Warren William

Active - 1922 - 1947  |   Born - Dec 2, 1895   |   Died - Sep 24, 1948   |   Genres - Drama, Mystery, Crime, Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Suave film leading man Warren William was the son of a Minnesota newspaper publisher. William's own plans to pursue a journalistic career were permanently shelved when he enrolled at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. After serving in World War I, William remained in France to join a touring theatrical troupe. He worked on Broadway in the 1920s and also appeared in serial star Pearl White's last chapter play, Plunder (1923). His talkie career began with 1931's Honor of the Family. Typically cast as a ruthless business executive or shyster lawyer, William effectively carried over some of his big city aggressiveness to the role of Julius Caesar in DeMille's Cleopatra (1934). He also had the distinction of starring in three whodunit film series of the 1930s and 1940s, playing Perry Mason, Philo Vance, and the Lone Wolf. Off camera, William was unexpectedly shy and retiring; his co-star Joan Blondell once noted that he "was an old man even when he was a young man." Warren William was only in his early fifties when he died of multiple myeloma. With the advent of the twenty-first century -- more than 50 years after his death -- Warren William's popularity experienced a resurgence, owing to the repertory programming at New York's Film Forum, which began running a surprisingly large number of his movies, offering the actor variously as villain, hero, or anti-hero. By the summer of 2011, "The King of the Cads," as he was once again known, was sufficiently well-recognized so that that New York's leading repertory theater was programming "Warren William Thursdays" as part of a pre-Code Hollywood series, and selling out many of those shows.

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