Frank Reicher

Active - 1915 - 1951  |   Born - Dec 2, 1875   |   Died - Jan 19, 1965   |   Genres - Drama, Mystery, Romance, Crime

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Launching his theatrical career in his native Germany, actor/director Frank Reicher worked in London before coming to the US in 1899. His entree into the movies was as co-director of the 1915 production The Clue; he continued to direct in Hollywood before returning to the stage in 1921. At the dawn of the talkie era, Reicher was brought back to California to direct German-language versions of American films. For his acting bow before the microphones, Reicher was cast in the title role of Napoleon's Barber (1928) a Fox Movietone two-reeler which represented the first talkie for director John Ford. Reicher specialized at this time in humorless, wizened authority figures: college professors, doctors, scientists, cabinet ministers. In 1933 he was cast as Captain Engelhorn in the classic adventure fantasy King Kong; director Ernest Schoedsack later characterized Reicher as "the best actor we had" in a cast which included Robert Armstrong, Bruce Cabot and Fay Wray. He repeated the Engelhorn role, with a modicum of uncharacteristic humor added, in Son of Kong (1933). The remainder of Reicher's film career was devoted to brief character roles, often as murder victims. He was killed off at least twice by Boris Karloff (Invisible Ray [1936] and House of Frankenstein [1944]), and was strangled by Lon Chaney Jr. at the very beginning of The Mummy's Ghost (1944) (When Chaney inadvertently cut off his air during the feigned strangulation, Reicher subjected the star to a scorching reprimand, reducing Chaney to a quivering mass of meek apologies). During the war, Reicher's Teutonic name and bearing came in handy for the many anti-Nazi films of the era, notably To Be or Not to Be (1942) and Mission to Moscow (1944). In 1946, Reicher had one of his largest parts in years as the general factotum to hypnotist Edmund Lowe in The Strange Mr. Gregory (1946); that the part may have been written for the venerable actor is evidenced by the fact that his character name was Reicher. Frank Reicher retired in 1951; he died fourteen years later, at age 90.

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