Wallace Reid
Reid in 1920
William Wallace Halleck Reid

(1891-04-15)April 15, 1891
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
DiedJanuary 18, 1923(1923-01-18) (aged 31)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Other namesWally Reid
  • Actor
  • singer
  • race car driver
Years active1910–1923
(m. 1913)
Children2, including Wallace Reid Jr.

William Wallace Halleck Reid (April 15, 1891 – January 18, 1923)[1] was an American actor in silent film, referred to as "the screen's most perfect lover".[2] He also had a brief career as a racing driver.[3]

Early life

Reid was born in St. Louis, Missouri, into a showbusiness family. His mother, Bertha Westbrook, was an actress, and his father, James Halleck "Hal" Reid, worked successfully in a variety of theatrical jobs, mainly as playwright and actor, traveling the country.[1] 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 Township, New Jersey. He later graduated from Perkiomen Seminary in Pennsburg, Pennsylvania in 1909. 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 violin. As a teenager, he spent time in Wyoming, where he learned to be an outdoorsman.[1]


Reid was drawn to the burgeoning movie industry by his father, who shifted from the theatre to writing films, directing them, and acting in them. In 1910, Reid appeared in his first film, The Phoenix, an adaptation of a Milton Nobles play, filmed at Selig Polyscope Studios in Chicago. 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, cast him in a major role. Although Reid's good looks and powerful physique made him the perfect "matinée idol", he was equally happy with roles behind the scenes and often worked as a writer, cameraman, and director.[3]

Reid was arrested in Portland, Oregon in 1921 for violating prohibition law.[4]

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. He was featured as Jeff, the blacksmith, in The Birth of a Nation (1915), and he had an uncredited role in Intolerance (1916),[5] both directed by D. W. Griffith; he worked with leading ladies such as Florence Turner, Gloria Swanson, Lillian Gish, Elsie Ferguson, and Geraldine Farrar, becoming one of Hollywood's major heartthrobs.

Already involved with the creation of more than 100 motion picture shorts, Reid was signed by producer Jesse L. Lasky and starred in over 60 films for Lasky's Famous Players film company, which later became Paramount Pictures. Frequently paired with actress Ann Little, his action-hero role as the dashing race-car driver drew young girls and older women alike 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). Across the Continent (1922), one of his auto-racing films, was chosen as the opening night film for San Francisco's Castro Theatre, which opened on 22 June 1922.

Reid loved racing so much that he even made an (unsuccessful) attempt to qualify for the 1922 Indianapolis 500.[6]


The urn of Wallace Reid, in the Great Mausoleum, Forest Lawn, Glendale

While en route to a location in Oregon during filming of The Valley of the Giants (1919), Reid was injured in a train wreck near Arcata, California, and he needed six stitches to close a 3-inch (8 cm) scalp wound.[7][8] To continue filming, he was prescribed morphine for relief of his pain, and Reid soon became addicted.[9] He continued 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.[10] Reid's morphine addiction worsened at a time when rehabilitation programs were non-existent.[11][8][10] He died in a sanatorium while attempting to recover.[12][13][14]

Wallace Reid was interred in the Azalea Terrace of the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.[15]


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. She and Reid had two children: a son, Wallace Reid Jr., born in 1917; and a daughter, Betty Mummert, whom they adopted in 1922 as a three-year-old.[16] Reid's widow never remarried.

Wallace Reid's contribution to the movie industry has been recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[17]

Popular culture

In Ken Russell's 1977 film Valentino, Reid is portrayed briefly and inaccurately as a bicycle-riding, childish movie star, and he is made to look like a cross among the character he played in Clarence, Harold Lloyd, and the comic actors Jimmie Adams and Churchill Ross. In the 1980 documentary Hollywood episode "Single Beds and Double Standards", Reid's story is recalled by people who worked with him: Gloria Swanson, Karl Brown, Henry Hathaway, and stuntman Bob Rose.

In 2007, a biography Wallace Reid: Life and Death of a Hollywood Idol by author E. J. Fleming appeared, the first since his mother's personal recollections after Reid's death.

In 2018, a biography of Reid was the subject of Karina Longworth's Podcast "You Must Remember This".[18]


(see Wallace Reid filmography)


Reid was a favorite of movie-goers. The original caption of this image from Picture-Play Magazine reads, "The only reason why they don’t let Wally play in dress-suit roles all the time is that the casualties among the ladies would soon empty the picture houses. In fact, we feel that we’re toying with the fan hearts even to print this picture.".[19] A reversed version image was also used as a lithograph for the lobby poster of Reid's film The Dub.
  1. ^ a b c Fleming 2007, p. 3-21, 1. Family and Youth.
  2. ^ "Girls I Have Made Love To". Motion Picture Magazine. The Motion Picture Publishing Co. September 1919. p. 33.
  3. ^ a b Menefee, David W. (2011). Ohmart, Ben (ed.). Wally: The True Wallace Reid Story. Albany, Georgia, United States: BearManor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-623-5.
  4. ^ Chandler, J.D.; Kennedy, Theresa Griffin (2016). "Introduction: The Liquor Question". Murder & Scandal in Prohibition Portland: Sex, Vice & Misdeeds in Mayor Baker's Reign. Charleston, South Carolina, United States. p. 11. ISBN 978-1-4671-1953-5. LCCN 2015956821 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ "Intolerance". TV Guide. Retrieved January 6, 2021.
  6. ^ "Wallace Reid".
  7. ^ Blaisdel, George; Chalmers Sr., J.P.; Chalmers, J.F., eds. (March 15, 1919). "Reid company in wreck". The Moving Picture World. New York City, New York, United States: Chalmers Publishing Company. 39 (11): 1474. Retrieved January 31, 2022 – via Archive.org.
  8. ^ a b Fleming 2007, p. 134-151, 10. Accident, and Addiction.
  9. ^ Spunt, Barry (2017). "2. Mainstream Actors". Heroin, Acting, and Comedy in New York City. New York City, New York, United States: Springer Nature. p. 69. doi:10.1057/978-1-137-59972-8. ISBN 978-1-137-59971-1. LCCN 2017948081 – via Google Books.
  10. ^ a b "23. Human Wreckage: Wally Reid". Assassin of Youth: A Kaleidoscopic History of Harry J. Anslinger's War on Drugs. Chicago, Illinois, United States: University of Chicago Press. September 30, 2016. pp. 124–134. doi:10.7208/9780226277028-023 (inactive August 1, 2023). ISBN 978-0-226-27697-7. LCCN 2016011027 – via Google Books.((cite book)): CS1 maint: DOI inactive as of August 2023 (link)
  11. ^ Gerald, Michael C. (2006). Richert, Lucas; Bond, Gregory (eds.). "Drugs and alcohol go to Hollywood". Pharmacy in History. Madison, Wisconsin, United States: American Institute of the History of Pharmacy/University of Wisconsin Press. 48 (3): 116–138. ISSN 0031-7047. JSTOR 41112318 – via JSTOR.
  12. ^ Fleming 2007, p. 210-225, 14. The Curtain Falls on a Tragedy.
  13. ^ Foster, Gwendolyn Audrey (2000). "9. Early Women Filmmakers as Social Arbiters: "The Gaze of Correction"". Troping the Body: Gender, Etiquette, and Performance. Women's Studies/Cultural Studies. Carbondale, Illinois, United States: Southern Illinois University Press. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-8093-2286-2 – via Google Books.
  14. ^ Anderson, Mary Lynn (April 18, 2011). "1. The Early Hollywood Scandals and the Death of Wallace Reid". Twilight of the Idols. Berkeley, California, United States: University of California Press. pp. 15–48. doi:10.1525/9780520949423-004. ISBN 978-0-520-94942-3. S2CID 242854678 – via Google Books.
  15. ^ Fleming 2007, p. 223, 14. The Curtain Falls on a Tragedy.
  16. ^ "Wallace Reid". Archived from the original on February 11, 2010. Retrieved September 21, 2010.
  17. ^ Bode, Lisa (2016). "12. The Afterlives of Rudolph Valentino and Wallace Reid in the 1920s and 1930s". In Bolton, Lucy; Wright, Julie Lobazo (eds.). Lasting Screen Stars: Images that Fade and Personas that Endure. London, England, United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 159–172. doi:10.1057/978-1-137-40733-7_12. ISBN 978-1-137-40732-0. LCCN 2016936089 – via Google Books.
  18. ^ Karina Longworth (August 6, 2018). Schoenholtz, Lindsey D. (ed.). "Wallace Reid (Fake news: Fact checking Hollywood Babylon episode 6)". You Must Remember This (Podcast).
  19. ^ Smith, Ormond G.; Smith, George C., eds. (December 1, 1918). "Favorite Picture Players". Picture-Play Magazine. New York City, New York, United States: Street & Smith Corporation. IX (4): 172. LCCN 2005210253. Retrieved January 31, 2022 – via Archive.org.