Jean Hersholt

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Jean Hersholt
Born
Jean Pierre Carl Buron [1]

(1886-07-12)12 July 1886
Copenhagen, Denmark
Died2 June 1956(1956-06-02) (aged 69)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park
Other namesJean Pierre Hersholt
Jean Buron Hersholt
Occupation Actor
Years active1906–1955
Spouse(s)
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]

Danish Americans ethnic group

Danish Americans are Americans who have ancestral roots originated fully or partially from Denmark. There are approximately 1,500,000 Americans of Danish origin or descent.

<i>Dr. Christian</i> television series

Dr. Christian is a radio series with Jean Hersholt in the title role. It aired on CBS Radio from November 7, 1937, to January 6, 1954. In 1956, the series was adapted for television where it aired in syndication until 1957.

<i>Heidi</i> (1937 film) 1937 film by Allan Dwan

Heidi is a 1937 American musical drama film directed by Allan Dwan and starring Shirley Temple. The screenplay by Julien Josephson and Walter Ferris was loosely based on the 1880 children's story of the same name by Swiss author Johanna Spyri. The film is about an orphan named Heidi (Temple) who is taken from her grandfather to live as a companion to Klara, a spoiled, crippled girl. The film was a success and Temple enjoyed her third year in a row as number one box office draw.

Contents

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.

<i>The Literary Digest</i>

The Literary Digest was an influential American general interest weekly magazine published by Funk & Wagnalls. Founded by Isaac Kaufmann Funk in 1890, it eventually merged with two similar weekly magazines, Public Opinion and Current Opinion.

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 and Clara nee Petersen were hairdressers. [5] He appeared in two of the first short films of Danish film studio Nordisk Film in 1906, but didn't 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. [7] The ensuing moral panic and outing of several prominent men as homosexuals eventually involved Hersholt (then Buron) who was reported to the police. He admitted to prostitution and sentenced to 8 months in prison. [5] He emigrated to the United States in 1913, and the remainder of his career was in America.

Copenhagen Capital of Denmark

Copenhagen is the capital and most populous city of Denmark. As of July 2018, the city has a population of 777,218. It forms the core of the wider urban area of Copenhagen and the Copenhagen metropolitan area. Copenhagen is situated on the eastern coast of the island of Zealand; another small portion of the city is located on Amager, and it is separated from Malmö, Sweden, by the strait of Øresund. The Øresund Bridge connects the two cities by rail and road.

Nordisk Film Danish film studio

Nordisk Film A/S is a Danish entertainment company established in 1906 in Copenhagen by filmmaker Ole Olsen. It is the fourth oldest film studio in the world behind the Gaumont Film Company, Pathé, and Titanus, but the oldest continuously active.

Career

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 ]

Erich von Stroheim Austrian actor and director

Erich Oswald Hans Carl Maria von Stroheim was an Austrian-American director, actor and producer, most noted as a film star and avant garde, visionary director of the silent era. His masterpiece adaptation of Frank Norris's McTeague titled Greed is considered one of the finest and most important films ever made. After clashes with Hollywood studio bosses over budget and workers' rights issues, von Stroheim was banned for life as a director and subsequently became a well-respected character actor, particularly in French cinema. For his early innovations as a director, von Stroheim is still celebrated as one of the first of the auteur directors. He helped introduce more sophisticated plots and noirish sexual and psychological undercurrents into cinema. He died in 1957 in France of prostate cancer at the age of 71. Beloved by Parisian neo-Surrealists known as Letterists, he was honored by Letterist Maurice Lemaitre with a 70-minute 1979 film entitled "Erich von Stroheim."

<i>Greed</i> (1924 film) 1924 film by Erich von Stroheim

Greed is a 1924 American silent film, written and directed by Erich von Stroheim and based on the 1899 Frank Norris novel McTeague. It stars Gibson Gowland as Dr. John McTeague, ZaSu Pitts as Trina Sieppe, his wife, and Jean Hersholt as McTeague's friend and eventual enemy Marcus Schouler. The film tells the story of McTeague, a San Francisco dentist, who marries his best friend Schouler's girlfriend Trina. Shortly after their engagement, Trina wins a lottery prize of $5,000, at that time a substantial sum. Schouler jealously informs the authorities that McTeague had been practicing dentistry without a license, and McTeague and Trina become impoverished. While living in squalor, McTeague becomes a violent alcoholic and Trina becomes greedily obsessed with her winnings, refusing to spend any of them, despite how poor she and her husband have become. Eventually McTeague murders Trina for the money and flees to Death Valley. Schouler catches up with him there for a final confrontation.

Johanna Spyri author of childrens stories, best known for her book Heidi

Johanna Louise Spyri was a Swiss-born author of novels, notably children's stories, and is best known for her book Heidi. Born in Hirzel, a rural area in the canton of Zurich, Switzerland, as a child she spent several summers near Chur in Graubünden, the setting she later would use in her novels.

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

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 ]

Dionne quintuplets quintuplet girls born 1934 in Ontario, Canada, who survived to adulthood

The Dionne quintuplets are the first quintuplets known to have survived their infancy. The identical girls were born just outside Callander, Ontario, near the village of Corbeil. All five survived to adulthood.

Allan Roy Dafoe Canadian obstetrician who delivered and cared for the Dionne Quintuplets

Doctor Allan Roy Dafoe, OBE was a Canadian obstetrician, best known for delivering and caring for the Dionne quintuplets, the first quintuplets known to survive early infancy.

Hans Christian Andersen Danish author, fairy tale writer, and poet

Hans Christian Andersen was a Danish author. Although a prolific writer of plays, travelogues, novels, and poems, Andersen is best remembered for his fairy tales. Andersen's popularity is not limited to children: his stories express themes that transcend age and nationality.

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.

<i>Dr. Christian Meets the Women</i> 1940 film by William C. McGann

Dr. Christian Meets the Women is a 1940 American film directed by William C. McGann, one of the series of six Dr. Christian films featuring Jean Hersholt.

Gene Roddenberry American television screenwriter and producer

Eugene Wesley Roddenberry was an American television screenwriter, producer and creator of the original Star Trek television series, and its first spin-off The Next Generation. Born in El Paso, Texas, Roddenberry grew up in Los Angeles, where his father was a police officer. Roddenberry flew 89 combat missions in the Army Air Forces during World War II, and worked as a commercial pilot after the war. Later, he followed in his father's footsteps and joined the Los Angeles Police Department, where he also began to write scripts for television.

Macdonald Carey American actor

Edward Macdonald Carey was an American actor, best known for his role as the patriarch Dr. Tom Horton on NBC's soap opera Days of Our Lives. For almost three decades, he was the show's central cast member.

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". [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 endeavour. [10]

Family

Hersholt married Via Andersen (1893–1983), on 11 April 1914. They had two sons: Allan Hersholt (1914–1990) and Jean Hersholt Jr.

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

Death

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

Hersholt died of cancer in Hollywood, 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 has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6501 Hollywood Boulevard for his work in motion pictures and another one at 6701 Hollywood Boulevard for his work in radio.

Selected filmography

Radio appearances

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

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References

  1. According to the State of California. California Death Index, 1940–1997. Center for Health Statistics, California Department of Health Services, Sacramento, California. Searchable at http://www.familytreelegends.com/records/caldeaths
  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 "Dansk Hollywood-stjerne var trækkerdreng" . Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  6. "Jean Hersholt" (in Danish). Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  7. "Dansk Hollywood-stjerne var trækkerdreng [Danish Hollywood star was a rent boy]". Ekstra Bladet. 28 September 2017. Retrieved 03-01-2018.Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  8. {{https://www.oscars.org/governors/hersholt}}
  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
Walter Wanger
President of Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences
1945–1949
Succeeded by
Charles Brackett