Dwight Iliff Fry
February 22, 1899
Salina, Kansas, U.S.
|Died||November 7, 1943 (aged 44)|
Hollywood, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale)|
|Spouse||Laura Mae Bullivant (1928-43)|
Dwight Iliff Frye (born Fry; February 22, 1899 – November 7, 1943) was an American character actor of stage and screen. He is best known for his portrayals of neurotic, murderous villains in several classic Universal horror films, such as Renfield in Dracula (1931) and Fritz in Frankenstein (1931).
Frye was born in Salina, Kansas, and studied for a career in music and first appeared as a concert pianist. In the 1920s, he made his name as a stage actor, often in comedies. In 1924, he played the Son in a production of Luigi Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author.
While he had a few minor comedic roles in silent pictures, with the coming of sound Frye soon became known for playing villains. Nicknamed "The Man with the Thousand-Watt Stare" and "The Man of a Thousand Deaths", he specialized in the portrayal of mentally unbalanced characters, including his signature role, the madman Renfield in Tod Browning's 1931 version of Dracula.
Later that same year, he played the hunchbacked assistant Fritz in Frankenstein. Also in 1931, Frye portrayed Wilmer Cook (the "gunsel") in the first film version of Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon. He had a featured role in the horror film The Vampire Bat (1933) in which he played Herman, a half-wit suspected of being a killer. He had memorable roles in The Invisible Man (1933) as a reporter, and in The Crime of Dr. Crespi (1935).
In Bride of Frankenstein (1935), he played Karl. The part was originally much more substantive; many of Frye's additional scenes were part of a subplot but were cut to shorten the running time and appease the censors. One of the deleted scenes was that of Karl killing a Burgomaster, portrayed by E. E. Clive. Nothing remains of those scenes except still photographs included in a Universal Studios DVD release of the film. He played similar characters in The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943); another appearance in Son of Frankenstein (1939) was deleted prior to release. Also in the 1930s, he appeared in two films starring James Cagney: The Doorway to Hell (1930), as a hit man, and Something to Sing About (1937), as a fussy hairdresser.
During the early 1940s, Frye alternated between film roles and appearing on stage in a variety of productions ranging from comedies to musicals, as well as appearing in a stage version of Dracula. During World War II, he made a contribution to the war effort by working nights as a tool designer for Lockheed Aircraft.
On November 7, 1943, Frye died of a heart attack at the age of 44 while travelling by bus in Hollywood, a few days before he was scheduled to begin filming the biopic Wilson. He is interred in Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale.
American rock band Alice Cooper wrote and recorded a tribute track to Dwight Frye entitled "The Ballad of Dwight Fry" (intentionally dropping the last "e") that was included on their 1971 LP Love It to Death. On stage, this song would be portrayed with Cooper in a straitjacket trying to escape, and finally breaking free at the end of the song to strangle the nurse with the ties.
Devil Doll's 1990 album, Eliogabalus, features the photographed likeness of Dwight Frye in one of its booths.
SNFU's 1991 compilation album The Last of the Big Time Suspenders features artwork of Dwight Frye as his "Renfield" character on the front cover.
|1926||Exit Smiling||Balcony Heckler||Uncredited|
|1927||Upstream||Theatre Audience Spectator||Uncredited|
|1928||The Night Bird||Party Guest||Uncredited|
|1930||The Doorway to Hell||Gangster|
|Man to Man||Vint Glade|
|1931||Dracula||R. M. Renfield|
|The Maltese Falcon||Wilmer Cook|
|The Black Camel||Jessup, the butler||Uncredited|
|1932||Attorney for the Defense||James Wallace|
|By Whose Hand?||Chick|
|The Western Code||Dick Loomis|
|A Strange Adventure||Robert Wayne|
|1933||The Vampire Bat||Herman Gleib|
|The Circus Queen Murder||Flandrin|
|The Invisible Man||Reporter||Uncredited|
|1935||Bride of Frankenstein||Karl|
|Atlantic Adventure||Spike Jonas|
|The Crime of Dr. Crespi||Dr. Thomas|
|The Great Impersonation||Roger Unthank||Uncredited|
|Alibi for Murder||McBride|
|Beware of Ladies||Swanson|
|Great Guy||Minor Role||Uncredited|
|1937||Sea Devils||SS Paradise Radio Operator||Uncredited|
|The Man Who Found Himself||Hysterical Patient|
|The Road Back||Small Man at Rally||Uncredited|
|Renfrew of the Royal Mounted||Desk Clerk||Uncredited|
|Something to Sing About||Mr. Easton|
|Danger Patrol||Man on Telephone||Uncredited|
|1938||Who Killed Gail Preston?||Mr. Owen|
|Sinners in Paradise||Marshall||Uncredited|
|Fast Company||Sidney Z. Wheeler|
|The Night Hawk||John Colley|
|Adventure in Sahara||Gravet - 'The Jackal'||Uncredited|
|1939||Son of Frankenstein||Villager||Unconfirmed|
|The Man in the Iron Mask||Fouquet's Valet||Uncredited|
|Mickey the Kid||Henchman Bruno||Uncredited|
|1940||I Take This Woman||Gus||(scenes deleted)|
|Drums of Fu Manchu||Prof. Anderson||Serial, [Ch.5]|
|Gangs of Chicago||Pinky|
|Phantom Raiders||Eddie Anders|
|The Son of Monte Cristo||Pavlov's Secretary||Uncredited|
|1941||The People vs. Dr. Kildare||Jury Foreman||Uncredited|
|Flying Blind||Leo Qualen|
|The Blonde from Singapore||Barber||Uncredited|
|The Devil Pays Off||Radio Operator||Uncredited|
|1942||Sleepytime Gal||Second Mug||Uncredited|
|The Ghost of Frankenstein||Villager||Uncredited|
|Danger in the Pacific||Desk Clerk||Uncredited|
|1943||Dead Men Walk||Zolarr|
|Submarine Alert||Haldine - Fifth Columnist||Uncredited|
|Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man||Rudi|
|Hangmen Also Die!||Hostage||Uncredited|
|Dangerous Blondes||Hoodlum||Uncredited, (final film role)|