Lewis Shepard Stone
November 15, 1879
Worcester, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Died||September 12, 1953 (aged 73)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Margaret Langham (stage name)
(m. 1906; died 1917)
Florence Oakley (stage name)
(m. 1920; div. 1929)
Hazel Elizabeth Woof
(m. 1930; his death)
Lewis Shepard Stone (November 15, 1879 – September 12, 1953) was an American film actor. He spent 29 years as a contract player at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and was best known for his portrayal of Judge James Hardy in the studio's popular Andy Hardy film series. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1929 for his performance as Russian Count Pahlen in The Patriot. Stone was also cast in seven films with Greta Garbo, including in the role of Doctor Otternschlag in the 1932 drama Grand Hotel.
Born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1879, Lewis was the youngest of four children of Philena (née Ball) and Bertrand Stone. His father, according to the federal census of 1880, supported the family as a boot cutter. After obtaining his public education in Worcester, Lewis joined the United States Army during the Spanish–American War, serving as a lieutenant and later being deployed to China to train troops. He returned to the United States and following his discharge from the army, began his career as a writer and actor.
In the early-1900s Stone was considered by the critics to be the most popular leading man in stock in America. For eight years, he held the role as leading man with the Oliver Morosco Stock Company in Los Angeles.
In 1912, Stone found success in the popular play Bird of Paradise, which starred Laurette Taylor. The play was later filmed in 1932 and 1951.
For the summer of 1913 Stone appeared at Elitch Theatre in Denver, Colorado, as the leading man for the season. The proprietor of the theatre, Mary Elitch Long, recalled an event when Stone heard of a nearby family in need and he "went to a neighborhood grocery and, placing $25.00 on the counter, told the storekeeper to see to it that the bereaved little family wanted for nothing; and to let him know when more money was needed and to say nothing about it."
His career was interrupted by a return to the Army in World War I, serving as a major in the cavalry.
Before leaving first the war, he made his feature film debut in Honor's Altar in 1916. He showed up in First National's 1920 Nomads of the North to good effect playing a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman. He portrayed the title role in the 1922 silent film version of The Prisoner of Zenda.
From 1920 to 1927, he lived in Los Angeles at 212 S. Wilton Place. The home is now Los Angeles Cultural-Historic Monument #925 and is in the Wilton Historic District.
In 1924, he joined newly formed Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio and was contracted by it up until his death.
Stone was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1929 for The Patriot. He played the character that gives the film its title, but he was not the top-billed star. He appeared in seven films with Greta Garbo, spanning both the silent and early sound periods. He played the role of Dr. Otternschlag in the Garbo film Grand Hotel, in which he utters the famous closing line "Grand Hotel. People coming. Going. Nothing ever happens."
He played a larger role in the 1933 Garbo film Queen Christina. His appearance in the successful prison film The Big House furthered his career. He played adventurers in the dinosaur epic The Lost World (1925) with Wallace Beery and The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932) with Boris Karloff, and a police captain in Bureau of Missing Persons (1933).
In 1937, Stone got the role which became his most famous, that of honest and kind-hearted Judge James Hardy in the Andy Hardy film series, starring Mickey Rooney. Stone appeared as the judge in 14 of the 16 Hardy movies, beginning with You're Only Young Once (1937). Lionel Barrymore had played the judge in the first Hardy movie, and Stone died before the making of the last one, Andy Hardy Comes Home (1958), so the judge's own death was mentioned in the film. During the heyday of the series, Stone also appeared with Rooney in the short subject Andy Hardy's Dilemma, which promoted charitable donations to the Community Chest.
During World War II, the 60-plus year-old Stone was a lieutenant colonel in the California National Guard.
Stone was MGM's longest-contracted actor and the longest-ever-contracted actor at a studio up to his death. The week before his death, he (together with Lionel Barrymore) received a gold key to his dressing room. He made approximately 100 movies.
Stone owned a beach house in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles. In 1930 the oil drilling boom in the Venice Beach-Del Ray oil field caused him to file a law suit to stop the beach lease to prevent property damage and public nuisance. "The court ruled for Stone even though derricks ringed the beach ..."
In the 1930s he owned a 104-foot luxury yacht named Serena. In 1937 the yacht was sold to Robert Paine Scripps (the father of Charles Scripps) and converted to a research vessel named the E. W. Scripps.
Stone died in Hancock Park, Los Angeles on September 12, 1953, aged 73. He reportedly suffered a heart attack while chasing away some neighborhood kids who were throwing rocks at his garage or trampling his meticulously kept prized garden. Another published report states that on that date Stone and his third wife were watching television when they heard a racket in the back yard. When he investigated, Stone found lawn furniture once again floating in the pool and glimpsed three or perhaps four teenage boys running toward the street. Stone gave chase despite his wife's warning not to exert himself. Upon reaching the sidewalk, Stone suddenly collapsed. A gardener, Juan Vergara, witnessed the chase and summoned aid.
A photo published in newspapers of the day showed Stone lying on the sidewalk immediately after the incident. The photo was later included in Kenneth Anger's book of scandals titled Hollywood Babylon.
Lewis Stone was later honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6524 Hollywood Blvd.