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Louis Wolheim

Personal information
Birth dateMarch 28, 1880
Place of birthNew York City, New York, USA
Date of deathFebruary 18, 1931(age 50)
Death placeLos Angeles, California, USA

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Louis Wolheim (March 28, 1880 - February 18, 1931) was an American character actor.

His trademark broken nose was the result of an injury sustained while playing football for Cornell University. Despite his rugged visage, Wolheim was intelligent and cultivated, speaking French, German, Spanish, and Yiddish. He was also a mathematics teacher before entering silent films in 1914. On the advice of Lionel Barrymore, Wolheim entered films. He appeared in at least three films with Lionel's brother, John Barrymore, Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde (1920), Sherlock Holmes (1922) and Tempest (1928). Wolheim's visage almost immediately typecast him in roles as gangsters, executioners (as in D. W. Griffith's Orphans of the Storm) or prisoners. Towards the end of the 1920s he occasionally broke out of these stereotypes and played a comic Russian officer in Tempest and a rambunctious Sergeant in Howard Hughes's Two Arabian Knights.

Wolheim acted primarily in silent films, because he died at the close of the silent era, but he also appeared in the talkies All Quiet on the Western Front and Danger Lights (both 1930) before he died.

Later in his career, about 1924, Wolheim went into the theater. He received considerable acclaim as Yank in the original stage production of The Hairy Ape (1922) by Eugene O'Neill.

According to the biography included in the DVD version of All Quiet on the Western Front, Wolheim wanted, at one point in his career, to play romantic leads instead of tough "heavies." To that end, he sought to have plastic surgery performed on his broken nose. Executives at United Artists successfully obtained a restraining order against him from doing so, however.

Wolheim died in 1931 in Los Angeles, of stomach cancer.

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