Irving Pichel

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Irving Pichel
Irving Pichel - still.jpg
Pichel in the 1940s
Born (1891-06-24)June 24, 1891
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died July 13, 1954(1954-07-13) (aged 63)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor/Director
Years active 1920–54
Spouse(s) Violette Wilson

Irving Pichel (June 24, 1891 – July 13, 1954) was an American actor and film director.


Pichel's first work in musical theatre was as a technical director for the Bohemian Club's summer pageants at the Bohemian Grove. He was soon loaned out to Wallace Rice as the main narrator in Rice's Primavera, the Masque of Santa Barbara in 1920.[1] Pichel achieved significant notoriety as the title character in the landmark Pasadena Playhouse production of Eugene O'Neill's play Lazarus Laughed in 1927.

Among his most notable screen roles were the servant Sandor in Dracula's Daughter, the proprietor of the seedy road house in the notorious The Story of Temple Drake, and Fagin in the 1933 adaptation of Oliver Twist. He directed several films, including The Miracle of the Bells, Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid, and Destination Moon. His voice was heard as narrator in How Green Was My Valley, and as the voice of Jesus in the film The Great Commandment.

By the mid-1940s, Pichel played small parts in several of the films that he directed, performed on radio, and was the narrator of John Ford's She Wore a Yellow Ribbon in 1949. His last films as a director were sectarian church-basement favorites Martin Luther in 1953, and Day of Triumph in 1954.


In 1947, Pichel was one of 19 members of the Hollywood community who were subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee during the United States' second Red Scare. This group became known as the "Hollywood Nineteen" and the "Unfriendly Nineteen".[2] While Pichel was ultimately not called to testify,[3] he was blacklisted, although he got around the blacklist by leaving the United States.[4] In 1954, however, he returned to the U.S. to direct Day of Triumph, a B-film about the life of Christ. He died very shortly after the film was finished and did not live to see the premiere.

Personal life[edit]

Pichel married Violette Wilson, daughter of Jackson Stitt Wilson, a Methodist minister and Socialist mayor of Berkeley, California. Her sister was actress Viola Barry. The couple had three sons.[citation needed]





  1. ^ Starr, Kevin. Material Dreams, Oxford University Press US, 1990, p. 276. ISBN 0-19-504487-8
  2. ^ McBride, p. 462
  3. ^ Pells, p. 302
  4. ^ Buhle, et al., p. 184


  • Buhle, Paul and Dave Wagner (2002). A Very Dangerous Citizen: Abraham Lincoln Polonsky and the Hollywood Left. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-23672-6.
  • McBride, Joseph (2003). Searching for John Ford: A Life. Macmillan. ISBN 0-312-31011-0.
  • Pells, Richard H. (1989). The Liberal Mind in a Conservative Age: American Intellectuals in the 1940s and 1950s. Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 0-8195-6225-4.

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