had one son: Allan Hersholt.[ citation needed ]

He was the paternal half-uncle (by marriage) of actor Leslie Nielsen and former Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Erik Nielsen. [11]


Jean Hersholt's grave at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California Jean Hersholt grave at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California.JPG
Jean Hersholt's grave at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California

Hersholt died of cancer in Hollywood in 1956, and is interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. His grave is marked with a statue of Klods-Hans (English: Clumsy Hans), a Hans Christian Andersen character who left home to find his way in the world — much as Hersholt himself had done. [12]

Honors and awards

Hersholt was honored for his services to the industry twice with an honorary Academy Award, first in 1940 and the second time in 1950, and in his honor the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award was named by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. [13] He is one of only 11 people with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with one at 6501 Hollywood Boulevard for his work in motion pictures and another one at 6701 Hollywood Boulevard for his work in radio.

Selected filmography

1915The DiscipleMob Memberuncredited
1916Bullets and Brown Eyes
1916 Hell's Hinges Bartenderuncredited
1916 The Aryan Reginald BarkerClifford Smith
1916Kinkaid, Gambler
1916The Desert
1917 Black Orchids Rex Ingram
1917 Fighting for Love Ferdinand Raymond Wells
1917 Love Aflame Reginald Raymond Wells
1917 The Terror Jimm, the Dope Raymond Wells
1917The Saintly Sinner
1917Perils of the Secret ServicePrince Feodorserial; episode #2
1917 Southern Justice Caleb Talbot Lynn Reynolds
1917 The Greater Law Lynn Reynolds
1917 The Soul Herder The Parson John Ford Short
1917 The Show Down Parkes Lynn Reynolds
1917 A Stormy Knight Dr. Fraser Elmer Clifton
1917 '49-'17 'Gentleman Jim' Raynor
1917 Princess Virtue Emile Carre Robert Z. Leonard
1918 Madame Spy Count Von Ornstorff Douglas Gerrard
1918The AnswerShepard
1918 Little Red Decides Jack Conway
1919Whom the Gods Would Destroy
1919 Love's Prisoner Party Guest John Francis Dillion uncredited
1920The Red LaneVetal Beaulieu
1920 Merely Mary Ann Stranger Edward J. Le Saint
1920 The Golden Trail Harry Teal Lewis H. Moomaw
1920The Deceiver
1921 The Servant in the House Manson, The Servant in the House Jack Conway
1920 The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Professor von Hartrott Rex Ingram uncredited
1921 A Certain Rich Man Adrian Brownwell Howard Hickman
1921 The Man of the Forest Lem Beasley Howard Hickman
1922 When Romance Rides Joel CreechJean Hersholt
1922 Heart's Haven Henry Bird Benjamin B. Hampton
1922 Tess of the Storm Country Ben Letts John S. Robertson
1922 The Strangers' Banquet Fiend Marshall Neilan
1923 Jazzmania Prince Otto of Como Robert Z. Leonard
1923 Quicksands Ring Member Jack Conway
1923 Red Lights Ezra Carson Clarence G. Badger
1923 Souls for Sale Himself Rupert Hughes
1924 Torment Boris Scott R. Beal (assistant director)
1924 The Goldfish Herman Krauss Jerome Storm
1924 The Woman on the Jury Jury Foreman Harry O. Hoyt
1924 Sinners in Silk Dr. Eustace Hobart Henley
1924 Her Night of Romance Joe Diamond Sidney Franklin
1924 Greed Marcus Erich von Stroheim
1924 Cheap Kisses Gustaf Borgstrom Cullen Tate
1924 So Big Aug Hempel Charles Brabin
1925 Dangerous Innocence Gilchrist William A. Seiter
1925 Fifth Avenue Models a Crook Svend Gade
1925 If Marriage Fails Dr. Mallini John Ince
1925 Don Q Son of Zorro Don Fabrique Donald Crisp
1925 A Woman's Faith Jules Cluny Edward Laemmle
1925 Stella Dallas Ed Munn Henry King
1926 The Greater Glory Gustav SchmidtCurt Rehfeld
1926 My Old Dutch 'Erb 'Uggins Laurence Trimble
1926 It Must Be Love Pop Schmidt Alfred E. Green
1926 Flames Ole BergsonLewis H. Moomaw
1926 The Old Soak Clement Hawley, Sr. Edward Sloman
1927 The Wrong Mr. Wright Seymour White Scott Sidney
1927 Alias the Deacon George Caswell aka The Deacon Edward Sloman
1927 The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg Dr. Jüttner Ernst Lubitsch
1928 13 Washington Square 'Deacon' Pyecroft Melville W. Brown
1928 The Secret Hour Tony Rowland V. Lee
1928 Abie's Irish Rose Solomon Levy Victor Fleming
1928 Jazz Mad Franz Hausmann F. Harmon Weight
1928 The Battle of the Sexes William Judson D. W. Griffith
1928 Give and Take Factory Owner William Beaudine
1929 Girl on the Barge McCadden Edward Sloman
1929 The Younger Generation Pa Frank Capra
1929 Modern Love François Renault Arch Heath
1930 The Climax Luigi Golfanti Renaud Hoffman
1930 The Case of Sergeant Grischa Posnanski Ray Lissner (assistant)
1930 Mamba August Bolte Albert S. Rogell Mamba
1930 Hell Harbor Joseph Horngold Henry King
1930 East Is West Man Monta Bell
1930 A Soldier's Plaything Grandfather Rittner Michael Curtiz uncredited
1930 The Cat Creeps Dr. Patterson Rupert Julian
1930 The Third Alarm Frank 'Dad' Morton Emory Johnson
1930 Viennese Nights Elsa's Father Alan Crosland
1931 Daybreak Herr Schnabel Jacques Feyder
1931 Transatlantic Rudolph aka Jed Kramer William K. Howard
1931 The Phantom of Paris Herman John S. Robertson
1931 Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise) Karl Ohlin Robert Z. Leonard
1931 The Sin of Madelon Claudet Dr. Dulac Edgar Selwyn
1931 Private Lives Oscar Sidney Franklin
1932 Emma Mr. Frederick Smith Clarence Brown
1932 The Beast of the City Sam Belmonte Charles Brabin
1932 Are You Listening? George Wagner
1932 Grand Hotel Senf, the Porter Edmund Goulding
1932 Night Court the Janitor W. S. Van Dyke
1932 New Morals for Old James Hallett Charles Brabin
1932 Unashamed Heinrich Schmidt Harry Beaumont
1932 Skyscraper Souls Jake Sorenson Edgar Selwyn
1932 Hearts of Humanity Sol Bloom Christy Cabanne
1932 The Mask of Fu Manchu Von Berg Charles Vidor
1932 Flesh Mr. Herman John Ford
1933 The Crime of the Century Dr. Emil Brandt William Beaudine
1933 Song of the Eagle Otto Hoffman Ralph Murphy
1933 Dinner at Eight Jo Stengel George Cukor
1933 Christopher Bean Rosen Sam Wood
1934 The Cat and the Fiddle Professor Sam Wood (uncredited)
1934 Men in White Dr. 'Hockie' Hochberg Ryszard Bolesławski
1934 The Fountain Baron Van Leyden John Cromwell
1934 The Painted Veil Herr Koerber Richard Boleslawski
1935 Mark of the Vampire Baron Otto Tod Browning
1935 Break of Hearts Professor Thalma Philip Moeller
1935 Murder in the Fleet Victor Hanson Edward Sedgwick
1936 Tough Guy Veterinarian Chester Franklin
1936 The Country Doctor Dr. John Luke Henry King
1936 Sins of Man Christopher Freyman Gregory Ratoff
1936 His Brother's Wife Professor Fahrenheim W. S. Van Dyke
1936 Reunion Dr. John Luke
1936 One in a Million Heinrich Muller Sidney Lanfield
1937 Seventh Heaven Father Chevillon Henry King
1937 Heidi Adolph Kramer / Grandfather Allan Dwan
1938 Happy Landing Herr Lars Ericksen Roy Del Ruth
1938 Alexander's Ragtime Band Professor Heinrich Henry King
1938 I'll Give a Million Victor Walter Lang
1938 Five of a Kind Dr. John Luke Herbert I. Leeds
1939 Mr. Moto in Danger Island Sutter Herbert I. Leeds
1939 Meet Dr. Christian Dr. Paul Christian Bernard Vorhaus
1940 The Courageous Dr. Christian Dr. Paul Christian Bernard Vorhaus
1940 Dr. Christian Meets the Women Dr. Paul Christian William C. McGann
1940 Remedy for Riches Dr. Paul Christian Erle C. Kenton
1941 Melody for Three Dr. Paul Christian Erle C. Kenton
1941 They Meet Again Dr. Paul Christian Erle C. Kenton
1943 Stage Door Canteen Himself Frank Borzage
1949 Dancing in the Dark Jean Hersholt Irving Reis
1955 Run for Cover Mr. Swenson Nicholas Ray

Radio appearances

1943 Lady Esther Screen Guild Theatre Men in White [14]

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  2. Obituary Variety , 6 June 1956, p. 63.
  3. Funk, Charles Earle (1936). What's the Name, Please? A Guide to the Correct Pronunciation of Current Prominent Names. New York: Funk & Wagnalls. OCLC   1463642.
  4. Current biography yearbook, Volume 5. H. W. Wilson Co. 1945. p. 288.
  5. 1 2 3 Kastrup, Kim (28 September 2017). "Dansk Hollywood-stjerne var trækkerdreng" [Danish Hollywood star was a rent boy]. Ekstra Bladet (in Danish). Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  6. "Jean Hersholt". Danish Film Institute (in Danish). Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  7. "Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
  8. Erish, Andrew A. (2012). Col. William N. Selig: The Man Who Invented Hollywood. University of Texas Press. p. 1. ISBN   978-0292728707 . Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  9. Lars Bo Jensen (2008). "The Complete Andersen – Edition info". The Hans Christian Andersen Center, University of Southern Denmark. Retrieved 17 January 2008.
  10. "Danish-American Medal Recipient Index" (PDF). Retrieved 13 July 2010.
  11. Carr, Jay (13 March 1994). "If Leslie Nielsen has learned anything, it's how to play slapstick with a ... straight face". The Boston Globe . p. 83. I did learn very early that when I would mention my uncle, people would look at me as if I were the biggest liar in the world. Then I would take them home and show them 8-by-10 glossies, and things changed quite drastically. So I began to think that maybe this acting business was not a bad idea, much as I was very shy about it and certainly without courage regarding it. My uncle died not too long after I was in a position to know him. I regret that I had not a chance to know him better.
  12. Andersen, Hans Christian. "Clumsy Hans" . Retrieved 13 July 2010.
  13. "Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 2009. Retrieved 20 January 2008.
  14. "Allbritton, Louise". radioGOLDINdex. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by President of Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences
Succeeded by