Warren William (December 2, 1894 – September 24, 1948) was a Broadway and Hollywood actor, popular during the early 1930s, who was later nicknamed the "king of Pre-Code".
Life and career
He was born Warren William Krech in Aitkin, Minnesota to parents Freeman E. and Frances Krech. Handsome and debonair, with a distinctive moustache, he bore a certain physical resemblance to John Barrymore, and at the start of his career disliked being compared to him in the press. He attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. After moving from Broadway to Hollywood in 1931, he reached his peak as a leading man in early 1930s pre-Production Code films.
William began as a contract player at Warner Bros. studio and quickly became a star during what's now known as the Pre-Code era, and was known for portraying amoral businessmen (Under 18, Skyscraper Souls, The Match King, Employees Entrance) lawyers (The Mouthpiece, Perry Mason), charlatans (The Mind Reader) and detectives including the Sam Spade character (renamed "Ted Shane") in the second filming of The Maltese Falcon, the critically reviled Satan Met a Lady (1936) with Bette Davis.
He also played sympathetic roles, however, such as Dave The Dude in Frank Capra's Lady for a Day, Julius Caesar in Cecil B. DeMille's version ofCleopatra (his only role without his trademark moustache) starring Claudette Colbert in the title role, again as Colbert's love interest in Imitation of Life (also 1934), and swashbuckling musketeer d'Artagnan in director James Whale's 1939 version of The Man in the Iron Mask.
William was the first to portray Erle Stanley Gardner's fictional defense attorney Perry Mason on the big screen and starred in four fast-paced, comical, and highly entertaining Perry Mason mysteries. He also played Raffles-like reformed jewel thief The Lone Wolf in eight films for Columbia Pictures beginning with The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt (1939) with Ida Lupino and Rita Hayworth, and as detective Philo Vance in two of the series films,1934's The Dragon Murder Case and 1939's The Gracie Allen Murder Case (billed below Gracie Allen).
Notable other roles include Mae West's manager in Go West, Young Man (1936), a jealous District Attorney in another James Whale film, Wives Under Suspicion (1938), copper-magnate Jesse Lewisohn in 1940's Lillian Russell, the evil Jefferson Carteret in Arizona (also 1940), sympathetic Dr. Lloyd in the horror classic The Wolf Man (1941), Brett Curtis in cult director Edgar G. Ulmer's modern day version of Hamlet, 1945's Strange Illusion, and as Laroche-Mathieu in his final film The Private Affairs of Bel Ami (1947) based on the Guy de Maupassant novel.
In 1923, he married Helen Barbara Nelson; Mrs. Helen B. Krech – who also survived him – was seventeen years his senior. Warren William died on 24 September 1948 in Hollywood, California ofmultiple myeloma.
For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Warren William has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1551 Vine Street. A biography from McFarland books, written by John Stangeland, Warren William: Magnificent Scoundrel of Pre-Code Hollywood, was released in October 2010.