Wallace Reid

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Wallace Reid
Wallace Reid head and shoulders 1920.jpg
Born William Wallace Halleck Reid
(1891-04-15)April 15, 1891
St. Louis, Missouri
Died January 18, 1923(1923-01-18) (aged 31)
Los Angeles, California
Cause of death
Morphine addiction, precipitated by injury on set during making of 1919 film
Occupation Actor
Years active 1910-1922
Spouse(s) Dorothy Davenport
(m.1913-1923; his death)
Children Wallace Reid, Jr.
(1917-1990)

Wallace Reid (April 15, 1891 – January 18, 1923)[1] was an American actor in silent film referred to as "the screen's most perfect lover."[2]

Early life[edit]

Reid was born William Wallace Halleck Reid in St. Louis, Missouri, into a show business family. His mother, Bertha Westbrook (1868–1939), was an actress and his father, James Halleck aka Hal Reid (1862–1920), worked successfully in a variety of theatrical jobs, mainly as playwright and actor, traveling the country. As a boy, Wallace Reid was performing on stage at an early age but acting was put on hold while he obtained an education at Freehold Military School in Freehold Township, New Jersey. Reid graduated from Perkiomen Seminary in Pennsburg, Pennsylvania, in 1909. A gifted all-around athlete, Reid participated in a number of sports while also following an interest in music, learning to play the piano, banjo, drums, and violin. As a teenager, he spent time in Wyoming where he learned to be an outdoorsman.

Career[edit]

Reid was drawn to the burgeoning motion picture industry by his father, who would shift from the theatre to acting, writing, and directing films. In 1910, Reid appeared in his first film, The Phoenix, an adaptation of a Milton Nobles play filmed at Selig Polyscope Studios in Chicago. Reid used the script from a play his father had written and approached the very successful Vitagraph Studios, hoping to be given the opportunity to direct. Instead, Vitagraph executives capitalized on his sex appeal and, in addition to having him direct, cast him in a major role. Although Reid's good looks and powerful physique made him the perfect "matinee idol," he was equally happy with roles behind the scenes and often worked as a writer, cameraman, and director.

Jackie Coogan "Nazimova" (actress) Gloria Swanson Hollywood Boulevard Picture taken in 1907 of this junction Harold Lloyd Will Rogers Elinor Glyn (Writer) "Buster" Keaton William S. Hart (Two-Gun Bill) Rupert Hughes (Novelist) Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle Wallace Reid Douglas Fairbanks Bebe Daniels "Bull" Montana Rex Ingram Peter the hermit Charlie Chaplin Alice Terry (Actress) Mary Pickford William C. DeMille Cecil Blount DeMille Use button to enlarge or cursor to investigate
This 1921 Vanity Fair caricature by Ralph Barton[3] shows the famous people who, he imagined, left work each day in Hollywood; use cursor to identify individual figures.

Wallace Reid appeared in several films with his father and, as his career in film flourished, he was soon acting and directing with and for early film mogul Allan Dwan. In 1913, while at Universal Pictures, Reid met and married actress Dorothy Davenport (1895–1977). He was featured in Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916), both directed by D.W. Griffith, and starred opposite leading ladies such as Florence Turner, Gloria Swanson, Lillian Gish, Elsie Ferguson, and Geraldine Farrar en route to becoming one of Hollywood's major heartthrobs.

Already involved with the creation of more than 100 motion picture shorts, Reid was signed by producer Jesse L. Lasky and would star in another sixty plus films for Lasky's Famous Players film company, later Paramount Pictures. Frequently paired with actress Ann Little, his action hero role as the dashing race car driver drew young girls and older women alike to theaters to see his daredevil auto thrillers such as The Roaring Road (1919), Double Speed (1920), Excuse My Dust (1920), and Too Much Speed (1921). One of his auto racing films, Across the Continent (1922), was chosen as the opening night film for San Francisco's Castro Theatre, which opened 22 June 1922.

Death[edit]

While on location in Oregon, filming The Valley of the Giants (1919), Reid was injured in a train wreck and, in order to keep on filming, he was prescribed morphine for relief of his pain. Reid soon became addicted but kept on working at a frantic pace in films that were growing more physically demanding and changing from 15–20 minutes in duration to as much as an hour. Reid's morphine addiction worsened at a time when drug rehabilitation programs were non-existent, and he died in a sanitarium while attempting recovery.[4]

Wallace Reid was interred in the Holly Terrace portion of the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.

Aftermath[edit]

His widow, Dorothy Davenport (billed as Mrs. Wallace Reid), co-produced and appeared in Human Wreckage (1923), making a national tour with the film to publicize the dangers of drug addiction. She and Reid had two children: a son, Wallace Reid, Jr., born in 1917; and a daughter, Betty Mummert, whom they adopted in 1922 at age three.[5] Reid's widow never remarried.

Wallace Reid's contribution to the motion-picture industry has been recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In 2011, his official biography, Wally: The True Wallace Reid Story by David W. Menefee (Foreword by Robert Osborne), was sanctioned by Reid's surviving relatives and published by BearManor Media.[1] The biography was nominated for a 2011 Pulitzer Prize.

Selected filmography[edit]

References[edit]

  • The First Male Stars: Men of the Silent Era by David W. Menefee. Albany: Bear Manor Media, 2007.
  • Col. Selig’s Stories of Movie Life – Wallace Reid. Screenland. Chicago: Screenland Publishing Company, April 1923.
  • The Autobiography of Cecil B. DeMille. By Cecil B. DeMille. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1959.
  • I Blow My Own Horn. By Jesse L. Lasky. New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1957.
  • Two Reels and a Crank. By Albert E. Smith. New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1952.
  • Griffith: The Birth of a Nation Part 1. By Seymour Stern. New York: Film Culture, 1965.
  • Swanson on Swanson. By Gloria Swanson. New York: Random House, 1980.
  • Wallace Reid Dies in Fight on Drugs. The New York Times, January 19, 1923.
  • Wally, the Genial. By Maude S. Cheatham in Motion Picture Magazine. New York: Brewster Publications, Inc., October 1920.

External links[edit]