Holmes Herbert

Active - 1917 - 1952  |   Born - Jul 3, 1882   |   Died - Dec 26, 1956   |   Genres - Drama, Mystery, Crime, Adventure, Romance

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A former circus and minstrel-show performer, British actor Holmes Herbert toured on the provincial-theatre circuit as a juvenile in the early 1900s. Born Edward Sanger, Herbert adopted his professional first name out of admiration for Sherlock Holmes -- a role which, worse luck, he never got to play. Herbert never appeared in films in his native country; he arrived in Hollywood in 1918, appeared in a film version of Ibsen's A Doll's House (1918), and never looked homeward. Talking pictures enabled Holmes Herbert to join such countrymen as Reginald Denny and Roland Young in portraying "typical" British gentlemen. The stately, dynamic-featured Herbert nearly always appeared in a dinner jacket, selflessly comforting the heroine as she pined for the man she really loved. He received some of his best roles in the early-talkie era; he appeared as a soft-spoken police inspector in The Thirteenth Chair (1929), then recreated the role for the 1937 remake. Herbert also appeared as Dr. Lanyon, Henry Jekyll's closest friend and confidante in the Fredric March version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931). By the '40s, many of Herbert's roles were uncredited, but he was still able to make a maximum impression with a minimum of lines in such roles as the village council head in Ghost of Frankenstein (1942). Herbert's second wife was another supporting-cast stalwart of the '30s, Beryl Mercer (best remembered as James Cagney's mother in Public Enemy [1931]). Holmes Herbert remained in films until 1952's The Brigand; reportedly, he also appeared in a few early west-coast television productions.

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