Warren William

Last updated
Warren William
Warren William in Goodbye Again trailer.jpg
Born
Warren William Krech

(1894-12-02)December 2, 1894
DiedSeptember 24, 1948(1948-09-24) (aged 53)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
OccupationActor
Years active1920–1947
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.

Contents

Early life

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. [1]

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. [2] After high school, William auditioned for, and was enrolled in, the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (AADA) in New York City in October 1915. [1]

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. [1]

Career

Dave the Dude (William) and Apple Annie (May Robson) in Lady for a Day (1933) Lady-for-a-Day-William-Robson.jpg
Dave the Dude (William) and Apple Annie (May Robson) in Lady for a Day (1933)

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) [3] and Plunder (1923). [4]

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". [5] 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). [6] 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. [7]

William as Perry Mason in The Case of the Lucky Legs (1935), with Genevieve Tobin and Patricia Ellis TCOT-Lucky-Legs-1935.jpg
William as Perry Mason in The Case of the Lucky Legs (1935), with Genevieve Tobin and Patricia Ellis

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. [8] 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 . [9]

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 . [10] 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." [11]

Private life and death

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." [8]

Warren William died on September 24, 1948, from multiple myeloma, at age 53. His wife died a few months later. [2] He was recognized for his contribution to motion pictures with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in February 1960. [1]

Filmography

Warren William filmography
TitleYearRoleNotes
Studio/Distributor
Ref(s)
The Town That Forgot God 1923Eben, the carpenteras Warren Krech (silent film)
Fox Film
[3]
Plunder 1923Mr. Jonesas Warren Krech
(15-episode Pearl White silent serial)
George B. Seitz Productions
[4]
Honor of the Family 1931Captain Boris Barony First National Pictures [12]
Expensive Women 1931Neil Hartley Warner Bros. Pictures [13]
Three on a Match 1932Robert KirkwoodFirst National Pictures [14]
The Dark Horse 1932Hal Samson BlakeFirst National Pictures [15]
Skyscraper Souls 1932David Dwight Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer [16]
The Mouthpiece 1932Vincent DayWarner Bros. Pictures [17]
The Match King 1932Paul KrollFirst National Pictures [18]
Beauty and the Boss 1932Baron Josef von UllrichWarner Bros. Pictures [19]
The Woman from Monte Carlo 1932Lieutenant d'OrtellesFirst National Pictures [20]
Under Eighteen 1932Raymond HardingWarner Bros. Pictures [21]
Goodbye Again 1933Kenneth BixbyFirst National Pictures [22]
Lady for a Day 1933Dave the Dude Columbia Pictures [23]
The Mind Reader 1933Chandra ChandlerFirst National Pictures [24]
Gold Diggers of 1933 1933J. Lawrence BradfordWarner Bros. Pictures [25]
Employees' Entrance 1933Kurt AndersonFirst National Pictures [26]
Just Around the Corner1933Mr. Sears General Electric promotional short [27]
The Secret Bride 1934Robert SheldonWarner Bros. Pictures [28]
Cleopatra 1934 Julius Caesar Paramount Pictures [29]
Dr. Monica 1934John BradenWarner Bros. Pictures [30]
Smarty 1934Tony WallaceWarner Bros. Pictures [31]
Imitation of Life 1934Stephen Archer Universal Pictures [32]
The Case of the Howling Dog 1934 Perry Mason First film depiction of Perry Mason
Warner Bros. Pictures
[33]
The Dragon Murder Case 1934 Philo Vance First National Pictures [34]
Bedside 1934Bob BrownFirst National Pictures [35]
Upper World 1934Alex StreamWarner Bros. Pictures [36]
Living on Velvet 1935Walter "Gibraltar" PritchamFirst National Pictures [37]
Don't Bet on Blondes 1935Odds OwenWarner Bros. Pictures [38]
The Case of the Curious Bride 1935Perry MasonFirst National Pictures [39]
The Case of the Lucky Legs 1935Perry MasonWarner Bros. Pictures [40]
Satan Met a Lady 1936 Ted Shane Warner Bros. Pictures [41]
Go West, Young Man 1936MorganMajor Pictures Corp. [42]
The Widow from Monte Carlo 1936Major Allan ChepstowWarner Bros. Pictures [43]
The Case of the Velvet Claws 1936Perry MasonFirst National Pictures [44]
Times Square Playboy 1936Vic ArnoldWarner Bros. Pictures [45]
Stage Struck 1936Fred HarrisFirst National Pictures [46]
Outcast 1937Dr. Wendell Phillips JonesMajor Pictures Corp. [47]
Midnight Madonna 1937Blackie DenboMajor Pictures Corp. [48]
Madame X 1937Bernard FleuriotMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer [49]
The Firefly 1937Major de RouchemontMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer [50]
Wives Under Suspicion 1938District Attorney Jim Stowell Universal Pictures [51]
The First Hundred Years 1938Harry BordenMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer [52]
Arsène Lupin Returns 1938Steve EmersonMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer [53]
The Gracie Allen Murder Case 1939Philo VanceParamount Pictures [54]
The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt 1939 Michael Lanyard / "The Lone Wolf" Columbia Pictures [55]
Day-Time Wife 1939Bernard Dexter 20th Century Fox [56]
The Man in the Iron Mask 1939 d'Artagnan Edward Small Productions [57]
Lillian Russell 1940 Jesse Lewisohn 20th Century Fox [58]
Trail of the Vigilantes 1940Mark DawsonUniversal Pictures [59]
The Lone Wolf Meets a Lady 1940Michael Lanyard / "The Lone Wolf"Columbia Pictures [60]
The Lone Wolf Keeps a Date 1940Michael Lanyard / "The Lone Wolf"Columbia Pictures [61]
The Lone Wolf Strikes 1940Michael Lanyard / "The Lone Wolf"Columbia Pictures [62]
Arizona 1940Jefferson CarteretColumbia Pictures [63]
The Wolf Man 1941Dr. LloydUniversal Pictures [64]
The Lone Wolf Takes a Chance 1941Michael Lanyard / "The Lone Wolf"Columbia Pictures [65]
Secrets of the Lone Wolf 1941Michael Lanyard / "The Lone Wolf"Columbia Pictures [66]
Wild Geese Calling 1941Blackie Bedford20th Century Fox [67]
Counter-Espionage 1942Michael Lanyard / "The Lone Wolf"Columbia Pictures [68]
Wild Bill Hickok Rides 1942Harry FarrelWarner Bros. Pictures [69]
One Dangerous Night 1943Michael Lanyard / "The Lone Wolf"Columbia Pictures [70]
Passport to Suez 1943Michael Lanyard / "The Lone Wolf"Columbia Pictures [71]
Strange Illusion 1945Brett Curtis Producers Releasing Corporation [72]
Fear 1946Police Capt. Burke Monogram Pictures [73]
The Private Affairs of Bel Ami 1947Laroche-MathieuLoew-Lewin, Inc./United Artists [74]

Stage

Note: The list below is limited to New York/Broadway theatrical productions; listed as Warren William, except where noted

Broadway credits of Warren William
TitleProduction runRoleNotesRef(s)
Mrs. Jimmie ThompsonMar 29, 1920 - May 1920Edgar Blodgettas Warren W. Krech [75]
John HawthorneJan 24, 1921 - Jan 1921John Hawthorneas Warren W. Krech [76]
We GirlsNov 09, 1921 - Nov 1921Doctor Tom Brownas Warren W. Krech [77]
The Wonderful Visit Feb 12, 1924 - Apr 1924Sir John Gotch, K.B.E. [78]
Expressing WillieApr 16, 1924 - Jun 1924George Cadwalader [79]
NocturneFeb 16, 1925 - Feb 1925Keith Reddington [80]
The Blue PeterMar 24, 1925 - Apr 1925David Hunter [81]
Rosmersholm May 05, 1925 - May 1925Johannes Rosmer [82]
Twelve Miles OutNov 16, 1925 - Apr 1926Gerald Fey [83]
Easter One More DayMar 18, 1926 - Apr 1926Elis [84]
FannySep 21, 1926 - Nov 1926Joe WhiteStarring Fanny Brice [85]
ParadiseDec 26, 1927 - Jan 1928Dr. Achilles Swain [86]
VeilsMar 13, 1928 - Mar 1928Mr. Robert Sloan [87]
The Golden AgeApr 24, 1928 - Apr 1928The Stranger [88]
Sign of the LeopardDec 11, 1928 - Jan 1929Captain Leslie [89]
Let Us Be GayFeb 19, 1929 - Dec 1929Bob BrownReplaced by Barry O'Neill for unknown number of performances [90]
Week-EndOct 22, 1929 - Oct 1929Brett Laney [91]
Out of a Blue SkyFeb 08, 1930 - Feb 1930Paul Rana [92]
The VikingsMay 12, 1930 - May 1930Sigurd [93]
Stepdaughters of WarOct 06, 1930 - Oct 1930Geoffrey Hilder [94]
The Vinegar Tree Nov 19, 1930 - Jun 1931Max Lawrence [95]

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References

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  50. "The Firefly". catalog.afi.com. AFI. Retrieved June 8, 2020.
  51. "Wives Under Suspicion". catalog.afi.com. AFI. Retrieved June 8, 2020.
  52. "The First Hundred Years". catalog.afi.com. AFI. Retrieved June 8, 2020.
  53. "Arsène Lupin Returns". catalog.afi.com. AFI. Retrieved June 8, 2020.
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  62. "The Lone Wolf Strikes". catalog.afi.com. AFI. Retrieved June 8, 2020.
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  64. "The Wolf Man". catalog.afi.com. AFI. Retrieved June 8, 2020.
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  69. "Wild Bill Hickok Rides". catalog.afi.com. AFI. Retrieved June 8, 2020.
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  71. "Passport to Suez". catalog.afi.com. AFI. Retrieved June 8, 2020.
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  76. "John Hawthorne". IBDB. Retrieved June 8, 2020.
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  79. "Expressing Willie". IBDB. Retrieved June 8, 2020.
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