Warren William Krech
December 2, 1894
Aitkin, Minnesota, U.S.
|Died||September 24, 1948 53) (aged|
Hollywood, California, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Helen Barbara Nelson (1923–1948; his death)|
Warren William (born Warren William Krech; December 2, 1894 – September 24, 1948) was a Broadway and Hollywood actor, immensely popular during the early 1930s; he was later nicknamed the "King of Pre-Code". He was the first actor to play Perry Mason.
Warren William Krech's family originated in Bad Tennstedt, Thuringia, Germany. His grandfather, Ernst Wilhelm Krech (born 1819), fled Germany in 1848 during the Revolution, going first to France and later emigrating to the United States. He wed Mathilde Grow in 1851, and had six children. Freeman E. Krech, Warren's father, was born in 1856. Around the age of 25, Freeman moved to Aitkin, a small town in Minnesota, where he bought a newspaper, The Aitkin Age, in 1885. He married Frances Potter, daughter of a merchant, September 18, 1890. Their son Warren was born December 2, 1894.
Warren William's interest in acting began in 1903, when an opera house was built in Aitkin. He was an avid and lifelong amateur inventor and was personally involved in working his farm, pursuits that may have contributed to his death by exposing him to a variety of dangerous contaminants, ranging from sawdust to DDT.After high school, William auditioned for, and was enrolled in, the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (AADA) in New York City in October 1915.
As his senior year at AADA was coming to an end, the United States had entered the First World War, and William enlisted in the United States Army. He was assigned from base to base, in charge of training new men at various locations, and in 1918 was assigned to Fort Dix near New York City, in New Jersey. While in New York, he met his future wife, Helen Barbara Nelson, who was 17 years older than he was.[ citation needed ] In October 1918 he left for France, to enter the war. William left the army in early 1919, after which he began working on his acting career. In 1923, he and Helen were married.
William, who appeared in his first Broadway play in 1920, soon made a name for himself in New York, appearing in more than 20 plays on Broadway between 1920 and 1931. During this period he also appeared in two silent films, The Town That Forgot God (1922)and Plunder (1923).
He moved from New York City to Hollywood in 1931. Looking back at his career in 2011, The Village Voice christened him "The King of Pre-Code".He began as a contract player at Warner Bros. and quickly became a star during what is now known as the 'Pre-Code' period. He developed a reputation for portraying ruthless, amoral businessmen ( Under 18 , Skyscraper Souls , The Match King , Employees' Entrance ), crafty lawyers ( The Mouthpiece , Perry Mason ), and outright charlatans (The Mind Reader). These roles were considered controversial, yet they were highly satisfying. This was the harshest period of the Great Depression, characterized by massive business failures and oppressive unemployment. Movie audiences jeered at the businessmen, who were often portrayed as predators.
William did play some sympathetic roles, including Dave the Dude in Frank Capra's Lady for a Day and a loving father and husband cuckolded by Ann Dvorak's character in Three on a Match (1932). He was a young songwriter's comically pompous older brother in Golddiggers of 1933 . William was Julius Caesar in Cecil B. DeMille's Cleopatra (1934; starring Claudette Colbert in the title role), and with Colbert again the same year as her character's love interest in Imitation of Life (1934). He played the swashbuckling musketeer d'Artagnan in The Man in the Iron Mask (1939), directed by James Whale.
The studios capitalized on William's popularity by placing him in multiple "series" films, particularly as detectives and crime solvers. William was the first to portray Erle Stanley Gardner's fictional defense attorney Perry Mason on the big screen, starring in four Perry Mason mysteries.He played Raffles-like reformed jewel thief The Lone Wolf in nine films, beginning with The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt (1939), and appeared as Detective Philo Vance in two of the series films, The Dragon Murder Case (1934) and the comedic The Gracie Allen Murder Case (1939). He also starred as Sam Spade (renamed Ted Shane) in Satan Met a Lady (1936), the second screen version of The Maltese Falcon .
Other roles included Mae West's manager in Go West, Young Man (1936); a jealous district attorney in another James Whale film, Wives Under Suspicion (1938); copper magnate Jesse Lewisohn in 1940's Lillian Russell ; the evil Jefferson Carteret in Arizona (also 1940); and the sympathetic Dr. Lloyd in The Wolf Man (1941). In 1945, he played Brett Curtis in cult director Edgar G. Ulmer's 1945 modern-day version of Hamlet, called Strange Illusion .In what would be his last film, he played Laroche-Mathieu in The Private Affairs of Bel Ami in 1947.
On radio, William starred in the transcribed series Strange Wills, which featured "stories behind strange wills that run the gamut of human emotion."
Although on-screen William was an actor audiences loved to hate, off-screen William was a private man, and he and his wife, Helen, kept out of the limelight. Warren and Helen remained a couple throughout his entire adult life. He was often described as having been shy in real life. Co-star Joan Blondell once said, "[He] ... was an old man – even when he was a young man."
Warren William died on September 24, 1948, from multiple myeloma, at age 53. His wife died a few months later.He was recognized for his contribution to motion pictures with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in February 1960.
|The Town That Forgot God||1923||Eben, the carpenter||as Warren Krech (silent film)|
|Plunder||1923||Mr. Jones||as Warren Krech|
(15-episode Pearl White silent serial)
George B. Seitz Productions
|Honor of the Family||1931||Captain Boris Barony||First National Pictures|
|Expensive Women||1931||Neil Hartley||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Three on a Match||1932||Robert Kirkwood||First National Pictures|
|The Dark Horse||1932||Hal Samson Blake||First National Pictures|
|Skyscraper Souls||1932||David Dwight||Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer|
|The Mouthpiece||1932||Vincent Day||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|The Match King||1932||Paul Kroll||First National Pictures|
|Beauty and the Boss||1932||Baron Josef von Ullrich||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|The Woman from Monte Carlo||1932||Lieutenant d'Ortelles||First National Pictures|
|Under Eighteen||1932||Raymond Harding||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Goodbye Again||1933||Kenneth Bixby||First National Pictures|
|Lady for a Day||1933||Dave the Dude||Columbia Pictures|
|The Mind Reader||1933||Chandra Chandler||First National Pictures|
|Gold Diggers of 1933||1933||J. Lawrence Bradford||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Employees' Entrance||1933||Kurt Anderson||First National Pictures|
|Just Around the Corner||1933||Mr. Sears||General Electric promotional short|
|The Secret Bride||1934||Robert Sheldon||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Cleopatra||1934||Julius Caesar||Paramount Pictures|
|Dr. Monica||1934||John Braden||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Smarty||1934||Tony Wallace||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Imitation of Life||1934||Stephen Archer||Universal Pictures|
|The Case of the Howling Dog||1934||Perry Mason||First film depiction of Perry Mason|
Warner Bros. Pictures
|The Dragon Murder Case||1934||Philo Vance||First National Pictures|
|Bedside||1934||Bob Brown||First National Pictures|
|Upper World||1934||Alex Stream||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Living on Velvet||1935||Walter "Gibraltar" Pritcham||First National Pictures|
|Don't Bet on Blondes||1935||Odds Owen||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|The Case of the Curious Bride||1935||Perry Mason||First National Pictures|
|The Case of the Lucky Legs||1935||Perry Mason||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Satan Met a Lady||1936||Ted Shane||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Go West, Young Man||1936||Morgan||Major Pictures Corp.|
|The Widow from Monte Carlo||1936||Major Allan Chepstow||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|The Case of the Velvet Claws||1936||Perry Mason||First National Pictures|
|Times Square Playboy||1936||Vic Arnold||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Stage Struck||1936||Fred Harris||First National Pictures|
|Outcast||1937||Dr. Wendell Phillips Jones||Major Pictures Corp.|
|Midnight Madonna||1937||Blackie Denbo||Major Pictures Corp.|
|Madame X||1937||Bernard Fleuriot||Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer|
|The Firefly||1937||Major de Rouchemont||Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer|
|Wives Under Suspicion||1938||District Attorney Jim Stowell||Universal Pictures|
|The First Hundred Years||1938||Harry Borden||Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer|
|Arsène Lupin Returns||1938||Steve Emerson||Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer|
|The Gracie Allen Murder Case||1939||Philo Vance||Paramount Pictures|
|The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt||1939||Michael Lanyard / "The Lone Wolf"||Columbia Pictures|
|Day-Time Wife||1939||Bernard Dexter||20th Century Fox|
|The Man in the Iron Mask||1939||d'Artagnan||Edward Small Productions|
|Lillian Russell||1940||Jesse Lewisohn||20th Century Fox|
|Trail of the Vigilantes||1940||Mark Dawson||Universal Pictures|
|The Lone Wolf Meets a Lady||1940||Michael Lanyard / "The Lone Wolf"||Columbia Pictures|
|The Lone Wolf Keeps a Date||1940||Michael Lanyard / "The Lone Wolf"||Columbia Pictures|
|The Lone Wolf Strikes||1940||Michael Lanyard / "The Lone Wolf"||Columbia Pictures|
|Arizona||1940||Jefferson Carteret||Columbia Pictures|
|The Wolf Man||1941||Dr. Lloyd||Universal Pictures|
|The Lone Wolf Takes a Chance||1941||Michael Lanyard / "The Lone Wolf"||Columbia Pictures|
|Secrets of the Lone Wolf||1941||Michael Lanyard / "The Lone Wolf"||Columbia Pictures|
|Wild Geese Calling||1941||Blackie Bedford||20th Century Fox|
|Counter-Espionage||1942||Michael Lanyard / "The Lone Wolf"||Columbia Pictures|
|Wild Bill Hickok Rides||1942||Harry Farrel||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|One Dangerous Night||1943||Michael Lanyard / "The Lone Wolf"||Columbia Pictures|
|Passport to Suez||1943||Michael Lanyard / "The Lone Wolf"||Columbia Pictures|
|Strange Illusion||1945||Brett Curtis||Producers Releasing Corporation|
|Fear||1946||Police Capt. Burke||Monogram Pictures|
|The Private Affairs of Bel Ami||1947||Laroche-Mathieu||Loew-Lewin, Inc./United Artists|
Note: The list below is limited to New York/Broadway theatrical productions; listed as Warren William, except where noted
|Mrs. Jimmie Thompson||Mar 29, 1920 - May 1920||Edgar Blodgett||as Warren W. Krech|
|John Hawthorne||Jan 24, 1921 - Jan 1921||John Hawthorne||as Warren W. Krech|
|We Girls||Nov 09, 1921 - Nov 1921||Doctor Tom Brown||as Warren W. Krech|
|The Wonderful Visit||Feb 12, 1924 - Apr 1924||Sir John Gotch, K.B.E.|
|Expressing Willie||Apr 16, 1924 - Jun 1924||George Cadwalader|
|Nocturne||Feb 16, 1925 - Feb 1925||Keith Reddington|
|The Blue Peter||Mar 24, 1925 - Apr 1925||David Hunter|
|Rosmersholm||May 05, 1925 - May 1925||Johannes Rosmer|
|Twelve Miles Out||Nov 16, 1925 - Apr 1926||Gerald Fey|
|Easter One More Day||Mar 18, 1926 - Apr 1926||Elis|
|Fanny||Sep 21, 1926 - Nov 1926||Joe White||Starring Fanny Brice|
|Paradise||Dec 26, 1927 - Jan 1928||Dr. Achilles Swain|
|Veils||Mar 13, 1928 - Mar 1928||Mr. Robert Sloan|
|The Golden Age||Apr 24, 1928 - Apr 1928||The Stranger|
|Sign of the Leopard||Dec 11, 1928 - Jan 1929||Captain Leslie|
|Let Us Be Gay||Feb 19, 1929 - Dec 1929||Bob Brown||Replaced by Barry O'Neill for unknown number of performances|
|Week-End||Oct 22, 1929 - Oct 1929||Brett Laney|
|Out of a Blue Sky||Feb 08, 1930 - Feb 1930||Paul Rana|
|The Vikings||May 12, 1930 - May 1930||Sigurd|
|Stepdaughters of War||Oct 06, 1930 - Oct 1930||Geoffrey Hilder|
|The Vinegar Tree||Nov 19, 1930 - Jun 1931||Max Lawrence|
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