Dubbed by one film historian as "the villain's villain," actor Noah Beery Sr. left his family's Missouri farm at age 14 to work as a newsboy in Kansas City. In rapid succession, Beery was a candy concessionaire at a circus and a lemon-drop entrepreneur, reportedly making his stage debut hawking his wares between the acts of a Kansas City theatrical production. Beery turned to performing around 1900, first as a baritone singer, then as a stock villain in touring melodramas. When his son Noah Jr. (later a popular actor in his own right) fell ill in 1916, Noah Sr. turned to films to pay the mounting medical bills. One of the busiest baddies in the movies, Noah shamelessly chewed the scenery in such films as The Mark of Zorro (1920), The Spoilers (1922), Beau Geste (1927), and Paramount's Zane Grey western series. Making the transition to sound with ease, Beery was given ample opportunity to display his splendid singing voice in several films, notably a brace of Wheeler and Woolsey comedies, Cockeyed Cavaliers (1934) and Kentucky Kernels (1934). During the talkie era, Noah's fame was eclipsed by that of his brother Wallace Beery, and by the late 1930s Noah was accepting roles in Monogram B-pictures and Republic serials. Too ill to play anything but minor roles in the 1940s, Noah was cast in peripheral parts in the MGM vehicles of his brother Wallace; the two men were not always close, but Wally saw to it that Noah was well provided for in his last years. Noah Beery died at the age of 62, a few hours before he was scheduled to co-star with Wallace in a radio production of Barnacle Bill.
by Hal Erickson biography