Wallace Beery Poster


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Overview (5)

Date of Birth 1 April 1885Kansas City, Missouri, USA
Date of Death 15 April 1949Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA  (heart attack)
Birth NameWallace Fitzgerald Beery
Nickname Wally
Height 5' 11½" (1.82 m)

Mini Bio (1)

In 1902, 16-year-old Wallace Beery joined the Ringling Brothers Circus as an assistant to the elephant trainer. He left two years later after a leopard clawed his arm. Beery next went to New York, where he found work in musical variety shows. He became a leading man in musicals and appeared on Broadway and in traveling stock companies. In 1913 he headed for Hollywood, where he would get his start as the hulking Swedish maid in the Sweedie comedy series for Essanay. In 1915 he would work with young ingénue Gloria Swanson in Sweedie Goes to College (1915). A year later they would marry and be wildly unhappy together. The marriage dissolved when Beery could not control his drinking and Gloria got tired of his abuse. Beery finished with the Sweedie series and worked as the heavy in a number of films. Starting with Patria (1917), he would play the beastly Hun in a number of films. In the 1920s he would be seen in a number of adventures, including The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921), Robin Hood (1922), The Sea Hawk (1924) and The Pony Express (1925). He would also play the part of Poole in So Big (1924), which was based on the best-selling book of the same name by Edna Ferber. Paramount began to move Beery back into comedies with Behind the Front (1926). When sound came, Beery was one of the victims of the wholesale studio purge. He had a voice that would record well, but his speech was slow and his tone was a deep, folksy, down home-type. While not the handsome hero image, MGM executive Irving Thalberg saw something in Beery and hired him for the studio. Thalberg cast Beery in The Big House (1930), which was a big hit and got Beery an Academy Award nomination. However, Beery would become almost a household word with the release of the sentimental Min and Bill (1930), which would be one of 1930's top money makers. The next year Beery would win the Oscar for Best Actor in The Champ (1931). He would be forever remembered as Long John Silver in Treasure Island (1934) (who says never work with kids?). Beery became one of the top ten stars in Hollywood, as he was cast as the tough, dim-witted, easy-going type (which, in real life, he was anything but). In Flesh (1932) he would be the dim-witted wrestler who did not figure that his wife was unfaithful. In Dinner at Eight (1933) he played a businessman trying to get into society while having trouble with his wife, Jean Harlow. After Marie Dressler died in 1934, he would not find another partner in the same vein as his early talkies until he teamed with Marjorie Main in the 1940s. He would appear opposite her in such films as Wyoming (1940) and Barnacle Bill (1941). By that time his career was slowing as he was getting up in age. He continued to work, appearing in only one or two pictures a year, until he died from a heart attack in 1949.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Tony Fontana <tony.fontana@spacebbs.com>

Spouse (2)

Rita Gilman (4 August 1924 - 1 May 1939) (divorced) (1 child)
Gloria Swanson (27 March 1916 - 1 March 1919) (divorced)

Trivia (25)

Brother of actor Noah Beery. Uncle of actor Noah Beery Jr.. Reports that Wallace and Noah were half-brothers are false; all three brothers were born to Noah W. Beery and Marguerite Fitzgerald Beery, according to U.S. census records.
Born at 2:47pm-CST
Ex-wife Rita Gilman, their daughter Carol Ann and his nephew Noah Beery Jr. were all with him at the time of his death.
At the time of his death, he was involved in a paternity suit. Actress Gloria Schumm claimed that he had fathered her then 13-month old son.
Interred at Forest Lawn (Glendale), Glendale, California, USA, in the Vale of Memory section, lot #2157-9808.
An avid fisherman, for 35 years he held the world's record for the largest black sea bass, which he caught off California's Santa Catalina Island in 1916.
Almost played the title role in MGM's The Wizard of Oz (1939) but due to other film roles at MGM, he was forced to turn down the role. The part of The Wizard/Prof. Marvel was given to MGM's resident character actor, Frank Morgan.
In the summer of 1941, he was billed by MGM as the "champion movie location commuter," the studio estimating that he had journeyed more than 100,000 miles to make pictures. According to studio records, Beery covered 15,000 miles in Mexico alone while filming Viva Villa! (1934).
He took up flying in 1925, and from then until 1941 he accumulated 14,000 hours of flight time as a pilot. While making Treasure Island (1934) on Santa Catalina Island, he commuted daily by plane from his Beverly Hills home.
Reportedly extremely difficult to get along with and completely lacking in any sort of manners or refinement. Beery's ex-wife, Gloria Swanson, once remarked that he had been invited to every fashionable home in Beverly Hills - once!.
At MGM his public image was carefully crafted by studio publicity chief Howard Strickling as that of a big lovable slob with a heart of gold. In reality, however, Beery was anything but that. Co-star Jackie Cooper said that Beery treated him like an unwanted dog the second the cameras stopped.
Turned down the role of Captain William Bligh in Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) because he was unwilling to work with Clark Gable.
When the Academy Awards were first presented, the winners were announced ahead of the ceremony, partly with the hope the recipients would show up to collect their award. When it was announced that the winner of the 1931 prize for best actor went to Fredric March, Beery reportedly stormed into the office of MGM studio chief Louis B. Mayer, demanding he be given the award instead. The result was a "tie" for Best Actor that year. From then on the Oscar votes were tabulated by Price Waterhouse, and the winners announced at the ceremony.
In December of 1939, right after divorcing his second wife, Beery adopted a seven-month-old girl, Phyllis Anne, as a single father. She appears in the 1940 United States census listed as a foster daughter in the Beery household under the name Phyllis Riley. Nevada is named as her birthplace.
Had a cabin on a very small island at Silver Lake, in June Lake, California. The cabin was destroyed by an avalanche. Some of the foundation can still be seen. Island became known as Beery Island.
Before entering films, Beery was a stage actor and before that he worked as an actor in circuses.
Beery later claimed that he had directed some of Chaplin's Essanay comedies shot at Niles Studios, but there never was any record of anything like this happening.
Besides his official 1885 birth date and place, Beery's birth year has variously been listed as 1881, 1886, and 1889.
His first show business job was as "chambermaid to the elephants" in Ringling Brothers Circus for three seasons. He quit after a leopard clawed his arm.
Although Beery's performance in "The Champ" is generally considered the first Oscar tie, he finished one vote behind Fredric March in "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," but under the rules then in effect, that was considered a tie.
Before he was signed by MGM after leaving Paramount, Beery lost $750,000 when Trans-America crashed, $165,000 on two bank failures, his house burned down, his new plane crashed, killing his mechanic and two passengers, and ultimately a third bank failed.
He got a big break while appearing in the Raymond Hitchcock musical farce "A Yankee Tourist," which opened on August 12, 1907. Beery had a featured role and as understudy to the star stepped into the lead role when Hitchcock reportedly had emergency surgery. An alternative to that story had Hitchcock charged with criminal conduct involving a fifteen year old girl. When Hitchcock returned to the production, he explained away his absence as a nervous breakdown. Beery was disappointed as his mother was en route to see her son's first starring performance. Although Hitchcock was later cleared Beery played the lead in the road version of the hit.
When Paramount dropped Beery's (and other actors') contracts at the end of the silent era in 1929, the actor was off the screen for a year before making a triumphal comeback at MGM with an Oscar-nominated performance in "The Big House." The role had been intended for Lon Chaney, who had recently died from cancer.
In the negotiations for his 1932 MGM contract, Beery insisted on being paid $1 more than any other Metro star. At $10,001 a week this made him the highest-salaried actor in the world at the time.
Beery was notoriously abusive to the juvenile performers he supposedly adored onscreen. For one scene in the 1937 film "Slave Ship" he had to slap his 16 year-old co-star Mickey Rooney in the face. Beery didn't fake the action and, without warning, slapped Rooney so hard he was knocked to the floor, spoiling the take and causing outrage among the crew. Director Tay Garnett took Beery aside and told him that everyone on the set loved Rooney, and that it would be most unfortunate if some lighting equipment were to "accidentally" fall on Beery's head. Beery got the message and behaved himself for the rest of the shoot. Interestingly, Rooney was one of the very few actors to work with Beery who later expressed no resentment towards him. He said, "Not everyone loved him the way I did.".

Personal Quotes (3)

I never let anyone sucker me, not even for a nickel.
Like my dear old friend Marie Dressler, my ugly mug has been my fortune.
I like to play with Clark Gable. Folks seem surprised that we see quite a lot of each other outside the studio. .. He's a regular outdoors man and we're interested in the same things, guns and flying and stuff like that. He ain't no faintin' Romeo, the way they try to make him out.

Salary (1)

That Night (1917) $50 /week

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