from the trailer for the film Goodbye Again (1933).
|Born||Warren William Krech
December 2, 1894
Aitkin, Minnesota, U.S.
|Died||September 24, 1948
Hollywood, California, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Helen Barbara Nelson (1923-1948; his death)|
Family and Early Life
Warren William Krech's family originated in Tennstedt, Saxony, Germany with his grandfather, Ernst Wilhelm Krech. Born in 1819, Ernst fled Germany in 1848 during the Germany Revolution. He went first to France, but after becoming ordained, he had these deprived of this status, and came to the United States of America later in 1848. He was wed to Mathilde Grow in 1851, and had six children. One these children was Warren's father, Freeman E. Krech, born in 1856. Freeman was raised in multiple locations because his father was always moving to find teaching jobs.
Later in Freeman's life, around the age of 25, Freeman would move to a small town in Minnesota. In this small town, called Aitkin, Freeman would create his life, and set up the roots of Warren's early life. Freeman would purchase a newspaper, The Aitkin Age, in 1885. He fell in love with Frances Potter, the daughter of the most power merchant in Aitkin. They would be wed on September 18, 1890. They would quickly become pregnant and have a child, but unfortunately this child would die just days after its birth. They were timid, but were again pregnant in 1892, and gave birth to Warren's older sister, Pauline, on October 26, 1892. In 1894, on December 2, they would give birth to their second child, Warren, in Aitkin, Minnesota.
Warren was raised in a wealthy family, and for the most part was a normal young boy, trying to explore and escape the watch of his parents. His interest in acting and performance would be ignited in 1903, when Samuel Hodgeden, a wealthy entrepreneur, decided to build an opera house in Aitkin. This would soon become a place where Warren would find himself going to often. Throughout his teen years, Warren did what he could to fit in with other kids that were his age. He was involved in sports and continued this in his later years. He also enjoyed tinkering with things, and would become an amateur inventor aside from his acting. He held the patent on the first lawn vacuum, which would become a useful tool for many landscapers for decades after his death.
After high school, Warren was uncertain on what he wanted to do with his life. He felt the pressure to go into news writing, but his sister, Pauline, told him that he should follow his aspiration to act. He was timid to bring this up to his father, but when he did, his father surprised him by saying that he would support Warren in his choice. He and his father spent the summer researching, and selected the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (AADA) in New York City. In October of 1915, Warren was to have an audition to see if he would get into the academy. After getting average reviews from the people judging his auditions, Warren was accepted in. He worked long hours each day, with long classes in the morning and the afternoon. After his junior year, he decided to stay for his senior year. Most of the students that attended this academy during the time period did not return for their senior year.
As his senior year at AADA was coming to an end, there was another event lingering over him and the other millions of young men in the United States. The First World War was going on, and the Germans sank three American merchant ships. This forced the U.S. hand in joining the war. Warren enlisted himself into the draft, just doing what he though was his civic duty. He was moved from base to base throughout America, and was in charge of training new men at some points throughout this time. In 1918, he was moved to Camp Dix in Manhattan, getting him closer to his sister once again.
While he was New York, he met his future wife, Helen Barbra Nelson. He visited her often, and in October of 1918, he packed up to leave for France, and enter the war. His first experience lasted until early in 1919. After returning, he began to reconstruct his love life and his career that he had interrupted when he joined the war. In 1923, he married Helen Barbara Nelson, who was 17 years his senior.
During his time in New York, Warren soon made a name for himself on Broadway. He appeared in his first play in 1920, and starred in 21 total plays during his time on Broadway. He played many various roles throughout his time on Broadway. He only had one large role during this time, in the play The Town That Forgot God.
After moving from Broadway to Hollywood in 1931, he reached his peak as a leading man in early 1930s pre-Production Code films. William began as a contract player at Warner Bros. studio and quickly became a star during what's now known as the Pre-Code era, and was known for portraying ruthless, amoral businessmen (Under 18, Skyscraper Souls, The Match King, Employees Entrance), lawyers (The Mouthpiece, Perry Mason), and charlatans (The Mind Reader). These roles were controversial because this was the period of the Great Depression. The audiences were always cheering against the businessmen, because they were portrayed as predators. With unemployment so high at this time, Warren took on roles that were automatically hated roles.
He did play some sympathetic roles, including "Dave The Dude" in Frank Capra's Lady for a Day, as a loving father and husband cuckolded by Ann Dvorak's character in Three on a Match (1932), as 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).
William was the first to portray Erle Stanley Gardner's fictional defense attorney Perry Mason on the big screen and starred in four Perry Mason mysteries. He also played Raffles-like reformed jewel thief The Lone Wolf in eight films for Columbia Pictures beginning with The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt (1939), and as Detective Philo Vance in two of the series films (1934's The Dragon Murder Case and 1939's comedic The Gracie Allen Murder Case).
Notable other roles include 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), sympathetic Dr. Lloyd in The Wolf Man (1941), Brett Curtis in cult director Edgar G. Ulmer's modern day version of Hamlet, 1945's Strange Illusion, and as Laroche-Mathieu in The Private Affairs of Bel Ami (1947), which would be William's last film.
Warren played many roles while in Hollywood, most of them as the character that the audience was supposed to hate. He was seen on screen as the stereotypical Hollywood actor at this point. Although this is how his image was portrayed on screen, Warren kept to himself outside of his work, and stayed married to his wife Helen, throughout his entire adult life. He was often described as shy, and one quote said "was an old man even when he was a young man." This quote was from Joan Blondell, a co-star of Warren's. Warren William died on September 24, 1948 from multiple myeloma, at age 53. His wife, Helen, would pass in the following months after.
|1922||The Town that Forgot God||Eben|
|1923||Plunder (serial)||Mr. Jones|
|1931||Honor of the Family||Captain Boris Barony|
|Expensive Women||Neil Hartley|
|Under 18||Raymond Harding|
|1932||The Woman from Monte Carlo||Lieutenant d'Ortelles|
|Beauty and the Boss||Baron Josef von Ullrich|
|The Mouthpiece||Vincent "Vince" Day|
|The Dark Horse||Hal Samson Blake|
|Skyscraper Souls||David "Dave" Dwight|
|Three on a Match||Robert Kirkwood|
|The Match King||Paul Kroll|
|1933||Just Around the Corner (short film)||Mr. Sears|
|Employees' Entrance||Kurt Anderson|
|The Mind Reader||"Chandra" Chandler|
|Gold Diggers of 1933||J. Lawrence Bradford|
|Goodbye Again||Kenneth L. "Ken" Bixby|
|Lady for a Day||Dave the Dude|
|Upper World||Alexander "Alex" Stream|
|Dr. Monica||John Braden|
|The Dragon Murder Case||Philo Vance|
|The Case of the Howling Dog||Perry Mason|
|Imitation of Life||Stephen "Steve" Archer|
|The Secret Bride||Robert "Bob" Sheldon|
|1935||Living on Velvet||Walter "Gibraltar" Pritcham|
|The Case of the Curious Bride||Perry Mason|
|Don't Bet on Blondes||Oscar "Odds" Owen|
|The Case of the Lucky Legs||Perry Mason|
|The Widow from Monte Carlo||Major Allan Chepstow|
|1936||Times Square Playboy||Victor "Vic" Arnold|
|Satan Met a Lady||Ted Shane|
|The Case of the Velvet Claws||Perry Mason|
|Stage Struck||Fred Harris|
|Go West, Young Man||Morgan|
|1937||Outcast||Dr. Wendell Phillips / Phil Jones|
|Midnight Madonna||Blackie Denbo|
|The Firefly||Colonel de Rouchemont|
|Madame X||Bernard Fleuriot|
|1938||Arsène Lupin Returns||Steve Emerson|
|The First Hundred Years||Harry Borden|
|Wives Under Suspicion||District Attorney Jim Stowell|
|1939||The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt||Michael Lanyard|
|The Gracie Allen Murder Case||Philo Vance|
|The Man in the Iron Mask||d'Artagnan|
|Day-Time Wife||Bernard "Barney" Dexter|
|1940||The Lone Wolf Meets a Lady||Michael Lanyard|
|Lillian Russell||Jesse Lewisohn|
|The Lone Wolf Strikes||Michael Lanyard|
|The Lone Wolf Keeps a Date||Michael Lanyard|
|1941||Trail of the Vigilantes||Mark Dawson / George Trent|
|The Lone Wolf Takes a Chance||Michael Lanyard|
|Wild Geese Calling||Blackie Bedford|
|Secrets of the Lone Wolf||Michael Lanyard|
|The Wolf Man||Dr. Lloyd|
|1942||Wild Bill Hickok Rides||Harry Farrel|
|1943||One Dangerous Night||Michael Lanyard|
|Passport to Suez||Michael Lanyard|
|1945||Strange Illusion||Brett Curtis|
|1946||Fear||Police Capt. Burke|
|1947||The Private Affairs of Bel Ami||Laroche-Mathieu|
|1920||Mrs. Jimmie Thompson||Edgar Blodgett|
|1921||John Hawthorne||John Hawthorne|
|We Girls||Doctor Tom Brown|
|1924||The Wonderful Visit||Sir John Gotch, K.B.E.|
|Expressing Willie||George Cadwalder|
|The Blue Peter||David Hunter|
|1926||Twelve Miles Out||Gerald Fey|
|Easter One More Day||Elis|
|1928||Paradise||Dr. Achilles Swain|
|Veils||Mr. Robert Sloan|
|The Golden Age||The Stranger|
|1929||Sign of the Leopard||Captain Leslie|
|Let Us Be Gay||Bob Brown|
|1930||Out of a Blue Sky||Paul Rana|
|Stepdaughters of War||Geoffrey Hilder|
|1931||The Vinegar Tree||Max Lawrence|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Warren William.|
- Warren William at the Internet Broadway Database
- Warren William at the Internet Movie Database
- Photographs and literature
- Warren William at Find a Grave
- Warren William: Magnificent Scoundrel of Pre-Code Hollywood