A product of the Indiana orphanage system, the part-Cherokee-Indian Monte Blue held down jobs ranging from stevedore to reporter before offering his services as a movie-studio handyman in the early 1910s. Pressed into service as an extra and stunt man, Blue graduated to featured parts in D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation (1915). Thanks to his work with Griffith and (especially) Cecil B. DeMille, Blue became a dependable box-office attraction of the 1920s, playing everything from lawyers to baseball players. He was a mainstay of the fledgling Warner Bros. studios, where the profits from his films frequently compensated for the expensive failures starring John Barrymore. In 1928 he was cast in his finest silent role, as the drink-sodden doctor in White Shadows on the South Seas. After making a successful transition to talkies, Blue decided to retire from filmmaking, taking a tour around the world to celebrate his freedom. Upon his return to the U.S. in 1931, Blue found that he had lost his fortune through bad investments, and that the public at large had forgotten him. By now too heavy-set to play romantic leads, Blue rebuilt his career from the bottom up, playing bits in "A" pictures and supporting roles in "B"s. He was busiest in the bread-and-butter westerns produced by such minor studios as Republic, Monogram and PRC; he also showed up in several serials, notably as "Ming the Merciless" clone Unga Khan in 1936's Undersea Kingdom. Movie mogul Jack Warner, out of gratitude for Blue's moneymaking vehicles of the 1920s, saw to it that Monte was steadily employed at Warner Bros., and that his name would appear prominently in the studio's advertising copy. While many of his talkie roles at Warners were bits, Blue was given choice supporting roles in such films as Across the Pacific (1942), Mask of Dimitrios (1944) and especially Key Largo (1948). Extending his activities into TV, Blue continued accepting character roles until retiring from acting in 1954. During the last years of his life, Monte Blue was the advance man for the Hamid-Morton Shrine Circus; it was while making his annual appearance in this capacity in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that Blue suffered a heart attack and died at the age of 73.
by Hal Erickson biography