Louis Calhern
Calhern in 1946
Born
Carl Henry Vogt

(1895-02-19)February 19, 1895
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
DiedMay 12, 1956(1956-05-12) (aged 61)
Nara, Nara, Japan
Resting placeHollywood Forever Cemetery
OccupationActor
Years active1921–1956
Spouses
(m. 1926; div. 1927)
Julia Hoyt
(m. 1927; div. 1932)
(m. 1933; div. 1942)
Marianne Stewart
(m. 1946; div. 1955)

Carl Henry Vogt (February 19, 1895 – May 12, 1956), known professionally as Louis Calhern, was an American stage and screen actor.[1] Well known to fans of film noir for his role as Alonzo Emmerich, the pivotal villain in 1950's The Asphalt Jungle, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for portraying Oliver Wendell Holmes in the film The Magnificent Yankee later that year.

Early life

Calhern was born Carl Henry Vogt in Brooklyn, New York, in 1895, the son of German immigrants Eugene Adolf Vogt and Hubertina Friese Vogt. He had one known sibling, a sister.[2] His father was a tobacco dealer.[3]

While in elementary school, his family left New York and moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where he was raised. While playing high school football, a stage manager from a touring theatrical stock company noticed the tall, handsome youth and hired him as a bit player. Another source states "Grace George hired his entire high school football team as supers for a Shakespearean play."[3] Due to the anti-German sentiment during World War I, he changed his German given name, Carl. His stage name is an amalgam of his hometown of St. Louis and his first and middle names, Carl and Henry (Calhern).[citation needed]

Stage

Just before World War I, Calhern returned to New York to pursue an acting career. He began as a prop boy and bit player with various touring and burlesque companies. He became a matinee idol after being in a play titled Cobra.[citation needed]

Calhern's Broadway credits include:[4][5]

Military service

Calhern's burgeoning career was interrupted by World War I; he served in France in the 143rd Field Artillery of the U.S. Army.[6]

Film

Calhern and Claire Windsor in The Blot (1921) directed by Lois Weber
Louis Calhern in the trailer for Annie Get Your Gun (1950)

Calhern began working in silent films for director Lois Weber in the early 1920s, the most notable being The Blot (1921). A newspaper article commented: "The new arrival in stardom is Louis Calhern, who, until Miss Weber engaged him to enact the leading male role in What's Worth While?, had been playing leads in the Morosco Stock company of Los Angeles."[7]

In 1923, Calhern left the movies, deciding to devote his career entirely to the stage. He returned to films early in the sound era where he was primarily cast as a character actor, while he continued to play leading roles on the stage. Among Calhern's notable screen portrayals were as the partner in crime to Spencer Tracy and Bette Davis in 20,000 Years in Sing Sing (1932), as Ambassador Trentino in the classic Marx Brothers comedy Duck Soup (1933), as Major Dort in The Life of Emile Zola (1937), and as the spy boss of Cary Grant in Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious (1946).

In the late 1940s, Calhern joined Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as a contract player, receiving wide acclaim for his many fine screen portrayals, including three diverse roles that he appeared in for the studio in 1950: a singing role as Buffalo Bill in the film version of the musical Annie Get Your Gun; as a double-crossing lawyer and sugar daddy to a young Marilyn Monroe in John Huston's The Asphalt Jungle; and his Oscar-nominated performance as Oliver Wendell Holmes in The Magnificent Yankee (re-creating his role from the Broadway stage). He was also praised for his portrayal of the title role in the John Houseman production of Julius Caesar (adapted from the Shakespeare play) in 1953, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

Calhern played the role of the devious George Caswell, the manipulative board member of Tredway Corporation, in the 1954 production of Executive Suite, followed by the role of a jaded, acerbic high school teacher in Blackboard Jungle (1955). His performance as lecherous Uncle Willie in High Society (1956), a musical remake of The Philadelphia Story, was his final film appearance.

Personal life

Calhern battled alcoholism for much of his adult life; as a result, he lost several important screen and stage roles.[2] According to his third wife, actress Natalie Schafer, Calhern's inability to overcome his alcohol addiction ended their marriage. While he was willing to consult doctors, Schafer said Calhern refused to attend Alcoholics Anonymous because he was an atheist and considered AA to be a religious organization. Calhern ultimately overcame his alcohol addiction by the late 1940s.[8]

Death

Calhern died May 12, 1956, at age 61 of a sudden heart attack in Nara, Japan, while there to film The Teahouse of the August Moon. He was replaced in the film by Paul Ford. Calhern's body was cremated and his remains interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.[9]

Selected filmography

References

  1. ^ Obituary Variety, May 16, 1956.
  2. ^ a b Dennis, Ken (Summer 2011). "Louis Calhern: Distinguished Gentleman". Films of the Golden Age (65): 58–68.
  3. ^ a b "Greetings". Mexico Evening Ledger. Mexico, Missouri. February 18, 1952. p. 6. Retrieved February 13, 2016 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  4. ^ "Louis Calhern". Playbill Vault. Retrieved February 13, 2016.
  5. ^ Louis Calhern at the Internet Broadway Database Edit this at Wikidata
  6. ^ "Actor Favors Showing German War Pictures". The Gazette Times. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. June 12, 1921. p. 44. Retrieved February 13, 2016 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  7. ^ "Star Studies". The Oregon Daily Journal. Oregon, Portland. The Oregon Daily Journal. January 16, 1921. p. 44. Retrieved February 13, 2016 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  8. ^ Natalie Schafer Rare 1989 TV Interview, Gilligan's Island, Astrology. YouTube. Archived from the original on December 11, 2021.
  9. ^ Katz, Ephraim (1979). The Film Encyclopedia: The Most Comprehensive Encyclopedia of World Cinema in a Single Volume. Perigee Books. ISBN 0-399-50601-2. p. 195