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Richard Barthelmess

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Richard Barthelmess
Barthelmess in 1934
Born(1895-05-09)May 9, 1895
New York City, U.S.
DiedAugust 17, 1963(1963-08-17) (aged 68)
Resting placeFerncliff Cemetery
Alma materTrinity College
Years active1916–1942
(m. 1920; div. 1927)
Jessica Stewart Sargent
(m. 1928)

Richard Semler Barthelmess (May 9, 1895 – August 17, 1963) was an American film actor, principally of the Hollywood silent era. He starred opposite Lillian Gish in D. W. Griffith's Broken Blossoms (1919) and Way Down East (1920) and was among the founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1927. The following year, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for two films: The Patent Leather Kid and The Noose.[1]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • Richard Barthelmess A Life in Pictures of a silent movie star
  • Richard Barthelmess tribute


Early life

Barthelmess was born in New York City, the son of Caroline W. Harris, a stage actress,[2][3] and Alfred W. Barthelmess.[4] His father died when he was a year old.[5] Through his mother, he grew up in the theatre, doing "walk-ons" from an early age. In contrast to that, he was educated at Hudson River Military Academy at Nyack, New York and Trinity College at Hartford, Connecticut.[6] He did some acting in college and other amateur productions. By 1919 he had five years in stock company experience.[7]


Russian actress Alla Nazimova, a friend of the family, was taught English by Caroline Barthelmess.[8] Nazimova convinced Richard Barthelmess to try acting professionally, and he made his debut screen appearance in 1916 in the serial Gloria's Romance as an uncredited extra. He also appeared as a supporting player in several films starring Marguerite Clark.

With Lillian Gish in the 1920 release Way Down East

His next role, in War Brides opposite Nazimova, attracted the attention of director D.W. Griffith, who offered him several important roles, finally casting him opposite Lillian Gish in Broken Blossoms (1919) and Way Down East (1920). He founded his own production company, Inspiration Film Company, together with Charles Duell and Henry King. One of their films, Tol'able David (1921), in which Barthelmess starred as a teenage mailman who finds courage, was a major success. In 1922, Photoplay described him as the "idol of every girl in America."[9]

Silverscreen magazine, 1922

Barthelmess had a large female following during the 1920s. An admirer wrote to the editor of Picture-Play Magazine in 1921:

Different fans have different opinions, and although Wallace Reid, Thomas Meighan, and Niles Welch are mighty fine chaps, I think that Richard Barthelmess beats them all. Dick is getting more and more popular every day, and why? Because his wonderful black hair and soulful eyes are enough to make any young girl adore him. The first play I saw Dick in was BootsDorothy Gish playing the lead. This play impressed me so that I went to see every play in which he appeared—Three Men and a Girl, Scarlet Days, The Love Flower, and Broken Blossoms, in which I decided that Dick was my favorite. I am looking forward to Way Down East as being a great success, because I know Dick will play a good part.[10]

Barthelmess soon became one of Hollywood's higher paid performers, starring in such classics as The Patent Leather Kid in 1927 and The Noose in 1928; he was nominated for Best Actor at the first Academy Awards for his performance in both films. In addition, he won a special citation for producing The Patent Leather Kid.

With the advent of the sound era, Barthelmess remained a star for a number of years. He played numerous leads in talkie films, most notably Son of the Gods (1930), The Dawn Patrol (1930), The Last Flight (1931), The Cabin in the Cotton (1932) and Heroes for Sale (1933). He was able to choose his own material and often played in controversial or socially conscious films.[11] However, his popularity began to wane in the 1930s[12] as he was getting too old for the boyish leads he usually played, and in his later films between 1939 and his retirement in 1942, he turned towards character roles – most notably in his supporting role as the disgraced pilot and husband of Rita Hayworth's character in Only Angels Have Wings (1939).

Post-acting career

Barthelmess failed to maintain the stardom of his silent film days and gradually left entertainment. He enlisted in the United States Navy Reserve during World War II, and served as a lieutenant commander. He never returned to film, preferring to live off his real estate investments.[13]

Personal life

On June 18, 1920, Barthelmess married Mary Hay, a stage and screen star, in New York.[2] They had one daughter, Mary Barthelmess, before divorcing on January 15, 1927.[14]

In August 1927, Barthelmess became engaged to Katherine Young Wilson, a Broadway actress.[15][16] However, the engagement was called off due to Wilson's stated desire to continue acting,[17] or possibly his affair around this time with the journalist Adela Rogers St. Johns.[18]

On April 21, 1928, Barthelmess married Jessica Stewart Sargent.[2] He later adopted her son, Stewart, from a previous marriage. They remained married until Barthelmess' death in 1963.


Barthelmess died of throat cancer on August 17, 1963, aged 68, in Southampton, New York.[2] He was interred at the Ferncliff Cemetery and Mausoleum in Hartsdale, New York.[19]


  • Barthelmess was a founder of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.[20]
  • In 1960, Barthelmess received a motion picture star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6755 Hollywood Boulevard for his contributions to the film industry.[21]
  • Barthelmess was among the second group of recipients of the George Eastman Award in 1957, given by the George Eastman House for distinguished contribution to the art of film.[22]
  • Composer Katherine Allan Lively dedicated her piano composition Within the Walls of China: A Chinese Episode to Barthelmess in the sheet music published in 1923 by G. Schirmer, Inc.[23] An article in The Music Trades reported that Mrs. Lively was inspired by a viewing of the film Broken Blossoms, and performed the piece for Barthelmess and his friends in New York in the summer of 1922.[24]


Collage of various characters portrayed by Barthelmess, 1920
Another collage of stills from various films, 1930
Year Title Role Notes
1916 Gloria's Romance Bit role Uncredited
Lost film
1916 War Brides Arno Lost film
1916 Snow White Pie Man Uncredited
1916 Just a Song at Twilight George Turner Lost film
1917 The Moral Code Gary Miller
1917 The Eternal Sin Gennaro Lost film
1917 The Valentine Girl Robert Wentworth Lost film
1917 The Soul of a Magdalen Louis Broulette Lost film
1917 The Streets of Illusion Donald Morton
1917 Camille Bit role Lost film
1917 Bab's Diary Tommy Gray Lost film
1917 Bab's Burglar Tommy Gray Lost film
1917 Nearly Married Dick Griffon Incomplete
1917 For Valour Henry Nobbs Lost film
1917 The Seven Swans Prince Charming Lost film
1918 Sunshine Nan MacPherson Clark Lost film
1918 Rich Man, Poor Man Bayard Varick Lost film
1918 Hit-The-Trail Holliday Bobby Jason Lost film
1918 Wild Primrose Jack Wilton Lost film
1918 The Hope Chest Tom Ballantyne Lost film
1919 Boots Everett White Lost film
1919 The Girl Who Stayed at Home Ralph Grey
1919 Three Men and a Girl Christopher Kent Lost film
1919 Peppy Polly Dr. James Merritt Lost film
1919 Broken Blossoms Cheng Huan - The Yellow Man
1919 I'll Get Him Yet Scoop McCready Lost film
1919 Scarlet Days Don Maria Alvarez
1920 The Idol Dancer Dan McGuire
1920 The Love Flower Bruce Sanders
1920 Way Down East David Bartlett
1921 Experience Youth Lost film
1921 Tol'able David David Kinemon
1922 The Seventh Day John Alden Jr.
1922 Sonny Sonny Crosby / Joe Lost film
1922 The Bond Boy Peter Newbolt (father) / John Newbolt Lost film
1923 Fury Boy Leyton Lost film
1923 The Bright Shawl Charles Abbott
1923 The Fighting Blade Karl Van Kerstenbroock
1923 Twenty-One Julian McCullough Lost film
1924 The Enchanted Cottage Oliver Bashforth
1924 Classmates Duncan Irving Jr Lost film
1925 New Toys Will Webb Lost film
1925 Soul-Fire Eric Fane
1925 Shore Leave D.X. (Bilge) Smith
1925 The Beautiful City Tony Gillardi Lost film
1926 Just Suppose Prince Rupert of Koronia
1926 Ranson's Folly Lt. Ranson
1926 The Amateur Gentleman Barnabas Barty Lost film
1926 The White Black Sheep Robert Kincarin Lost film
1927 The Patent Leather Kid Patent Leather Kid
1927 The Drop Kick Jack Hamill
1928 The Noose Nickie Elkins
1928 The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come Chad Buford Lost film
1928 Wheel of Chance Nicolai Turkeltaub / Jacob Taline Lost film
1928 Out of the Ruins Lt. Pierre Dumont Lost film
1928 Scarlet Seas Steven Dunkin
1929 Weary River Jerry Larrabee
1929 Drag David Carroll
1929 Young Nowheres Albert 'Binky' Whalen Lost film
1929 The Show of Shows 'Meet My Sister' Presenter
1930 Son of the Gods Sam Lee
1930 The Dawn Patrol Dick Courtney
1930 The Lash Francisco Delfino 'Pancho'
1931 The Finger Points Breckenridge 'Breck' Lee
1931 The Last Flight Cary Lockwood
1932 Alias the Doctor Karl Brenner
1932 The Cabin in the Cotton Marvin Blake
1933 Central Airport James 'Jim' Blaine
1933 Heroes for Sale Tom Holmes
1934 Massacre Chief Joe Thunderhorse
1934 A Modern Hero Pierre Radier aka Paul Rader
1934 Midnight Alibi Lance McGowan / Robert Anders
1935 Four Hours to Kill! Tony Mako
1936 Spy of Napoleon Gerard de Lanoy
1939 Only Angels Have Wings Bat MacPherson
1940 The Man Who Talked Too Much J.B. Roscoe
1942 The Spoilers Bronco Kid Farrow
1942 The Mayor of 44th Street Ed Kirby
Short subjects
Year Title Role Notes
1926 Camille Gaston Home movie by cariacaturist Ralph Barton
1931 The Stolen Jools Himself
1931 How I Play Golf, by Bobby Jones No. 1: The Putter Himself Uncredited
1935 Starlit Days at the Lido Himself Uncredited
1941 Meet the Stars #5: Hollywood Meets the Navy Himself Uncredited

See also


  1. ^ Thise, Mark (January 1, 2008). Hollywood Winners & Losers A to Z. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 978-0-87910-351-4.
  2. ^ a b c d Donnelley, Paul (2003). Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries. Music Sales Group. pp. 70–71. ISBN 9780711995123. Retrieved February 11, 2017.
  3. ^ IBDb profile of Caroline Harris; Deaths Last Night, Ironwood Daily Globe (Ironwood, Michigan) April 24, 1937, p. 11, c. 2.
  4. ^ Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1103; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 0470; FHL microfilm: 1241103
  5. ^ "Tea With Mrs. Barthelmess – An Intimate Chat With the Mother of Dick", The Home Movie Journal, June 1926
  6. ^ Pawlak, Debra Ann (2012). Bringing Up Oscar: The Story of the Men and Women Who Founded the Academy. Pegasus Books. ISBN 9781605982168. Retrieved February 11, 2017.
  7. ^ The Motion Picture Studio Directory, 1919; Page: 48. The 1900 US Census reported his mother ran a boardinghouse as housekeeper with a maid and butler. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 - March 31, 1925; Collection Number: ARC Identifier 583830 / MLR Number A1 534; NARA Series: M1490; Roll #: 1009.
  8. ^ A Pictorial History of the Silent Screen by Daniel Blum, ca. 1953, p. 111.
  9. ^ "The Shadow Stage". Photoplay. New York: Photoplay Publishing Company. February 1922. Retrieved September 3, 2015.
  10. ^ G. C. (1921). "What the Fans Think" Picture-Play Magazine
  11. ^ Berumen, Frank Javier Garcia (November 20, 2019). American Indian Image Makers of Hollywood. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-7813-9.
  12. ^ "Richard Barthelmess | Biography, Movie Highlights and Photos".
  13. ^ Menefee, David W. (October 20, 2007). The First Male Stars: Men of the Silent Era. BearManor Media.
  14. ^ Pawlak, Debra Ann (January 12, 2012). Bringing Up Oscar: The Story of the Men and Women Who Founded the Academy. Pegasus Books. ISBN 978-1-60598-216-8.
  15. ^ "Katherine Wilson's profile at IBDb".
  16. ^ "Barthelmess and Wilson's wedding announcement in The Reading Eagle, August 24, 1927 (accessed 5 December 2011)".
  17. ^ Pawlak, Debra Ann (January 12, 2012). Bringing Up Oscar: The Story of the Men and Women Who Founded the Academy. Pegasus Books. ISBN 978-1-60598-216-8.
  18. ^ Scott Eyman, The Speed of Sound,1999, p. 305.
  19. ^ Wilson, Scott (August 22, 2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-7992-4.
  20. ^ "History of the Academy: Original 36 founders of the Academy Actors". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences website. 2008. Archived from the original on June 16, 2017. Retrieved July 20, 2013.
  21. ^ Hollywood Walk of Fame. Retrieved January 19, 2017
  22. ^ "George Eastman Award" (archive). George Eastman House. Retrieved November 14, 2017.
  23. ^ "Published sheet music on-line at Maine Music Box". Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved May 22, 2012.
  24. ^ "(1922) The Music Trades, 64 (21 October), 40". 1922.


External links

This page was last edited on 21 October 2023, at 17:43
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