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Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (5) | Trivia (5) | Personal Quotes (1)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 7 April 1895Paterson, New Jersey, USA
Date of Death 18 January 1968New York City, New York, USA  (emphysema)
Birth NameAlbert Jerome Wheeler
Height 5' 4" (1.63 m)

Mini Bio (1)

After becoming an orphan as a baby - his mother died at the age of 17 - he was raised by his father and aunt, and later a step-mother, he went to New York, where he tried to break into showbiz.

He got his first break with Gus Edwards, working later as actor in several shows, among them "The Gingerbread Man" and "When Dreams Come True". During this show he met his first wife, Margaret Grae, with whom he formed up a successful vaudeville team. Although being asked several times to make movies (among them a request by Harold Lloyd), he stayed with vaudeville. In 1926 they divorced and his wife soon married another actor.

In 1927 he was signed by Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. for his show "Rio Rita", where he was teamed with Robert Woolsey. They clicked and formed a comedy team that lasted until 1938 when Woolsey died. When Ziegfeld sold the screen rights of Rio Rita to the newly formed RKO studio as their official debut, they were the only actors in the cast who repeated their stage roles. Further more, a young actress named Dorothy Lee joined the team.

During the 30s, while they made many comedies in Hollywood, Wheeler married and was divorced twice. After Woolsey's death, he continued as single, mostly on the stage, but sometimes also on the screen. His last years were darkened with financial difficulties and failing health. Furthermore, two weeks before his own death on January 18, 1968 his daughter died of cancer.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Stephan Eichenberg <eichenbe@fak-cbg.tu-muenchen.de>

Spouse (5)

Patsy Orr (1952 - 1956) (divorced)
Olga Desmondae ("Des") Rieman (1951 - 8 August 1966) (her death)
Sally Haines (26 February 1937 - 1939) (divorced)
Bernice Wheeler (15 April 1928 - 19 February 1936) (divorced) (1 child)
Margaret Grae (27 April 1915 - 15 November 1926) (divorced)

Trivia (5)

Was teamed with Robert Woolsey for the Broadway production "Rio Rita", the teaming was so successful, that they were signed by RKO to repeat their stage roles in a movie version. Wheeler & Woolsey were the first comedy team to emerge as stars from sound pictures with their partnership lasting until Woolsey's death in 1938.
The great comedy team of Wheeler & Woolsey are little known in the 21st century, despite their great popularity in the 1930s. One of the reasons likely is the fact that their short films were not packaged and sold to television in the 1950s, unlike The Three Stooges and Laurel & Hardy, who then went on to entertain new generations of fans. Bobby Clark wrote much of the dialogue, which was very risqué and considered borderline in the more liberal 1930s. Their film shorts were geared towards adults, and even in the '30s, they were considered vulgar, and thus would have been inappropriate on television in the 1950s as the comedy shorts of the Stooges and Laurel & Hardy were programmed for children.
In later years he teamed with a new partner, Tommy Dillon, a young chap he worked with in Las Vegas and Manhattan's Latin Quarter.
Bert Wheeler had one child with actress Bernice Wheeler. Their daughter, Patricia Anne Wheeler, was born in 1936 and died of cancer in 1968.
Nine of the 21 movies he and Woolsey made together were released in a DVD collection entitled "Wheeler & Woolsey: RKO Comedy Classics Collection" in March 2013 by Warner Archive.

Personal Quotes (1)

[on working for Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., who made no secret of the fact that he didn't appreciate comics] You could never get the stage to rehearse. He'd be using it to drape those gorgeous dames. You could rehearse in the alley for all he cared. But when you worked for Mr. Ziegfeld you had made it. That was the tops.

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