James Murray (American actor)
Lobby card for Frisco Jenny (1932)
February 9, 1901|
The Bronx, New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||July 11, 1936
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Cause of death||Drowning|
|Resting place||Calvary Cemetery|
|Spouse(s)||Lucille McNarre (m. 1928; div.?)
Marion Sayers (m. 1933; div. 1933)
Born in The Bronx, Murray went to Hollywood in the 1920s to try to succeed as an actor. After several years of work, mostly as an extra, with little hope of a starring role, he was "discovered" by director King Vidor, who saw Murray walking by on the MGM lot. Vidor was about to begin work on a new film and thought Murray might look right for the lead. Murray, however, failed to show up for the meeting he arranged with Vidor, apparently thinking it to be a joke. Vidor subsequently tracked him down, and Murray's performance in The Crowd was lauded by both the critics and the public. Before his work in The Crowd, Murray had starred alongside Joan Crawford in Rose-Marie in 1928.
Despite appearances in subsequent MGM films such as Lon Chaney's The Big City and Thunder, Murray's career began to decline due to his excessive drinking. In August 1930, he was sentenced to six months in jail after appearing in court drunk on a previous drunk driving charge. After serving four months of hard labor, Murray was released and attempted to make a comeback. He stopped drinking for a time and, in February 1933, was signed to a seven-year contract with Warner Bros.-First National Pictures. That same year, he married "Miss Florida" Marion Sayers. The marriage and Murray's sobriety proved to short lived; Sayers was granted a divorced in November 1933 on the grounds that Murray drank excessively and forced Sayers to work to support him. Sayers and Murray later reconciled and remarried, but they separated again as Murray's decline continued.
By 1934, Murray was out of work and panhandling on the street. Around that time, director King Vidor was casting his upcoming film, Our Daily Bread. He immediately thought of Murray and set out to find him. Upon discovering a much heavier and unkempt Murray begging for money on the street, Vidor bought Murray a drink and offered him the lead role in Our Daily Bread, provided he pull himself together. Murray turned Vidor down stating, "Just because I stop you on the street and try to borrow a buck you think you can tell me what to do. As far as I am concerned, you know what you can do with your lousy part."
In all, Murray appeared in 36 films. In most of his post silent era films, particularly those made during the last few years of his career, he was cast in uncredited bit parts or as an extra.
On July 11, 1936, Murray drowned after falling from the North River pier. The medical examiner determined that the cause was "asphyxia by submersion," without ruling on whether his death was an accident or suicide. He was interred at the Calvary Cemetery in Woodside, Queens, New York.
Decades later, Vidor was still so haunted by Murray's decline that he wrote an unrealized screenplay about his life entitled, The Actor.
|1927||In Old Kentucky||Jimmy|
|1928||The Big City||Curly|
|1928||The Crowd||John "Johnny" Sims|
|1928||The Little Wildcat||Conrad Burton|
|1929||The Shakedown||Dave Roberts|
|1932||Frisco Jenny||Dan McAllister|
- "Destined As Fine Actor, Couldn't Take His Success". The Milwaukee Journal. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. August 2, 1936. p. 7. Retrieved June 6, 2016.
- "Actor Appears In Court Drunk". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. August 30, 1930. p. 1. Retrieved June 7, 2016.
- "Marion Sayers, Local Girl, Gets Credit For James Murray's Comeback in Films". St. Petersburg Times. St. Petersburg, Florida. February 4, 1933. p. 5. Retrieved June 7, 2016.
- "Marion Murray Given Divorce". The Evening Independent. St. Petersburg, Flrodia. November 2, 1933. pp. 3–A. Retrieved June 7, 2016.
- Thomson, David (2012). The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. p. 115. ISBN 0-374-19189-1.
- "Former Film Star Drowning Victim". Motion Picture Herald. Quigley Publishing Company: 32. July 1936.
- Roberts, Sam (May 15, 2005). "CITY LORE; A Pair of Dreamers". The New York Times. Retrieved June 1, 2009.
- Durgnat, Raymond; Simmon, Scott (1988). King Vidor, American. University of California Press. p. 86. ISBN 0-520-05798-8.
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