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James Murray (American actor)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

James Murray
A photograph of Murray published in Screenland (1927)
James T. Murray

(1901-02-09)February 9, 1901
DiedJuly 11, 1936(1936-07-11) (aged 35)
North River, New York City, U.S.
Resting placeCalvary Cemetery
Years active1924–1936
Spouse(s)Lucille McNames (m. 1928; div.1930)
Marion Sayers
(m. 1933)

James T. Murray (February 9, 1901 – July 11, 1936) was an American film actor best known for starring in the 1928 film The Crowd.

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Early life

Born in The Bronx, Murray was the second of seven children of Mary (née Casserly) and Christopher Murray.[1][2][3] His mother was a native of Ireland, as was his father, who by 1910 was employed in New York as an insurance inspector for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.[2]


In 1923, Murray made his film debut as Captain John Alden in the Pilgrims, a three-reel production shot at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut and surrounding area locations.[4] In 1924, Murray moved to Hollywood with hopes of continuing an acting career. Over the next three years, Murray found film work, mostly as an extra. In 1927, Murray got his break when he was "discovered" by director King Vidor who was then in pre-production for his next film, The Crowd. Vidor saw Murray walking near the casting office on the M-G-M lot and thought Murray looked right for the lead role. Murray, however, failed to show up for a meeting arranged by Vidor, apparently thinking the prospective offer was a joke. Vidor tracked Murray down and eventually cast him as “the ordinary man as hero” John Sims. Upon its premiere in March 1928, The Crowd was a critical and financial success and Murray's performance was lauded by both the critics and the public. Shortly before working in Vidor's production, Murray also starred alongside Joan Crawford in Rose-Marie, released in February 1928.[5]

Following The Crowd, Murray appeared in the Warner Bros. comedy The Little Wildcat. Later that year, he starred opposite Lon Chaney in The Big City, followed by a supporting role in Chaney's final silent film Thunder in 1929. Thunder would also be Murray's last film for M-G-M in which he had a significant role. In 1929, Murray made the transition from silent to sound films in the part-talkie The Shakedown for Universal Pictures.

By 1930, Murray's once promising career had begun to falter due to his increasing alcoholism and alcohol related arrests. In August 1930, Murray was sentenced to six months in jail for appearing in court drunk on a previous drunk-driving charge.[6] After serving four months of hard labor, Murray was released and attempted to reignite his acting career. He stopped drinking for a time and, in February 1933, he signed a seven-year contract with First National Pictures and Warner Bros.[7] The same year, he married beauty pageant contestant ("Miss Florida") and actress Marion Sayers. The marriage and Murray's sobriety proved to be short lived; Sayers was granted a divorce in November 1933 on the grounds that Murray drank excessively and forced her to work to support him.[8]

By 1934, Murray was unable to secure acting work due to his alcoholism and began panhandling. By that time, director King Vidor (who had cast Murray in The Crowd seven years earlier) was casting for his film Our Daily Bread (1934) and had Murray in mind for the lead role. Vidor had heard of Murray’s plight and immediately set about finding him. He soon found a much heavier and unkempt Murray panhandling on the street and offered to buy him a drink. Vidor then offered Murray the lead role, provided Murray pull himself together. Murray rejected the offer and reportedly told Vidor, "Just because I stop you on the street and try to borrow a buck you think you can tell me what to do. As far as I am concerned, you know what you can do with your lousy part."[9]

Murray appeared in a total of thirty-six films over the course of his twelve-year film career. In the majority of his films in the sound era, particularly those made during the last few years of his career, he was cast in bit parts or as an uncredited extra. Murray's final onscreen appearance was as an uncredited “earthquake survivor” in the 1936 disaster drama San Francisco.


On July 11, 1936, Murray drowned after falling or jumping from the North River pier in New York City.[10][11] The medical examiner determined that the cause was "asphyxia by submersion," without ruling on whether his death was an accident or suicide.[12] He was interred at the Calvary Cemetery in Woodside, Queens, New York.[10]

Decades later Vidor, haunted by Murray's decline and early death, wrote a screenplay titled The Actor, although his work never was produced.[13]


Year Title Role Notes
1924 The Pilgrims John Alden Short film
1927 Tillie the Toiler JiOne of Tillie's Admirers in Restaurant Uncredited
In Old Kentucky Jimmy Brierly
The Lovelorn Charlie Lost film
1928 Rose-Marie Jim Kenyon Lost film
The Big City Curly Lost film
The Crowd John "Johnny" Sims
The Little Wildcat Conrad Burton Lost film
1929 Thunder Tommy Lost film
The Shakedown Dave Roberts
Shanghai Lady 'Badlands' McKinney
1930 Hide-Out Jimmy Dorgan
The Rampant Age Sandy Benton
Bright Lights Connie Lamont
1931 Kick In Benny LaMarr
Hold 'er Sheriff Jimmy Dalton Short film
Trapped Jimmy Dare Short film
In Line of Duty Cpl. Sherwood
1932 The Reckoning Terry
Alaska Love Freddie Watson Short film
The Hollywood Handicap Character Short film
Bachelor Mother Joe Bigelow
Frisco Jenny Dan McAllister
1933 Baby Face Brakeman Uncredited
High Gear Mark "High Gear" Sherrod a.k.a. The Big Thrill
Air Hostess Ted Hunter
Central Airport Eddie Hughes
Heroes for Sale Blind Soldier
Havana Widows Bank Teller Uncredited
1934 Now I'll Tell Henchman with Curtis Uncredited
1935 $20 a Week Peter Douglas
The Drunkard Edward Middleton
The Informer Bit role Uncredited
Ship Cafe Gerald Uncredited
Skull and Crown Matt - Henchman
1936 Rose-Marie Bit Part Uncredited
San Francisco Earthquake Survivor Uncredited


  1. ^ "New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949", New York Municipal Archives, New York. FamilySearch; retrieved October 23, 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Thirteenth Census of the United States: 1910", original enumeration page, April 21, 1910, Borough of the Bronx, New York City, New York. FamilySearch; retrieved October 23, 2017.
  3. ^ "Fifteenth Census of the United States: 1930", original enumeration page, April 11, 1930, Borough of the Bronx, New York City, New York. FamilySearch; retrieved October 23, 2017.
  4. ^ "James Murray", biography, Turner Classic Movies (TCM), Turner Broadcasting System, a subsidiary of Time Warner, New York, N.Y; retrieved October 23, 2017.
  5. ^ "Destined As Fine Actor, Couldn't Take His Success". The Milwaukee Journal. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. August 2, 1936. p. 7. Archived from the original on March 8, 2020. Retrieved June 6, 2016.
  6. ^ "Actor Appears In Court Drunk". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. August 30, 1930. p. 1. Retrieved June 7, 2016.
  7. ^ "Marion Sayers, Local Girl, Gets Credit For James Murray's Comeback in Films". St. Petersburg Times. St. Petersburg, Florida. February 4, 1933. p. 5. Retrieved June 7, 2016.
  8. ^ "Marion Murray Given Divorce". The Evening Independent. St. Petersburg, Florida. November 2, 1933. pp. 3–A. Retrieved June 7, 2016.
  9. ^ Thomson, David (2012). The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. p. 115. ISBN 978-0-374-19189-4.
  10. ^ a b Wilson, Scott (206). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons (3 ed.). McFarland. p. 540. ISBN 0-786-47992-2.
  11. ^ "Former Film Star Drowning Victim". Motion Picture Herald. Quigley Publishing Company: 32. July 1936.
  12. ^ Roberts, Sam (May 15, 2005). "CITY LORE; A Pair of Dreamers". The New York Times. Retrieved June 1, 2009.
  13. ^ Durgnat, Raymond; Simmon, Scott (1988). King Vidor, American. University of California Press. p. 86. ISBN 0-520-05798-8.

External links

This page was last edited on 29 May 2024, at 18:06
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