Noah Beery

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Noah Beery
Beery in 1930
Noah Nicholas Beery

(1882-01-17)January 17, 1882
DiedApril 1, 1946(1946-04-01) (aged 64)
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills, California
Years active1898–1946
Marguerite Lindsay
(m. 1910)
ChildrenNoah Beery Jr.
RelativesWallace Beery (brother)

Noah Nicholas Beery (January 17, 1882 – April 1, 1946) was an American actor who appeared in films from 1913 until his death in 1946. He was the older brother of Academy Award-winning actor Wallace Beery as well as the father of prominent character actor Noah Beery Jr. He was billed as either Noah Beery or Noah Beery Sr. depending upon the film.

Early life[edit]

Noah Nicholas Beery was born on a farm in Clay County, Missouri, not far from Smithville.[1] The Beery family left the farm in the 1890s and moved to nearby Kansas City, Missouri, where the father was employed as a police officer. While still a young boy Beery got his first exposure to theatre, and at the same time showed budding entrepreneurship by selling lemon drops at the Gillis Theater in Kansas City.[2]

Beery's deep, rich voice in his early teens led several actors at the Gillis Theater to encourage him to take singing lessons and consider a career as a performer. A summer of singing at Kansas City's Electric Park amusement park led to his leaving for New York City at age 16.[1] Beery was three years older than his brother Wallace, who also became an actor as quickly as he could.


Beery in 1925
Isle of Lost Ships (1929) with Jason Robards Sr. and Beery
Beery and his son Noah Beery Jr. in 1922
The Red Lantern (1919) with Alla Nazimova and Beery
The Red Lantern (1919) with Nazimova and Beery
The Red Lantern (1919) with Nazimova and Beery
The Mark of Zorro (1920) with Douglas Fairbanks and Beery
The Sea Wolf (1920) with Beery as Wolf Larsen
Stormswept (1923) with Wallace and Noah Beery
Stormswept (1923) with Noah and Wallace Beery
The Fighting Coward (1924) with Beery and Cullen Landis
Betty Compson and Beery in The Female (1924)
Beery, Raymond Hatton, Lois Wilson, and Jack Holt in The Thundering Herd (1925)
Paradise (1926)
Beery and Tom Kennedy in Man of the Forest (1933)
Beery and Harry Carey in Man of the Forest

Beery worked in vaudeville and in the choruses of musical comedies during his early years in New York. Soon, though, he turned to acting in melodramas of the period, often under the direction of William A. Brady.[1]

After a dozen years on the stage, he joined his brother Wallace in Hollywood in 1915 to make motion pictures. He became a respected character actor, adept at playing the villain but sometimes portraying the hero. One of his most memorable characterizations was as Sergeant Gonzales in The Mark of Zorro (1920) opposite Douglas Fairbanks. The tagline on the poster for Stormswept (1923) proclaimed "Wallace and Noah Beery, the Two Greatest Character Actors on the American Screen".[citation needed]

Beery acted through the silent film era, and made the transition to sound films. He appeared in early Technicolor musicals, such as The Show of Shows (1929), the widescreen musical Song of the Flame (1930; the movie's poster noted that "Noah Beery will thrill you with his wonderful bass voice, twice as low as any ever recorded"), Bright Lights (1930), Under a Texas Moon (1930) and Golden Dawn (1930; in which he wore blackface as an African native).[citation needed]

He reached his peak in popularity in 1930, recording a phonograph record for Brunswick Records with songs from two of his films. However, his popularity gradually declined while his brother Wallace became the highest-paid actor in the world, winning an Oscar and arranging a contract with MGM in which he would be paid $1 more than any other actor on their roster. Noah Beery Sr. played the flamboyant supporting role of Mae West's bar-owning lover until she leaves him for Cary Grant in She Done Him Wrong (1933), and his brother Wallace performed in an extremely similar part, as the top-billed lead, later the same year in Raoul Walsh's The Bowery.[citation needed]

At the height of his career, Noah Beery began billing himself as Noah Beery Sr. in anticipation of his son's presence in films. After his death, his son dropped the Junior and became simply Noah Beery. Among other films, Noah Beery Sr. and Noah Beery Jr. appeared together in The Trail Beyond (1934) with John Wayne, in which Noah Jr. played Wayne's sidekick throughout the picture. Four decades later, Noah Jr. became best known as James Garner's character's father "Rocky" in the 1970s television series The Rockford Files. Noah Beery Sr. appeared in nearly 200 films during his career and in 1945 returned to New York City to star in the Mike Todd Broadway production of Up in Central Park.

Personal life[edit]

Beery married actress Marguerite Walker Lindsey in 1910. Their first child died in infancy. Their second child, actor Noah Lindsey Beery (stage name Noah Beery Jr.), was born in 1913 and was seriously ill in early childhood, prompting a brief move to Florida on the advice of doctors.[2]


Beery died on April 1, 1946, aged 64, after suffering a heart attack at the home of his brother Wallace Beery in Beverly Hills. It was Wallace's birthday, and in addition to celebrating the event, the brothers were rehearsing a radio drama they were scheduled to perform later in the evening.[1]

He was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles.[3]

Selected filmography[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Dictionary of Missouri Biography, Lawrence O. Christensen, University of Missouri Press, 1999.
  2. ^ a b "Characters and heavies - Noah Beery Sr". "Western Clippings" website. Retrieved July 15, 2012.
  3. ^ Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2 (Kindle Locations 3178). McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. Kindle Edition.

External links[edit]