Warren William

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Warren William
Warren William in Goodbye Again trailer.jpg
from the trailer for the film Goodbye Again (1933).
Born Warren William Krech
(1894-12-02)December 2, 1894
Aitkin, Minnesota, U.S.
Died September 24, 1948(1948-09-24) (aged 53)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1920–1947
Spouse(s) Helen Barbara Nelson (1923-1948; his death)


Warren William (December 2, 1894 – September 24, 1948) was a Broadway and Hollywood actor, popular during the early 1930s, who was later nicknamed the "king of Pre-Code".

Family and Early Life[edit]

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.


Year Title Role
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
1934 Bedside Bob Brown
Upper World Alexander "Alex" Stream
Smarty Tony Wallace
Dr. Monica John Braden
The Dragon Murder Case Philo Vance
The Case of the Howling Dog Perry Mason
Cleopatra Julius Caesar
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
Arizona Jefferson Carteret
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
Counter-Espionage Michael Lanyard
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

Broadway Productions[edit]

Year Title Role
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
1925 Nocture Keith Reddington
The Blue Peter David Hunter
Rosmersholm Johannes Rosmer
1926 Twelve Miles Out Gerald Fey
Easter One More Day Elis
Fanny Joe White
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
Week-End Brett Laney
1930 Out of a Blue Sky Paul Rana
The Vikings Sigurd
Stepdaughters of War Geoffrey Hilder
1931 The Vinegar Tree Max Lawrence

External links[edit]