Wallace Worsley

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Wallace Worsley
Jack Holt, Wallace Worsley, and Charles Schoenbaum on the set of Nobody's Money (1923)
Wallace Ashley Worsley

(1878-12-08)December 8, 1878
DiedMarch 26, 1944(1944-03-26) (aged 65)
Hollywood, California
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
Occupationfilm director
Years active1917 to 1928
SpouseJulia M. Taylor (1878–1976)
Worsley and cameraman Robert Newhard during making of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Wallace A. Worsley Sr. (December 8, 1878 – March 26, 1944) was an American stage actor who became a film director in the silent era. During his career, Worsley directed 29 films and acted in 7 films. He directed several movies starring Lon Chaney Sr., and his professional relationship with the actor was the best Chaney had, second to his partnership with Tod Browning.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) is one of his better-known works, along with The Penalty (1920). Worsley's 1922 horror film A Blind Bargain with Chaney is one of the more sought after lost films.[1]


In April 1901, Worsely appeared at the Empire Theatre (41st Street) as Lt. Earl of Hunstanton in a revival of Leo Trevor's comedy Brother Officers. It ran for eight performances.[2] He followed this immediately with Diplomacy, which ran for about six weeks.[3] Between 1903 and 1915, Worsley was in nine more plays, most of them short-lived.[4] One play which was particularly successful was Philip Bartholomae Over Night (1911) in which Worsley portrayed Al Rivers.[5][6]

In 1916, Worsley left Broadway for Hollywood and acted for two years, then he started directing.[7]

The Hunchback of Notre Dame[edit]

Worsley observes construction of Hunchback set 1922

This movie was to be the first big-screen adaptation of Hugo's novel[8] and Universal's major production of 1923. Chaney owned the rights, and reportedly, his first choice for director was Erich von Stroheim. However, Irving Thalberg recently fired von Stroheim due to conflicts over Merry-Go-Round.[9] Worsley, who had already worked on four films with Chaney, directed on loan from Paramount.

The cast of extras was so large that Worsley set aside his megaphone in favor of a radio and loudspeaker.[10] The film was Universal's most successful silent film.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Worsley married Indiana-born actress, Julia Marie Taylor, on September 18, 1904. Among Julia's film credits is the title role of Juliet in the 1911 short Romeo and Juliet, directed by Barry O'Neil, considered to be the first attempt to distill the entire Shakespeare narrative into a single film. Together, they had two sons, Wallace Worsley Jr. (1908-1991), an assistant director and production manager, whose career spanned nearly six decades and included The Wizard of Oz and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and Paul Brackenride Worsley (1920-1933). He died in 1944 at the age of 65.

Selected filmography[edit]

Year Title Role
1917 Borrowed Plumage Sir Charles Broome
1917 Paws of the Bear Curt Schrieber
1917 Alimony John Flint
1918 A Man's Man Henry Jenks
1918 Madam Who? Albert Lockhart
1918 A Law Unto Herself director
1918 The Goddess of Lost Lake director
1919 Adele director
1919 Diane of the Green Van director
1919 Playthings of Passion director
1919 A Woman of Pleasure director
1920/I The Penalty director
1921 The Ace of Hearts director
1921 Voices of the City director
1921 Don't Neglect Your Wife director
1922 A Blind Bargain director
1922 When Husbands Deceive director
1922 Enter Madame director
1923 A Man's Man Henry Jenks
1923 Nobody's Money director
1923 Is Divorce a Failure? director
1923 The Hunchback of Notre Dame director
1924 The Man Who Fights Alone director
1926 Shadow of the Law director
1928 The Power of Silence director


  1. ^ Lon Chaney Archive
  2. ^ "Brother Officers", 1901, IDBD
  3. ^ Diplomacy, IBDB
  4. ^ "Wallace Worsley", IBDB
  5. ^ "STAGE FRIGHT SEALS YOUNG AUTHOR'S LIPS; Bartholomae Is Dumb Before Plaudits Marking the Success of "Overnight" at Hackett". The New York Times. January 3, 1911. p. 12.
  6. ^ James Fisher, Felicia Hardison Londré (2009). The A to Z of American Theater: Modernism. Scarecrow Press. p. 49. ISBN 9780810868847.
  7. ^ "Wallace Worsley Sr. papers", Margaret Herrick Library, AMPAS
  8. ^ "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", American Cinematheque
  9. ^ Blake, Michael F. A Thousand Faces: Lon Chaney's Unique Artistry in Motion Pictures. Vestal, New York: Vestal Press, 1997. ISBN 978-1-8795-1121-7
  10. ^ "Radio Replaces Megaphone". The Film Daily. 23–24: 493. March 1923.
  11. ^ "Biggest Money Pictures". Variety. June 21, 1932. p. 1.

External links[edit]