Sam De Grasse

Active - 1914 - 1930  |   Born - Jan 1, 1875   |   Died - Nov 29, 1953   |   Genres - Drama, Crime, Romance

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Biography by Hal Erickson

For the first few years after his entry into films in 1912, the granite-featured Sam DeGrasse convincingly played romantic leads; he also was seen in dignified character roles, such as Senator Charles Sumner in Griffith's The Birth of a Nation (1915) (A Southerner, Griffith was opposed to Sumner's reconstruction activities after the Civil War, but depicts the Senator as a unwitting hypocrite rather than an outright heavy). It took the keen eye of actor/producer Douglas Fairbanks Sr. to tap the evil lurking within DeGrasse. Fairbanks first used DeGrasse in The Good Bad Man (1915), and continued employing the versatile villain for the next eleven years in such tongue-in-cheek adventure fare as Wild and Woolly (1917), Robin Hood (1922) (as Prince John) and The Black Pirate (1926). Outside of his work with Fairbanks, De Grasse appeared minus his usual swarthy makeup in Von Stroheim's Blind Husbands (1919); was a secondary heavy in the 1922 version of The Spoilers; and played the legendary political "weathervane" Talleyrand in The Fighting Eagle (1927). His monstrous villainy as King James II in The Man Who Laughs (1928) was underscored by his powder-puff makeup and mincing gestures. In contrast, DeGrasse was often halfway human when appearing in modern roles, notably as Eddie Nugent's father in the jazz-age epic Our Dancing Daughters. Sam DeGrasse closed out his film career shortly after his only talking-picture appearances in Wall Street (1929) and Captain of the Guard (1930). In the words of film historian William K. Everson, "'Slimy' is the only word one can use in describing [Sam] DeGrasse. The Canadian-born actor was the brother of director Joseph DeGrasse and uncle of cinematographer Robert DeGrasse.

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