Though he appeared to be an illiterate, streetwise plug-ugly, American actor Warren Hymer was actually the son of two affluent stage performers, John B. Hymer and Elsie Hunt. Hymer was also a graduate of Yale University, and a moderately successful Broadway stage actor before coming to Hollywood in 1928. Because of his rough-hewn facial features and his ability to feign incredible stupidity, Hymer was much in demand in gangster parts, from his first talking picture, This Cockeyed World (1929), onward. So popular was Hymer during the early-talkie period that he shared co-starring status with Spencer Tracy in two films, and was billed over Humphrey Bogart in Up the River (1932). Unfortunately, Hymer's love of acting took second place to his love of liquor. Things went from bad to worse as Hymer's condition deteriorated; at one point he began filming a scene, opened his mouth to speak, and collapsed cold on the floor. Producers were willing to overlook this in view of Hymer's talent, but the actor also suffered from an uncontrollable temper. The axe fell on the day that Hymer, arguing with Columbia Pictures chieftan Harry Cohn, punctuated his tirade by urinating on Cohn's desk. After that, Hymer was virtually blackballed from Hollywood, resurfacing from time to time for an unbilled bit or a barely coherent supporting role. Warren Hymer died in 1948, not having worked in two years; he was only 42.
by Hal Erickson biography