November 4th, 1908 — January 8th, 1975
Above: Anthony Warde in a publicity still from the serial The Masked Marvel (Republic, 1943).
Swarthy and bushy-eyebrowed, with a husky voice, Anthony Warde both looked and sounded the part of the stereotypical movie gangster to perfection, and was almost repeatedly cast as such during the course of his movie career. Most of Warde’s roles in features were small bits; he was given considerably more scope in his serials, where he created some extremely convincing thuggish heavies. Warde’s villains (almost always henchmen) seemed to combine smug self-satisfaction with surly ill-temper; they would meet success with gleeful chortles and opposition with sardonic snarls, and never showed much respect to anyone, even higher-ranking villains. These unashamed sociopaths were unpleasant by any objective standard, but, as played by Warde, they were great fun to watch.
Anthony Warde was born Benjamin Schwartz in Philadelphia, but grew up in Danbury, Connecticut. He joined the Navy before finishing high school, and returned to Connecticut after his discharge. In the early 1930s, he moved to California with his ailing father, hoping to improve the latter’s health; this move failed to have its hoped-for effect on the elder Schwartz (who passed away not long after going West), but the younger Schwartz remained in California, and embarked on an acting career under the stage name of Anthony Warde. During the ensuing years of the 1930s, Warde studied acting at the Pasadena Playhouse, and quickly began appearing in theatrical productions for both the Playhouse and the Federal Theater Project. It was a 1937 Project presentation of the play Blind Alley that brought Warde to the attention of Hollywood’s film producers; though he’d played a wide variety of roles (many of them comic) on stage, his Alley part was that of a gangster–and he thus found himself typecast as soon as he started making movies, despite having acquired a reputation as a talented and versatile actor during his stage years. His first screen part was a small role (as a gangster) in the 1937 Republic B-movie Escape by Night; another of his earliest film appearances came in the Universal serial Tim Tyler’s Luck (also 1937).
Tim Tyler was one of Universal’s best serials, a jungle adventure starring Frankie Thomas as an adventurous youth in the African jungles, doing battle with a gang of diamond thieves and ivory poachers led by “Spider” Webb (Norman Willis). Warde played Webb’s lieutenant, Garry Drake, a tough, sneering, and ultimately rebellious henchman, who tried to double-cross Spider in the penultimate chapter after a falling-out between the two villains, but was gunned down by his former colleagues. Willis’ strong performance as Webb commanded the most villainous attention in Tyler, but Warde’s performance was notably nasty as well, particularly in his crankily suspicious interchanges with heroine Frances Robinson when the latter was posing as a crook, and in his equally bad-tempered interchanges with his fellow villains. He also got to be congenial and even somewhat suave in the first chapter, when his character was posing as a respectable citizen aboard a jungle riverboat; this was the first and last time that one of Warde’s serial characters would display so much subtlety.
Above: Frances Robinson and an uncharacteristically cordial Anthony Warde watch as their riverboat casts off in the first chapter of Tim Tyler’s Luck (Universal, 1937).
Above: Norman Willis and Anthony Warde in front of their tank-like Jungle Cruiser in Tim Tyler’s Luck.
After playing heavies in a few more Republic B-crime films, Warde returned to Universal for a second serial role in Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (1938); his part here was much smaller than in Tyler. As Turan, king of the semi-barbaric Forest People and a secret ally of Ming the Merciless (Charles Middleton), he only appeared sporadically throughout the chapterplay, snarling in ferocious fashion at his followers and at “invaders” of his forest realm.
Above: Anthony Warde commands a hypnotized Jean Rogers in Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (Universal, 1938).
Following a string of appearances in yet more B-crime films for Republic and RKO, Warde took a third turn in a Universal chapterplay. Buck Rogers (Universal, 1939), featured him in the first and only true brains heavy role of his serial career—as the “super-gangster” Killer Kane, ruler of Earth in the 25th Century, who was opposed by holdouts in the “Hidden City.” Warde’s character never left his headquarters, delegating all active missions against the Hidden City’s champion Buster Crabbe to underlings; however, he was memorably threatening in Kane’s once-a-chapter appearances—reacting to failure by his minions with menacing sarcasm or harsh ranting, imperiously sending prisoners to the “robot room” to be turned into mindless slaves, and generally behaving in a self-indulgent, overbearing, almost brutish manner.
Above: Anthony Warde looking arrogant as Killer Kane in Buck Rogers (Universal, 1939).
Throughout the 1940s, Warde would play the same type of roles he had played during the tail end of the thirties: bits, minor heavy roles, and occasional featured parts in B-crime movies from various studios, a few bits in A-films, and large roles in serials. His first forties serial, however, gave him only a one-chapter part; as Lefty Brent, a hoodlum in The Green Archer (Columbia, 1940), Warde took part in one villainous assignment, quarreled bitterly with his jewel-thief boss (James Craven), and was then nailed by one of the arrows of a “Green Archer” in Craven’s service. Warde thus missed any participation in the comic antics that proliferated in Green Archer (courtesy of its idiosyncratic director James W. Horne)—although his next serial, The Spider Returns (Columbia, 1941), would place him right in the center of Horne’s peculiar brand of serial action. As Trigger, the harried chief henchman of a masked criminal called the Gargoyle, Warde played his role very broadly–shouting, snarling, and fretting in positively cartoonish fashion, and even donning a paper hat and joining his fellow thugs in a “wild party” in one chapter. I can’t help but wonder if Warde, given his background in stage comedy, might not have enjoyed this chance to parody his typical movie roles.
Above, from left to right: Charles Sullivan, Warren Hull, Anthony Warde, Michael Vallon (seated) and Dale Van Sickel in The Spider Returns (Columbia, 1941).
Dick Tracy vs. Crime Inc. (1941), was Warde’s first Republic serial; here, he played Corey, the number-one henchman of a masked criminal called the Ghost—but, since the Ghost and his mad-scientist partner Lucifer (John Davidson) took an active part in most of the villains’ operations, Warde was less of a true action heavy and more of a background accomplice to his two bosses. His best (or worst) moment in Crime Inc. came when he turned off the oxygen tent of a hospitalized victim with obvious and appalling delight.
Above: A pleased Anthony Warde and a horrified Carol Adams watch as the off-screen Robert Frazer suffocates in Dick Tracy vs. Crime Inc. (Republic, 1941).
King of the Mounties (Republic, 1942), again featured Warde as a leading henchman—a Canadian thug named Stark in the pay of enemy saboteurs. Here, he received far more good opportunities to be villainous than in Dick Tracy vs. Crime Inc.–slugging hero Allan Lane with vicious vigor, grinning evilly as he set oil-fields ablaze, and snarling angrily when thwarted. Although he was billed far down in the credits, he and his co-henchman Bradley Page handled almost all of the active evildoing in the serial, on behalf of three top Axis agents who never took the field themselves.
Above: Allan Lane charges Anthony Warde in King of the Mounties (Republic, 1942).
Batman (Columbia, 1943) cast Warde as Stone, another Axis agent, who figured as a background henchman until dying in a fall from a railroad bridge in Chapter Four. Secret Service in Darkest Africa (Republic, 1943), featured him more briefly but more noticeably as Relzah, the treacherous servant of a North Africa sheik, who murdered his master on the orders of Nazi agents; Warde managed to get hero Rod Cameron accused of the crime, but the truth was discovered and Warde was gunned down by the dead sheik’s son.
Above, from left to right: I. Stanford Jolley, Anthony Warde, George Chesebro (back to camera) and Robert Fiske interrogate Shirley Patterson in Batman (Columbia, 1943).
The Masked Marvel (Republic, 1943), in which Warde was cast as filming began, a last-minute replacement for another actor, gave him the best-remembered part of his serial career. As Killer Mace, a smug and callous gangster working for Japanese spy Sakima (Johnny Arthur), Warde did all the villainous heavy lifting himself, executing one outrage against American war defenses after another while his boss remained undercover in a basement hideout. Masked Marvel was an amazingly action-packed chapterplay that remains very popular with fans, despite the unevenness of its cast; the best performances in the serial came from Arthur, heroine Louise Currie–and from Warde, whose harsh-voiced threats, cynical jeers, and crafty facial expressions stole many of the serial’s scenes.
Above: Jack O’Shea, Tom Steele as The Masked Marvel (Republic, 1943), and Anthony Warde.
Above: Anthony Warde and Tom Steele in The Masked Marvel.
The Phantom (Columbia, 1943), featured Warde in one chapter as Karak, the lieutenant of Tartar chieftain Dick Curtis; he only appeared briefly before being murdered by treacherous followers (his death was then blamed on hero Tom Tyler). The Great Alaskan Mystery (1944), Warde’s first Universal serial since Buck Rogers, gave him a much meatier role as Brandon, leader of a band of North Woods criminals working for Nazi agents. Although he did not appear untill Chapter Three, Warde functioned as the serial’s action heavy from that point on, snarling sardonic dialogue at the heroine, viciously pummeling an underling who fell down on the job, and otherwise doing all the things that serial fans had come to expect from him by now–although his character here took a more active part in villainous planning and came off as an altogether cooler customer than in many of his previous serials.
Above: Anthony Warde and Martin Kosleck examine the “Peratron” ray machine in The Great Alaskan Mystery (Universal, 1944).
The Mystery of the Riverboat (Universal, 1944) cast Warde as Bruno Bloch, a subordinate member of a gang of crooked speculators trying to acquire oil-rich Louisiana bayou land through underhanded means. Warde was as nasty as ever in Riverboat (particularly when viciously slugging the hero over the head, in hopes of causing a bus crash), but his role here was largely a background one, due to Riverboat’s enormous cast; he had to be satisfied with what little screen time was left over by the time the serial’s multiple protagonists and numerous superior villains had taken their turns on stage. Brenda Starr, Reporter (Columbia, 1945), a singularly dull crime story, featured him a little more prominently as Muller, one of several henchmen of a gang boss in pursuit of a satchel of stolen money–although he had comparatively little dialogue, being mostly restricted to serving as scowling backup for higher-ranking henchman Jack Ingram. His most memorable moment of villainy in Brenda came in Chapter Ten, when he ruthlessly plugged a female medium who was about to squeal on Ingram; the ensuing police chase led to a rooftop fight that in turn led to Warde’s accidental shooting by one of his cohorts, and thus to his exit from the serial.
Above: Anthony Warde phones in a report in Mystery of the Riverboat (Universal, 1944); Joe Devlin is outside the booth.
Above: Anthony Warde and Kane Richmond in a rooftop tussle in Brenda Starr, Reporter (Columbia, 1945).
Warde’s next serial, the severely underwritten The Monster and the Ape (also Columbia, 1945), was not much more interesting than Brenda Starr; as Joe Flint, one of the followers of mad scientist George Macready, Warde had almost nothing to do in the way of distinctive villainy (most of which was handled by the titular ape), and delivered perhaps the most subdued performance of his serial career. The Purple Monster Strikes (Republic, 1945), featured Warde in one chapter as a phony blind beggar named Tony, who acted as an agent for a gang led by Martian invader Roy Barcroft; as part of his masquerade, he was briefly allowed to affect a meek and passive manner very different from his usual one.
Above: Anthony Warde and Carole Mathews in The Monster and the Ape (Columbia, 1945).
Hop Harrigan (Columbia, 1946), like Warde’s two previous Columbia serials, was an overlong and weakly-written outing; most of its virtue came from its supporting cast, including Warde as a henchman pack member named Edwards, who, along with his various colleagues, obeyed the orders of a villain called the Chief Pilot and repeatedly harassed eccentric scientist John Merton. Like Monster and the Ape, Harrigan gave its heavies few opportunities to do anything really distinctively villainous, and—again as in Ape—Warde’s performance lacked the verve of most of his earlier henchman turns.
Above, from left to right: Anthony Warde, John Merton, and Jim Diehl in Hop Harrigan (Columbia, 1946).
King of the Forest Rangers (Republic, 1946), gave Warde his meatiest heavy role since Great Alaskan Mystery. As an indefatigable villain named Burt Spear, the henchman of a crooked archeologist (Stuart Hamblen), he tried everything from mere intimidation to murder in order to drive rural landowners off property that concealed valuable mineral deposits. Forest Rangers was a fast-moving serial with good action but a weak brains heavy in the person of Hamblen; Warde’s sneering, smirking performance (the strongest in the serial) brought much-needed energy to the villains’ plotting scenes, as well as to his character’s repeated confrontations with low-key leading man Larry Thompson.
Above: Stuart Hamblen and Anthony Warde in King of the Forest Rangers (Republic, 1946).
The Mysterious Mr. M (Universal, 1946), gave Warde a very small but noteworthy single-chapter role as a scientist named Martin Brandon–noteworthy because his character, for the first and only time in his serial career, was not villainous or even antagonistic; he dropped his usual snarling voice and delivered his lines in polished and gentlemanly fashion instead, but was unfortunately killed off a few minutes after his first appearance, getting gunned down by the thugs who came to steal one of his inventions.
Above: Anthony Warde unsuspectingly talks with villain Jack Ingram (far left) and another (unidentified) heavy in The Mysterious Mr. M (Universal, 1946).
The Black Widow (Republic, 1947), featured Warde as the action heavy—this time a character actually named Ward (first name, Nick). One of the best of Republic’s post-war serials, Widow had a clever script that balanced humor with genuine serial excitement, and Warde’s role allowed him to deliver some truly amusing dialogue without compromising himself as a menace—unlike his earlier comedic heavy turn in Spider Returns. As thuggish as ever when threatening the good guys, he was also very funny when chuckling over the hero’s mystery novels or annoying his boss Carol Forman with his coarse belligerence.
Above, from left to right: Carol Forman, Gil Perkins, Bruce Edwards, and Anthony Warde in The Black Widow (Republic, 1947).
Above: I. Stanford Jolley, Carol Forman, and Anthony Warde in The Black Widow.
Dangers of the Canadian Mounted (Republic, 1948), which drew frequently on stock footage from King of the Mounties but managed to be entertaining in its own right, cast Warde (dressed in a facsimile of his King of the Mounties outfit) as Mort Fowler—the lieutenant of a mysterious “chief” trying to stop highway construction along the Alaska-Canada border long enough to probe the secret of a nearby wrecked Mongol treasure ship from the days of Genghis Khan. Since the “chief’s” orders were relayed second-hand throughout the serial (the mastermind not being revealed until the last chapter), Warde was the only prominent heavy in Dangers and held villainous center stage throughout–aggressively pestering captive scientist I. Stanford Jolley to unravel the secret of the treasure ship, chucking hand grenades out of his car window with an amazingly complacent air, and otherwise making good use of the biggest share of screen time he would ever have in a serial.
Above: Jim Bannon battles Anthony Warde in Dangers of the Canadian Mounted (Republic, 1948).
Congo Bill (Columbia, 1948) featured Warde as Rogan, the lieutenant of ruthless gold-smuggler Andre Bocar (Leonard Penn); this serial featured such a huge collection of rival villains–Penn, shady barkeeper Charles King, corrupt circus owner I. Stanford Jolley, and witch doctor Frank Lackteen–that Warde had comparatively little dialogue and spent most of his screen time merely serving as a background thug. However, he still got some good moments of individualized villainy–among them a scene in which he mowed down a native in cold blood and sneeringly self-justified himself afterwards, and another scene in which he aggressively threatened to “drill” King’s “fat hide.”
Above: Leonard Penn (far left), Anthony Warde, and Fred Graham capture Cleo Moore in Congo Bill (Columbia, 1948).
Warde’s final serial role came in Radar Patrol vs. Spy King (Republic, 1949); as Ricco Morgan, henchman of “spy king” John Merton, he made repeated sabotage attempts on a chain of US radar stations along the Mexican border. Although Warde was outranked here by both Merton and Merton’s female accomplice Eve Whitney, he still was allowed plenty of opportunities to snarl, sneer, and swagger in his customary fashion. In the last chapter, his character’s over-eager attempt to gleefully push the hero out of a plane not only got him killed but also doomed the other heavies—an appropriate end to Warde’s career of overbearing serial villainy.
Above: Eve Whitney, Anthony Warde, and Eddie Parker in Radar Patrol vs. Spy King (Republic, 1949).
In 1948, Warde had opened a men’s clothing store in his home neighborhood, the California suburb La Canada; also in the late 1940s, he joined several Hollywood friends (including Dana Andrews and Victor Jory) in reviving a West Coast repertory company known as Eighteen Actors (which they had first founded in 1940, only to have it derailed by World War Two after a season’s worth of performances). Store business and stage work thus began to cut into Warde’s film-acting time during the 1950s, although he still appeared fairly frequently on the big and small screen during that decade–particularly on the small screen; though he played some bits in feature films during the earlier years of the 1950s, he became almost exclusively a TV actor from 1954 on, appearing in familiar heavy roles on some mystery and adventure series (The Thin Man, Adventures of Jim Bowie), but concentrating largely on comedic parts, on programs like The Abbott and Costello Show, Topper and—most frequently–The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show. Warde kept appearing on TV into the early 1960s, as well as occasionally playing roles in features; his last screen appearance came in the 1964 film The Carpetbaggers, in which he played a loan shark. Warde continued to run his clothing store up until the early 1970s; he was still living in La Canada when he passed away in 1975.
Anthony Warde made no secret of the fact that he regarded his screen career as a stock B-movie heavy as a complete disappointment; Hollywood never gave him the opportunity to display the versatility that had won him the regard of his peers in his stage-acting days. In the eyes of serial fans, however, his career was far from disappointing; his performances as chapterplay action heavies continue to be treasured by cliffhanger buffs to this day. Despite the disdain Warde felt for such one-dimensional roles, and his irritation with the Hollywood typecasting system, he gave characters such as Killer Mace or Mort Fowler all the benefit of his acting skill, and delivered some of the most vivid portrayals of thugs and gangsters ever seen on the serial screen.
Above: Anthony Warde in a wonderfully characteristic publicity still from Dangers of the Canadian Mounted (Republic, 1948).
Acknowledgements: My thanks to Gregory Jackson’s interview with Anthony Warde from the second issue of Serial World in 1974–which is to date is the only detailed source of information on Warde’s career. My thanks also to Job Seberov and to his uncle, relatives of Warde’s who provided me with useful information (see the comments below for Mr. Seberov’s own words). Finally, an especially big thanks to Warde’s son Robert Warde, whose detailed comment (again, see below–it’s eminently worth reading) gave me the most comprehensive and accurate account yet of Anthony Warde’s life and career
Extremely interesting information and excellent photos. Anything known about Warde’s personal life?
Ward is my first cousin and his birth name was very different.
Thanks for the comment, Jeff. Unfortunately, the answer to your question seems to be “no;” among the best-remembered serial actors, Warde seems to be the one whose biography remains the sketchiest.
He was my first cousin twice removed and his birth name was not Anthony Ward.
My keyboard is not behaving I left off the “e” — Warde
Mr. Serebrov, thanks very much for posting here; I’m always delighted to hear from relatives of these actors who can help to set the record straight or fill in blanks in their histories. Would you be able to let me know–either here in the comments section, or via e-mail (I’m sending you one now) what your cousin’s actual name was?
Just sent you a reply. As I was only six when my aunt told me his actual name (I am now 54) so I am checking with my uncle to see if I am remembering correctly. I will get back on this and what else I recall as soon as I have a response from my uncle. However, I remember my aunt telling me his name was Bernie Schwartz. Since this stuck in my mind all these years I am probably correct.
I am correct. The link is to the 1940 census. You will see Anthony Warde and his wife Frances Warde but his sister Betty Schwartz lives with them. He changed his name from Schwartz to Warde years before.
Just heard from my uncle and he confirmed what I posted an added some information. Tony lived in a place called La Canada, California. He had a haberdashery store, men’s clothes, and complained that he was type case as a gangster, which is true. In 1967 when my uncle stayed with him Tony had not made movies for quite a few years. Tony went West in the 40s and his birth name was Bernard Schwartz (as I indicated). He was very fond of my grandmother. They were first cousins. My uncle remembers him as a very nice guy but he was bitter about his typecasting as a gangster because he had some stock in the Pasadena Playhouse and may have done a play or two there but took acting more seriously.
I spoke to him on the phone once when I was very young and only remember pieces of the conversation. Otherwise, I recall my aunt telling me that he was friends with several major name actors, one of whom was a very close friend of his but I couldn’t tell you names at this point. My aunt also told me he always wanted larger and more dramatic and challenging roles but could never escape how he was perceived. Perhaps because of this typecasting is why he told the family that he actually favored his part in Flash Gordon most.
I am glad to be able to add some information to your site on cousin Tony.
Thanks again, Mr. Seberov–and please thank your uncle for me. The information you kindly provided has now been incorporated into the article, with an acknowledgement.
Benny & his sister lived in Danbury, CT for awhile. My mother who was born in 1907 knew them both. One of our older friends (several years back) said that when Betty came east for a visit she was a knockout. Every time we watched TV and one of those serials came on we looked for Benny. Great entertainment!
I’m writing in response to the website information and subsequent “thoughts” on my dad, Anthony Warde. His birth and death dates are correct. His given name was Benjamin Schwartz (not Bernard). Some writers have perhaps confused him with Tony Curtis, whose given name was in fact Bernard Schwartz. He had an older brother, Lewis, and a younger sister, Betty. He was born in Philadelphia, but the family moved to Danbury, CT when my dad was about two, and Danbury became his home town. His father worked in a hat factory in Danbury, and he lost his mother when he was about eight years old, from complications related to diabetes. He left high school before graduating and joined the Navy, serving on a minelayer, The USS Oglala. He ultimately received an honorable discharge so he could return to Danbury and assist his father, who was in ill health. He and my grandfather moved to Southern California in the early 1930s, during the heart of the Depression, hoping. like so many others, that the mild climate would provide a cure. That was not to be, and my grandfather died not too long after the move. Dad began his training as an actor at the Pasadena Playhouse, and later found work on the Federal Theater Project. It was there that he caught Hollywood’s attention with his performance as a psychotic killer in “Blind Alley,” and that role led to his type casting as a heavy. He also met my mother, Frances Hall, on the Project, and they were married in 1938. Mom was born and grew up in Michigan, and though she never acted in film or television, in her twenties she had a flourishing career as a leading ingénue in theatrical stock companies. She and her first husband, Arthur Kohl, helped found the Kalamazoo Civic Theater, which is still in operation today. My parents lived first in North Hollywood, then in South Pasadena (where I was born in 1942) and Burbank, before settling in La Cañada, CA (now La Cañada-Fliintridge) in 1948, where my dad opened a men’s clothing store called Lane’s Ltd., in partnership with Hollywood character actor Charles Lane, a close family friend. Lane soon left the business, but dad continued to run it for more than twenty years. He also continued his acting career through that period, until (as you correctly note above) his last small role as a banker in “The Carpetbaggers” (1964), a film in which Charles Lane also briefly appears. At the end of the 1940s and into the 1950s my parents were both members of a repertory company called Eighteen Actors which put on plays over several seasons at various locations in Pasadena and South Pasadena. That company included such actors as Dana Andrews, Robert Preston, Victory Jory, Don Porter, and Charles Lane, among others. Though dad amassed more than 120 credits in film and television, he never had an opportunity to showcase his acting skills as he did on the stage. As he says in his interview with Gregory Jackson, he hated the serials, and never shared any enthusiasm for their ultimate popularity as a kind of cinematic high camp. For him they were an actor’s graveyard, and he took that work, near the close of the Depression, because he needed to put food on the table. He always felt the association with serials may have hurt him later, by linking him to a less-than-stellar art form. As you indicate, most of the non-serial work he did was in B-movies, and Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” was the only celebrated film in his list of credits. He’s on screen in that film for just brief seconds, but it is his few words that unravel the plot, so the flash appearance is a dramatically important one. As he said when he returned home from filming, “It’s a nothing part, but they can’t cut it.” I might add that he would not have been involved in “The Ziegfeld Follies of 1924” when he was 16 and still in Danbury. He chose his stage name in the late ’30s after establishing himself in California, so the Anthony Warde listed in the ’24 Follies is someone else. Dad was using “Warde” before I was born, and I’m “Warde” on my birth certificate, but he and my mother took the name legally after my birth. Should you want additional information I can try to supply it. I suspect you know a good deal more about his serial work than I do, though I now have a lot of his serials and features on DVD or video tape. I first saw dad on the screen when I was either four or five (can’t recall if it was “Don Ricardo Returns,” 1946, or “The Bells of San Fernando,” 1947). I freaked out when things started getting nasty, and my embarrassed father had to remove me from the theater.
Mr. Warde, thanks enormously for commenting here, and for giving me such a comprehensive and thorough biography of your dad. I’ve gone back and worked your information into my piece, in the process making it more ordered, linear, and accurate than ever before (I’ve also added an acknowledgement for you). Thanks also for sharing your personal reminiscences–the Rear Window remark and the theater story; I’d always wondered how the children of perennial screen villains reacted when they saw their dads on screen, and you’ve now given me some idea. If you’d be so kind (and if you have the information), the exact dates of your dad’s move to California and his enrollment at the Pasadena Playhouse would make good additions to the article; also, I’d be curious to know if he did any additional stage work (with the Eighteen Players or others) after his retirement from the movies in the mid-1960s. No problem if you don’t have that info, however; your invaluable initial comment gave me much more information than I’d ever dreamed of finding on your father.
Dear Jerry Blake,
Unfortunately, I can’t give you exact dates for my dad’s arrival in California, or for his initial involvement at the Pasadena Playhouse. I wish I could. I generalized those references because I don’t know the precise dates, and can only approximate them. His Federal Theater Project role in “Blind Alley” was 1937, and his work at the Pasadena Playhouse predates that. The rep group, Eighteen Actors (not “Players”), was actually formed by a group of actor friends, including my parents, in 1940 I believe, and they put on a season in 1940-41. Then Pearl Harbor and America’s involvement in the war disrupted things, and the group did not reform until about 1949, when they ran consecutive seasons until 1955. Altogether I think they staged about 30 plays, always as a company, never utilizing the star system. They disbanded permanently in ’55, partly because so many people in the group had other acting commitments, though internal tensions in the group had something to do with it as well. They never reformed. While dad was running Lane’s Ltd. clothing store he continued to act whenever he could get work, and my mom managed the business when he had a film or TV job. He did no stage, film, or TV work after “The Carpetbaggers” (i.e., during the last decade-plus of his life).
You obviously don’t need the details of Eighteen Actors for your entry on my dad, but I include a bit here simply for your own information. The group was so named because 18 people were present when the idea for the company emerged. Eventually more than 18 individuals were involved, and the personnel changed a bit over time, though not a lot. I don’t know how deeply into the Hollywood world you are beyond your work with the serials, but in the early ’50s Eighteen Actors included a number of folks who piled up countless film credits over many years. At about the middle of its history the acting company consisted of the following people, alphabetically: Dorothy Adams (Byron Foulger’s wife); Dana Andrews; Morri Ankrum; Lloyd Corrigan; Peggy Converse (Don Porter’s wife); Ruth Covell (Charles Lane’s wife); Catherine Craig (Robert Preston’s wife); Byron Foulger; Ralph Freud (who founded the Theater Arts Department at UCLA); Frances Hall (my mom); Rita Henderson; Jean Inness (Victory Jory’s wife); Victory Jory; Cyrus Kendall; Charles Lane (who died in 2007 at the age of 102, having amassed the largest number of credits of any living member of Screen Actors’ Guild); Moroni Olsen; Don Porter; Robert Preston; Patricia Riordan; Leona Roberts; William Roundtree; Mary Todd (Dana Andrews’ wife); Ann Tyrrell; my dad; and Joan Wheeler (Morri Ankrum’s wife). Should you ever seriously want to check out the whole business,a fellow named Eugene Block wrote a 1967 thesis on Eighteen Actors for his Theater Arts Master’s Degree at UCLA (Ralph Freud chaired his committee). This is doubtless a good deal more than you need or want to know. I’m doing some writing on my own childhood and adolescence in So. Cal., and if I happen to unearth those two specific dates for my dad, I’ll contact you. It’s nice that you have taken the time to assemble your website. My dad would doubtless be touched to know that he hasn’t entirely disappeared, his view of serials notwithstanding. He was a wonderful actor (I saw numerous Eighteen Actor productions in the 50s when I was a kid) who never got a chance to strut his stuff in front of the camera, always saddled with either bit parts, or larger roles in bad movies with bone-chillingly bad scripts. After “Blind Alley” critics hailed him as “the new Paul Muni,” but it never happened. Hollywood is a tough place. Best, Robert
Thanks for all of the additional information, Robert; I’m an Old Hollywood buff in general, as well as a movie buff, so I found the Eighteen Actors info fascinating, even though (as you note) there’s no room for all of it in my piece. I’m familiar with most of the names of the other members of the Eighteen; one of them, Cy Kendall, also did several serials–including one of the ones your dad also appeared in, Mystery of the Riverboat (can’t recall if they shared any scenes or not, though). Victor Jory, of course, was in one serial with your dad too (The Green Archer).
Glad the info was interesting to you. Not intended for your piece of course. Cy Kendall drove my mom to the hospital when she gave birth to me, because my dad was shooting a movie.
Thanks for yet another fascinating bit of information; when I singled Kendall out from your list of the Eighteen Actors, I never imagined that you had such a personal connection to him (eventually, I’ll be profiling him on this site too).
Regarding Anthony Warde’s personal history: In conjunction with the local premiere of “The Chinese Cat”, an small article appeared in the 08 Sep 1944 edition of the Havre Daily News (Havre, Montana) that stated Warde had been a star athlete about ten years earlier at Marquette University, competing on the rowing team and lettering in track, swimming, hockey and boxing. This article is also referenced on his Wikipedia bio.
It seems highly unlikely that this information is actually true, but I thought it was interesting enough to mention. He was still in the US Navy in the late 20’s, and then resided in Danbury, CT at the time of the 1930 Federal Census (taken in April). He and his father relocated to Los Angeles in the early 30’s, and his father died during the same time period (about 1933 – 1935), so the idea that (circa 1934) he found time to attend a university located in Milwaukee while his father was ill in California would appear very improbable.
There’s no other version of this article (at least that I could find) so it begs the question as to their source. I also checked Marquette’s online listing of former athletes, but found no mention of either an Anthony Warde or Benjamin Schwartz. It’s a little late to the party, but if Robert Warde is still available, it might be interesting to know if he had ever heard this story.
James – Your research is impressive and accurate. I have indeed heard this story (initially from the Wikipedia entry) and it is completely untrue. How it came to be manufactured in the Montana newspaper is a mystery to me. My dad never attended college, nor did he have any connection to Milwaukee, nor did he ever compete in track, swimming, hockey, or boxing. He did play basketball on his ship’s team when he was in the Navy, but that was the extent of his involvement as an athlete. The amusing thing is, I tried to correct that entirely bogus Wikipedia entry and was not allowed to do so because I couldn’t produce a published source to contradict the story. The fact that I was Anthony Warde’s son made no difference to the Wiki folks. Wikipedia is an extraordinary source, but unfortunately not always a very reliable one, and clearly its misstatements are difficult to rectify. I have no idea if my dad ever came across the Montana article, but I suspect not. At the time he died in 1975 they’d not yet begun to pave the information (and disinformation) highway. Thanks for your interest in my father.
Robert – Thanks so much for your reply. I’m glad that you are able to clear up the misinformation that the Montana article put forth. Your comments about Wikipedia are well taken. The same issue occurred involving James Craven, another well known serial actor, when a friend of his attempted to correct several glaring errors on Craven’s Wiki page. The moderators essentially labeled the friend’s repeated attempts as “vandalism”, and put additional controls on the page to make future editing much more difficult. Wikipedia’s policy prizes printed sources above all else, but many times their commitment to accuracy doesn’t seem quite as strong.
Your father’s performances have provided me (and many others) with countless hours of enjoyment over the years, and that’s not a bad legacy for any actor. Thanks again.
James – Thanks for the kind words on my dad. I sent my technically savvy son a link to Jerry Blake’s website, and he promptly went to the Wikipedia entry and deleted all the blatantly false Marquette information about his grandfather, citing my comments in “The Files of Jerry Blake” as the published source that substantiates the change! Now we’ll see whether or not it sticks. As my son put it, “and thus the circular nature of Wikipedia and the internet is revealed.”