Ernest Torrence

Active - 1921 - 1933  |   Born - Jun 26, 1878   |   Died - May 15, 1933   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Though audiences were inclined to laugh when brutish, slack-jawed Scottish actor Ernest Torrence declared in 1930s Call of the Flesh that he'd once been the greatest opera singer in all Italy, the fact is that Torrence began his career in opera. A graduate of the Stuttgart Conservatory and London's Royal Academy of Music, Torrence excelled as an operatic baritone in the early years of the 20th century. When his voice began to fail him in 1920, Torrence turned to films, which at the time were silent and required no vocals whatsoever. He made his mark as a cinema villain by playing the moronic, twitch-eyed thief in 1921's Tol'able David. Most of his subsequent bad guy portrayals were played with tongue firmly in cheek, notably his outrageous Captain Hook in the 1924 version of Peter Pan. He continued his screen skullduggery into the talkie era, portraying the unspeakable Professor Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes (1932) and an alcoholic smuggler in his last film, I Cover the Waterfront (1933). Ernest Torrence was the older brother of actor David Torrence.

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