Louis Wolheim

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Louis Wolheim
Louis Wolheim 001.JPG
Louis Wolheim as Yank in The Hairy Ape by Eugene O'Neill
Born March 28, 1880
New York City, USA
Died February 18, 1931(1931-02-18) (aged 50)
Los Angeles, USA
Occupation Actor
Years active 1914–1931

Louis Wolheim (March 28, 1880 – February 18, 1931) was an American character actor.

His trademark broken nose was the result of an injury sustained while playing football for Cornell University. Despite his rugged visage, Wolheim was intelligent and cultivated, speaking French, German, Spanish, and Yiddish. He was also a mathematics teacher at Cornell before entering silent films in 1914.

On the advice of Lionel Barrymore and John Barrymore, Wolheim entered films. Both brothers also invited him to appear in the 1919 play The Jest in which the Barrymores co-starred.[1] He appeared in at least three films with John Barrymore, Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde (1920), Sherlock Holmes (1922) and Tempest (1928). Wolheim's fearsome visage almost immediately typecast him in roles as gangsters, executioners (as in D. W. Griffith's Orphans of the Storm) or prisoners. Towards the end of the 1920s he occasionally broke out of these stereotypes and played a comic Russian officer in Tempest and a rambunctious Sergeant in Howard Hughes's Two Arabian Knights. He also played a Chaneyesque gangster in Hughes's splendidly photographed The Racket.

Wolheim as a saloon owner with John Barrymore as Mr. Hyde in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde(1920)

Wolheim acted primarily in silent films, because he died at the close of the silent era, but he also appeared in the talkies All Quiet on the Western Front and Danger Lights (both 1930) before he died.

Later in his career, about 1924, Wolheim went into the theater. He received considerable acclaim as Yank in the original stage production of The Hairy Ape (1922) by Eugene O'Neill.

According to the biography included in the DVD version of All Quiet on the Western Front, Wolheim wanted, at one point in his career, to play romantic leads instead of tough "heavies." To that end, he sought to have plastic surgery performed on his broken nose. Executives at United Artists successfully obtained a restraining order against him from doing so, however.

Wolheim died in 1931 in Los Angeles, of stomach cancer.



  1. ^ The Oxford Companion to the American Theatre c.1992 by Gerald Bordman

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