Wallace Reid

Wallace Reid

Infobox Actor
name = Wallace Reid

birthname = William Wallace Reid
birthdate = birth date|1891|4|15
location = St. Louis, Missouri
deathdate = death date and age|1923|1|18|1891|4|15
deathplace = Los Angeles, California
yearsactive = 1910 - 1922
spouse = Dorothy Davenport (Married 1913 to 1923)
children = Wallace Reid, Jr. (1917-1990)

Wallace Reid (April 15, 1891January 18, 1923) was an actor in silent film referred to by "Motion Picture Magazine" as "the screen's most perfect lover".


Born William Wallace Reid in St. Louis, Missouri into a show business family, his mother Bertha Westbrook was an actress and his father, Hal Reid(1860-1920), worked successfully in a variety of theatrical jobs, travelling the country. As a boy, Wallace Reid was performing on stage at an early age but acting was put on hold while he obtained an education at Freehold Military School in Freehold, New Jersey. A gifted all-around athlete, Reid participated in a number of sports while also following an interest in music, learning to play the piano, banjo, drums, and the violin. As a teenager, he spent time in Wyoming where he learned to be an outdoorsman.

Reid was drawn to the burgeoning motion picture industry by his father who would shift from the theatre to acting, writing, and directing films. In 1910, a 19-year-old Wallace Reid appeared in his first motion picture called "The Phoenix", an adaptation of a Milton Nobles play filmed at Selig Polyscope Studios in Chicago. Hooked on making films, Reid used the script from a play his father had written and approached the very successful Vitagraph Studios hoping to be given the opportunity to direct. Instead, Vitagraph executives capitalized on his sex appeal and in addition to having him direct, they cast him in a major role. Although Reid's good looks and powerful physique made him the perfect "matinee idol," he was equally happy with roles behind the scenes and often worked as a writer, cameraman, and director.Wallace Reid appeared in several films with his father and as his career in film flourished, he was soon acting and directing with and for early film mogul, Allan Dwan. In 1913, while at Universal Pictures, Reid met and married actress Dorothy Davenport (1895-1977). He was featured in both "Birth of a Nation" (1915) and "Intolerance" (1916) both directed by D.W. Griffith, and starred opposite leading ladies such as Florence Turner, Gloria Swanson, Lillian Gish, Elsie Ferguson, and Geraldine Farrar en route to becoming one of Hollywood's major heartthrobs.

Already involved with the creation of more than a hundred motion picture shorts, Reid was signed by producer Jesse L. Lasky and would star in another sixty plus films for Lasky's Famous Players film company, later Paramount Pictures. The tone of these movies can be assumed by a comment in Gilbreath and Carey's book Cheaper by the Dozen, that a daredevil "was going to die with a smile on his lips, like Wallace Reid." Frequently paired with actress Ann Little, his action hero role as the dashing race car driver saw young girls and older women alike flocking to theaters to see his daredevil auto thrillers such as, "The Roaring Road" (1919), "Double Speed" (1920), "Excuse My Dust" (1920), and "Too Much Speed" (1921). One of his auto racing films, "Across the Continent" (1922), was chosen as the opening night film for San Francisco's Castro Theatre, which opened 22 June 1922.

However, while working on location in Oregon making "The Valley of the Giants" (1919), Reid was injured in a train wreck and in order to keep on filming he was prescribed morphine for his pain. The powerful drug almost immediately led to a deadly addiction but Reid kept on working at a frantic pace in films that were growing more physically demanding and changing from 15-20 minutes in duration to as much as an hour. Reid's morphine dependency deepened at a time when proper help for any form of addiction was non-existent. By late 1922, his health had deteriorated badly and after contracting the flu, he fell into a coma from which he never recovered.

Dead at age thirty-one, Wallace Reid was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.

Unlike the self-destructive behavior of other stars of that era such as Barbara La Marr, Jack Pickford, and Jeanne Eagels whose death resulted from drugs and/or alcohol abuse, historical records point to Wallace Reid being a victim of medical ignorance. A happy, well-adjusted man, he had been close to his parents and was dedicated to his wife and children. Beyond the adoration of moviegoers, Wallace Reid was admired and respected by fellow actors as well as the studio executives who employed him. Deaths like his were almost always covered up by the film studios. However, his widow Dorothy Davenport (billed as Mrs. Wallace Reid) co-produced and appeared in "Human Wreckage" (1923), making a national tour with the film to publicize the dangers of drug addiction.

Wallace Reid's contribution to the motion-picture industry has been recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

elected filmography

*"Indian Romeo and Juliet" (1912)
*"Jean Intervenes" (1912)
*"His Only Son" (1912)
*"The Ways of Fate" (1913)
*"The Picture of Dorian Gray" (1913)
*"The Deerslayer" (1913)
*"Carmen" (1915)
*"Old Heidelberg" (1915)
*"Enoch Arden" (1915)
*"The Lost House" (1915)
*"The Birth of a Nation" (1915)
*"The Golden Chance" (1915)
*"Maria Rosa" (1916)
*"Intolerance" (1916)
*"Joan the Woman" (1917)
*"Big Timber " (1917)
*"The Prison Without Walls " (1917)
*"The Woman God Forgot" (1917)
*"Nan of Music Mountain" (1917)
*"The Devil-Stone" (1917)
*"The House of Silence" (1918)
*"Hawthorne of the USA" (1919)
*"Forever" (1921)
*"The Affairs of Anatol" (1921)
*"Across the Continent" (1922)


* "" by David W. Menefee. Albany: Bear Manor Media, 2007.

*"Col. Selig’s Stories of Movie Life – Wallace Reid." Screenland. Chicago: Screenland Publishing Company, April 1923.

*"The Autobiography of Cecil B. DeMille." By Cecil B. DeMille. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1959.

*"I Blow My Own Horn." By Jesse L. Lasky. New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1957.

*"Two Reels and a Crank." By Albert E. Smith. New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1952.
*"Griffith: The Birth of a Nation Part 1." By Seymour Stern. New York: Film Culture, 1965.

*"Swanson on Swanson." By Gloria Swanson. New York: Random House, 1980.

*"Wallace Reid Dies in Fight on Drugs." The New York Times, January 19, 1923.

*"Wally, the Genial." By Maude S. Cheatham in Motion Picture Magazine. New York: Brewster Publications, Inc., October 1920.

* Wallace Reid: The Life and Death of a Hollywood Idol, by E.J. Fleming. (McFarland 2007)

External links

* [http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=859 Wallace Reid's Gravesite]

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