Dwight Frye

Active - 1930 - 1943  |   Born - Feb 22, 1899   |   Died - Nov 7, 1943   |   Genres - Drama, Mystery, Crime, Adventure, Action

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Born in Kansas and raised in Colorado, Dwight Frye studied for a career in music, and by his mid-teens was a talented concert pianist. He switched to acting when he joined the O.D. Woodward stock company in 1918. During his years on Broadway, Frye specialized in comedy parts. When Hollywood called, however, the actor found himself typed as a neurotic villain. The role that both made and broke him was the bug-eating lunatic Renfield in 1931's Dracula. Though he begged producers to allow him to play comic or "straight" parts, he was hopelessly typed as Renfield, and spent the bulk of his career portraying murderers, grave robbers, crazed hunchbacks and mad scientists. When the first "horror" cycle subsided, Frye found himself accepting nondescript bit roles in films like The People vs. Dr. Kildare (1939). During the 1940s, Frye bounced from one "B" factory to another, doing his usual in such cheap thrillers as Dead Men Walk (1942). In between acting jobs, he supported himself and his family as a designer in an aircraft factory. Dwight Frye was about to undertake the stereotype-breaking role of Secretary of War Newton D. Baker in the lavish 20th Century-Fox biopic Wilson when he died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 44.

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