in A Strange Adventure (1932)
|Born||Dwight Iliff Fry
February 22, 1899
Salina, Kansas, U.S.
|Died||November 7, 1943
Hollywood, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale)|
|Spouse(s)||Laura Mae Bullivant (1928-43; his death); 1 child|
Dwight Iliff Frye (February 22, 1899 – November 7, 1943) was an American stage and screen actor. He is best known for his neurotic, murderous villains in several classic Universal horror films, most notably as Renfield in Dracula (1931) and as Fritz in Frankenstein (1931).
Early life and career
Frye was born in Salina, Kansas and studied for a career in music and first appeared as a concert pianist. In the 1920s, he made his name as a stage actor, often in comedies. In 1924, he played the Son in a translation of Luigi Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author.
He had a few minor roles in silent pictures, but with the coming of sound he soon became known for playing villains. Nicknamed "The Man with the Thousand-Watt Stare" and "The Man of a Thousand Deaths", he specialized in the portrayal of mentally unbalanced characters, including his signature role, the madman Renfield in Tod Browning's 1931 version of Dracula. Later that same year, he played the hunchbacked assistant Fritz in Frankenstein. Also in 1931, Frye portrayed Wilmer Cook (the "gunsel") in the original film version of Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon. He had a featured role in the horror film The Vampire Bat (1933) in which he played Herman, a half-wit suspected of being a killer. He had memorable roles in The Invisible Man (1933) as a reporter, and in The Crime of Dr. Crespi (1935).
In Bride of Frankenstein (1935), he played Karl. The part was originally much more substantive, and many additional scenes of Frye were shot as a subplot but were edited out of the final version to shorten the running time and appease the censors. One of these deleted scenes was that of Karl killing a Burgomaster, portrayed by E. E. Clive. No known prints of these scenes survive today, but photographs of the scene were used to illustrate the scene's synopsis and are included in the recent Universal Studios DVD release of the film. He played similar characters in Ghost of Frankenstein and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man; another appearance in Son of Frankenstein was deleted prior to release. Also in the 1930s he appeared in two films featuring James Cagney: The Doorway to Hell (as a hit man) and Something To Sing About (as a fussy hairdresser).
During the early 1940s, Frye alternated between film roles and appearing on stage in a variety of productions ranging from comedies to musicals, as well as appearing in a stage version of Dracula. During World War II, he made a contribution to the war effort by working nights as a tool designer for Lockheed Aircraft.
On November 7, 1943, Frye died of a heart attack while riding on a bus in Hollywood, a few days before he was scheduled to begin filming the biopic Wilson. He is interred in Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale.
American rock band Alice Cooper wrote and recorded a tribute track to Dwight Frye entitled "The Ballad of Dwight Fry" (purposefully dropping the last "e") that was included on their 1971 LP Love It to Death. On stage, this song would be portrayed with Alice in a straitjacket trying to escape, and finally breaking free at the end of the song to strangle the nurse with the ties.
|1926||Exit Smiling||Balcony Heckler||Uncredited|
|1927||Upstream||Theatre Audience Spectator||Uncredited|
|1928||The Night Bird||Party Guest||Uncredited|
|1930||The Doorway to Hell||Gangster|
|1931||Dracula||R. M. Renfield|
|The Maltese Falcon||Wilmer Cook|
|The Black Camel||Jessup, the butler||Uncredited|
|1932||Attorney for the Defense||James Wallace|
|A Strange Adventure||Robert Wayne|
|1933||The Vampire Bat||Herman Gleib|
|The Invisible Man||A reporter||Uncredited|
|1935||Bride of Frankenstein||Karl|
|The Crime of Dr. Crespi||Dr. Thomas|
|1937||Sea Devils||SS Paradise Radio Operator||Uncredited|
|The Road Back||Small Man at Rally||Uncredited|
|Something to Sing About||Mr. Easton|
|The Shadow||Vindecco||1938 Fast Company|
|1939||Son of Frankenstein||Villager||Unconfirmed|
|1940||Phantom Raiders||Eddie Anders|
|Drums of Fu Manchu||Professor Anderson|
|Gangs of Chicago||Pinky|
|1941||The Devil Pays Off||Radio Operator||Uncredited|
|Flying Blind||Leo Qualen|
|1942||The Ghost of Frankenstein||Villager||Uncredited|
|1943||Dead Men Walk||Zolarr|
|Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man||Rudi|
|Hangmen Also Die!||Hostage||Uncredited|
- "Dwight Frye - Biography, Movie Highlights and Photos - AllMovie".
- "Six Characters in Search of an Author". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2010-08-05.
- Mank, Gregory William (2009). Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff: The Expanded Story of a Haunting Collaboration, with a Complete Filmography of Their Films Together. McFarland. ISBN 9780786454723. Retrieved 24 July 2017.
- Gregory W. Mank; Dwight D. Frye; James Coughlin (1997). Dwight Frye's Last Laugh. Midnight Marquee. ISBN 1-887664-11-4.