Wallace Beery

Wallace Beery


Also Known As
Wallace Fitzgerald Beery
Birth Place
Kansas City, Missouri, USA
April 01, 1885
April 15, 1949
Cause of Death
Heart Attack


Beefy Wallace Beery gradually progressed from theatre to film and starred in a multitude of comedic shorts during the silent era before becoming one of the biggest and most improbable stars of the 1930s. Imposing and not traditionally handsome, Beery was highly proficient at both comedy and menace, sometimes even mixing the two quite superbly. Feature assignments soon came in such notabl...

Photos & Videos

A Date with Judy - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Grand Hotel - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Tugboat Annie - Movie Poster

Family & Companions

Gloria Swanson
Actor. Married in 1916; divorced in 1918.
Rita Beery
Divorced in the 1930s.


Beefy Wallace Beery gradually progressed from theatre to film and starred in a multitude of comedic shorts during the silent era before becoming one of the biggest and most improbable stars of the 1930s. Imposing and not traditionally handsome, Beery was highly proficient at both comedy and menace, sometimes even mixing the two quite superbly. Feature assignments soon came in such notable productions as "The Last of the Mohicans" (1920), "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" (1921), "Robin Hood" (1922) and "The Lost World" (1925). For a time, his career seemed doomed by the arrival of sound, but MGM recognized his innate abilities and Beery's performance as a murderous thug in "The Big House" (1930) netted him an Oscar nomination. He won the coveted statue a year later for his turn as an over-the-hill prizefighter in "The Champ" (1931), which became the actor's signature role. Further impressive work followed in "Treasure Island" (1934) and "Viva Villa" (1934), and Beery found himself an in-demand talent with a highly lucrative contract. However, in contrast to many of the congenial miscreants he played, Beery was a highly disagreeable man completely lacking in basic social graces and a less than favorite co-star for many of his MGM colleagues. He was also allegedly involved in the fatal beating of comedian Ted Healy in 19XX, though no charges were ever filed. One of the few character players to attain major A-list stardom, Beery was not the most diversified thespian, but few could match his power to both intimidate and amuse.

A native of Kansas City, MO, Wallace Fitzgerald Beery was born on April 1, 1885. A less than dedicated student, he was allowed to leave school after the fourth grade by his parents and toiled for a time on the railroad and in a nut and bolt factory. Beery was eventually hired on at Ringling Brothers, where he displayed a particular talent for training elephants. By 1898, his older brother, Noah Beery, had launched a performing career in New York City, and Wallace decided to try his hand at acting as well. After earning experience with various stock companies, he made his Broadway debut in the musical comedy "The Belle of the West" (1905), which had a short run, but had more luck with the moderately more successful "The Yankee Tourist" (1907). He first appeared on movie screens in the short "His Athletic Wife" (1913) and became a regular presence in the comedy short subjects produced by Essanay Film Manufacturing Company. His most beloved character was Sweedie, the far-from-feminine Swedish maid that he portrayed in more than two dozen popular productions. Over the next several years, Beery graced many other shorts and also undertook various behind-the-scenes duties. He eventually worked his way up to director and alternated between that and performing, but stuck to acting from 1920 onward. During that flurry of activity, he married up-and-coming 17-year-old actress Gloria Swanson and the two starred in several pictures together, including "Sweedie Goes to College" (1915) and "The Broken Pledge" (1915). The couple eventually relocated to the West Coast and both graduated to features.

Beery starred as Mauqa in one of the earliest adaptations of "The Last of the Mohicans" (1920) and was a supporting cast member in the Rudolph Valentino epic "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" (1921). Rube-faced enough for comedy and stocky enough to convince in action adventure roles, Beery was well-cast as Richard the Lion-Hearted in the Douglas Fairbank version of "Robin Hood" (1922) and was back in his own "Richard the Lion-Hearted" (1923) vehicle the following year. He also contributed much to the humor of Buster Keaton's farce "Three Ages" (1923) as the Great Stone Face's rival across three time periods. His marriage to Swanson had ended in divorce by then and in 1924, Beery wed his second wife, extra Rita Gilman, with whom he adopted a daughter. The actor had one of his most notable parts from that period as explorer Professor Challenger in the stop-motion fantasy classic "The Lost World" (1925) and he was a perfect incarnation of "Casey at the Bat" (1927), adapted from Ernest Lawrence Thayer's classic poem. As the age of sound dawned on the industry, Beery stumbled. Unable to remember his lines, he would sometimes go off script in desperation. The pressure he felt to adjust to the new demands of feature films was heightened by financial problems Beery was saddled with in the aftermath of the 1929 stock market crash.

Let go from the talent stable at Paramount Pictures, he was luckily hired by MGM and gave an impressive turn as dangerous convict Butch Schmidt in "The Big House" (1930), with his commanding performance resulting in a Best Actor Academy Award nomination. The same year's "Min and Bill" (1930) offered the first of his two pairings with Marie Dressler, the oversized Broadway/vaudeville comedienne who was virtually his female counterpart in every conceivable way. While his co-star won an Oscar, the tragicomedy was still instrumental in establishing one of Beery's most popular personas: the lunky, likeable blue-collar guy who enjoys his vices, but is a good person when all is said and done. Those qualities were all evident in his most famous role as "The Champ" (1931), an over-the-hill boxer whose drinking and gambling problems do nothing to diminish him in the eyes of his young boy (Jackie Cooper). A charming story of father and son love, the film was a tremendous hit and Beery's Best Actor win fully vaulted him from character player to genuine movie star. In one of the only instances of a tie for this award, Beery shared the prize with Frederic March, nominated for his dual performance as "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (1931).

Now an esteemed contract player for the industry's top studio, Beery joined other major MGM talent in the all-star dramatic extravaganza "Grand Hotel" (1932) and was reunited with Marie Dressler in the very popular "Tugboat Annie" (1933). The ungainly Dressler's rise to major box office draw was every bit as unlikely as the success enjoyed by Beery, but sadly, her life ended a year later, a victim of cancer. Beery continued to feature prominently in such major productions as George Cukor's "Dinner at Eight" (1933) - in which he memorably sparred his unlikely wife, the very sassy Jean Harlow - and gave a memorably colorful turn as Long John Silver in Victor Fleming's wonderful adaptation of "Treasure Island" (1934). While the Missouri native seemed an unlikely choice to personify famous Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa, Beery made the part his own, paving the way for a positive reception to "Viva Villa" (1934). A flying enthusiast, Beery travelled back and forth from the Mexican location in his private plane. While he often played loveable lugs onscreen, few who knew Beery held him in that sort of regard. Often mean, frequently petty and on constant guard of being upstaged, especially by children, Beery alienated many of his fellow performers. He was also a heavy drinker who could be even more disagreeable when drunk. On Dec. 20, 1937, Beery became involved in a bar fight with comedian Ted Healy, former manager of The Three Stooges and a less than adored Hollywood figure himself. Lucky Luciano enforcer Pasquale "Pat" DiCicco (former husband of actress Thelma Todd, who died under mysterious circumstances that were ruled suicide) and a third man allegedly contributed to the savage beating inflicted upon Healy in the parking lot of the establishment that evening. Healy soon died of his injuries and MGM quickly shipped Beery overseas until the smoke cleared. In the end, no charges were ever filed, but Beery's perceived involvement in the murder only contributed further to his less-than-savory reputation.

By the end of the 1930s, Beery's star had faded somewhat and his marriage to Gilman was over. The loss of Dressler put a premature end to their screen outings, but Beery was eventually given another female counterpart in Marjorie Main, who provided a similarly perfect comic contrast. The two first shared the same cast list in the Western "Wyoming" (1940) and were the leads of "Barnacle Bill" (1941), "Jackass Mail" (1942), and others. While their collaborations provided Main's career with a significant boost, she found Beery no more tolerable than anyone else and was happy to move on when the time came. While there was still an audience for the sort of characters Beery specialized in, the films themselves seemed less inspired, though he enjoyed one final notable vehicle with "Salute to the Marines" (1943), in which he played a hardboiled Master Sergeant trying to hold off Japanese forces in the Philippines. Now into his 60s, Beery decided to slow down his output. In 1946, he suffered the loss of his brother Noah, who had also enjoyed a long run as a character actor on film. During the summer of 1948, Beery strained his heart while cranking an outboard motor and never fully recovered. His life was further complicated by a paternity suit that reportedly caused additional strain on his health. Six months after essaying the title role in the Western "Big Jack" (1949), Beery suffered a major heart attack and died at his home on April 15, 1949. He was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame upon its establishment in 1960.

By John Charles



Director (Feature Film)

Bombs and Banknotes (1916)
He Becomes a Cop (1916)
Timothy Dobbs, That's Me (1916)
A Capable Lady Cook (1916)
The Janitor's Vacation (1916)
The Soda Clerk (1916)
Sweedy and the Janitor (1916)
Hired and Fired (1916)

Cast (Feature Film)

When Comedy Was King (1960)
Big Jack (1949)
Big Jack Horner
A Date with Judy (1948)
Melvin Colner Foster
Alias a Gentleman (1948)
Jim Breedin
The Mighty McGurk (1947)
Roy "Slag" McGurk
Bad Bascomb (1946)
Zeb Bascomb
This Man's Navy (1945)
[Chief Aviation Pilot] Ned Trumpet
Barbary Coast Gent (1944)
Honest Plush Brannon
Rationing (1944)
Ben Barton
Salute to the Marines (1943)
Sergeant Major William Bailey
Jackass Mail (1942)
Just Baggott
The Bugle Sounds (1942)
"Hap" Doan
Barnacle Bill (1941)
Bill Johansen
The Bad Man (1941)
Pancho Lopez
20 Mule Team (1940)
Skinner Bill Bragg
Wyoming (1940)
"Reb" Harkness
The Man from Dakota (1940)
Sergeant Barstow
Sergeant Madden (1939)
Shaun Madden
Stand Up and Fight (1939)
Captain Boss Starkey
Thunder Afloat (1939)
John Thorson
Port of Seven Seas (1938)
Stablemates (1938)
Tom Terry
Slave Ship (1937)
Jack Thompson
The Bad Man of Brimstone (1937)
"Trigger" Bill
The Good Old Soak (1937)
Clem Hawley
Old Hutch (1936)
Old Hutch
A Message to Garcia (1936)
Sergeant Dory
West Point of the Air (1935)
[Sergeant] "Big Mike" Stone
Ah, Wilderness (1935)
Sid [Miller]
O'Shaughnessy's Boy (1935)
[Capt. Michael] "Windy" [O'Shaughnessy]
China Seas (1935)
Jamesy MacArdle
The Mighty Barnum (1934)
Phineas T. Barnum
Treasure Island (1934)
Long John Silver
Viva Villa (1934)
Pancho Villa
Dinner at Eight (1934)
Dan Packard
Tugboat Annie (1933)
Terry [Brennan]
The Bowery (1933)
Chuck Connors
Flesh (1932)
Hell Divers (1932)
Windy [Riker]
Grand Hotel (1932)
General Director Preysing
The Champ (1931)
[Andy] Champ [Purcell]
The Secret Six (1931)
[Louis] Scorpio
The Big House (1930)
[Machine Gun] Butch [Schmidt]
Min and Bill (1930)
Way for a Sailor (1930)
Billy the Kid (1930)
A Lady's Morals (1930)
P. T. Barnum
River of Romance (1929)
Gen. Orlando Jackson
Chinatown Nights (1929)
Chuck Riley
Stairs of Sand (1929)
Guerd Larey
Wife Savers (1928)
Louis Hozenozzle
Beggars of Life (1928)
Oklahoma Red
Partners in Crime (1928)
Mike Doolan, The Detective
The Big Killing (1928)
Powder-Horn Pete
Now We're in the Air (1927)
Casey at the Bat (1927)
Fireman, Save My Child (1927)
Old Ironsides (1926)
Behind the Front (1926)
Riff Swanson
We're in the Navy Now (1926)
Knockout Hansen
Volcano (1926)
The Wanderer (1926)
Rugged Water (1925)
Captain Bartlett
The Devil's Cargo (1925)
Let Women Alone (1925)
Cap Bullwinkle
In the Name of Love (1925)
M. Glavis
Adventure (1925)
The Great Divide (1925)
The Night Club (1925)
The Lost World (1925)
Professor Challenger
Coming Through (1925)
Joe Lawler
The Pony Express (1925)
"Rhode Island" Red
The Sea Hawk (1924)
Jasper Leigh, a freebooter
So Big (1924)
Klass Poole
Madonna of the Streets (1924)
Bill Smythe
Unseen Hands (1924)
Jean Scholast
Another Man's Wife (1924)
Captain Wolf
The Red Lily (1924)
The Signal Tower (1924)
Joe Standish
Dynamite Smith (1924)
"Slugger" Rourke
The Eternal Struggle (1923)
Barode Dukane
Robin Hood (1923)
Richard the Lion-Hearted
Stormswept (1923)
William McCabe
Bavu (1923)
Felix Bavu
Richard, the Lion-Hearted (1923)
King Richard, the Lion-Hearted
Ashes of Vengeance (1923)
Duc de Tours
Three Ages (1923)
The Villain
The Drums of Jeopardy (1923)
Gregor Karlov
Drifting (1923)
Jules Repin
The Spanish Dancer (1923)
King Philip IV
The Flame of Life (1923)
Dan Lowrie
White Tiger (1923)
Count Donelli/Hawkes
Wild Honey (1922)
"Buck" Roper
I Am the Law (1922)
Fu Chang
Trouble (1922)
Editor Lee, the plumber
The Man From Hell's River (1922)
Gaspard, The Wolf
Only a Shop Girl (1922)
Jim Brennan
The Rosary (1922)
Kenwood Wright
Hurricane's Gal (1922)
Chris Borg
The Sagebrush Trail (1922)
José Fagaro
The Rookie's Return (1921)
François Dupont
Patsy (1921)
Gustave Ludermann
The Golden Snare (1921)
Bram Johnson
A Tale of Two Worlds (1921)
Ling Jo
The Last Trail (1921)
William Kirk
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921)
Lieutenant-Colonel von Richthoffen
Rookie's Return (1920)
Francois Dupont
The Round-Up (1920)
Buck McKee
The Last of the Mohicans (1920)
The Mollycoddle (1920)
Henry Van Holkar
813 (1920)
Baron Ribeira
The Virgin of Stamboul (1920)
Achmet Hamid
The Unpardonable Sin (1919)
Col. Klemm
Soldiers of Fortune (1919)
The Life Line (1919)
Behind the Door (1919)
Lieutenant Brandt
Victory (1919)
The Love Burglar (1919)
Coast-to-Coast Taylor
Johanna Enlists (1918)
Colonel Fanner
The Slim Princess (1915)

Producer (Feature Film)

Timothy Dobbs, That's Me (1916)

Cast (Short)

"Behind the Movie Lens" Subject: On Location with The Bad Man (1937)
My Wife's Relations (1922)
Teddy at the Throttle (1917)
A Clever Dummy (1917)

Misc. Crew (Short)

The Soundman (1950)
Archival Footage

Life Events


Joined Ringling Bros. as assistant elephant trainer


Debut as stage performer


Signed with Essanay; moved to Hollywood; film acting debut


Worked primarily for Paramount Studios


Signed with MGM (where he would stay for the rest of his career), became a star with his roles in the hit films, "The Big House" and "Min and Bill", the latter the first of several films in which he was teamed with Marie Dressler


Made first of seven films with character actor Marjorie Main as his leading lady, "Wyoming"; returned to the annual list of top ten boxoffice stars


Starred in last film, "A Date With Judy"

Photo Collections

A Date with Judy - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a number of photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of MGM's A Date with Judy (1948), starring Wallace Beery, Elizabeth Taylor, Jane Powell, and Robert Stack.
Grand Hotel - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a few photos taken during production of MGM's all-star film, Grand Hotel (1932).
Tugboat Annie - Movie Poster
Tugboat Annie - Movie Poster
Min and Bill - Title Lobby Card
Min and Bill - Title Lobby Card
Treasure Island - Movie Posters
Here are a few original-release American movie posters from MGM's Treasure Island (1934), starring Wallace Beery and Jackie Cooper.
China Seas - Movie Poster
Here is the Window Card from MGM's China Seas (1935), starring Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, and Wallace Beery. Window Cards were 14x22 mini posters designed to be placed in store windows around town during a film's engagement. A blank space at the top of the poster featured theater and playdate infromation.
This Man's Navy - Movie Poster
This Man's Navy - Movie Poster
The Big House - Lobby Cards
The Big House - Lobby Cards
Viva Villa! - Lobby Cards
Here are several Lobby Cards from MGM's Viva Villa! (1934), starring Wallace Beery and Fay Wray. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Dinner at Eight - Behind-the-Scenes Stills
Here are a number of photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of MGM's all-star comedy Dinner at Eight (1934), directed by George Cukor.
The Champ (1931) - Movie Poster
Here is an American movie poster from the original release of The Champ (1931), starring Wallace Berry and Jackie Cooper. This is a half sheet measuring 22" x 28".
The Bugle Sounds - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for A Bugle Sounds (1942), starring Wallace Beery. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Billy the Kid (1930) - Movie Poster
Here is the American One-Sheet Movie Poster for Billy the Kid (1930). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Wallace Beery - State Express Cigarette Card
This is a small cigarette card of actor Wallace Beery. These cards were included in Cigarette packs in the 1930s and were collectible items. Customers could even purchase books to organize and collect these cards. State Express was an active Cigarette Card producer, creating a wide range of cards featuring famous people of which film stars were an often popular draw.


Movie Clip

Viva Villa! (1934) -- (Movie Clip) Fiction Woven Out Of Truth Commanding prologue and screenplay by Ben Hecht, directed by either ultimately-dismissed Howard Hawks or credited Jack Conway, with Phillip Cooper as the young title character and Frank Puglia his dad, from MGM’s hit Viva Villa!, 1934, starring Wallace Beery.
Viva Villa! (1934) -- (Movie Clip) For The Gringo Paper? Taking a town as his notoriety grows, Wallace Beery as Pancho Villa browses females (C.B. DeMille's part-Italian adopted daughter Katherine as Rosita, in one of her earliest roles) then, with sidekick Sierra (Leo Carrillo), meets nervous American journalist Sykes (Stuart Erwin), in Viva Villa!, 1934.
Viva Villa! (1934) -- (Movie Clip) This Is Your Country! Writer Ben Hecht never thought much of Hollywood or screenplays in general, but had few peers for this kind of scene, with Wallace Beery as the bandit title character meeting the scholarly revolutionary Madero (Henry B. Walthall), in MGM’s Viva Villa!, 1934.
Viva Villa! (1934) -- (Movie Clip) Pancho Villa Sent For Me Some scale as the revolution gathers pace, Wallace Beery (title character) rallies volunteers, visits sympathetic aristocrat Teresa (Fay Wray) and reporter Sykes (Stuart Erwin), then a montage, with writer Ben Hecht more successful than the rear-screen process shots, David Durand the bugle boy, inViva Villa! , 1934.
Viva Villa! (1934) -- (Movie Clip) The Law Of Pancho Villa's Court First appearance for Wallace Beery in the title role, his mob seizing a town after several peasants were convicted and hanged, with aide Sierra (Leo Carrillo), flipping the script on the ruling class (Nigel De Brulier the magistrate), in MGM’s Viva Villa!, 1934.
Way For A Sailor (1930) -- (Movie Clip) That's What I Call Seafood Merchant sailors on leave in Singapore, John Gilbert as Jack and Jim Tully as Ginger and planning a scam to stretch their funds when they encounter their abusive crew boss “Tripod” (Wallace Beery) from the ship, in the middle of being fleeced by a pleasure-boat pimp (Sôjin Kamayama), in MGM’s Way For A Sailor, 1930.
Way For A Sailor (1930) -- (Movie Clip) You'd Drop Dead Ten Times A Day Back to London after a wild world-wide tour, sailor Jack (John Gilbert), with buddy Ginger (Jim Tully) remembers to take a run at pay clerk Joan (Leila Hyams, her first scene), though she’s not interested, early in MGM’s Way For A Sailor, 1930, also starring Wallace Beery.
Bad Bascomb (1946) -- (Movie Clip) Elder Because You're Younger? Title character Wallace Beery in Wyoming learning to shoot right-handed because the lawmen know he’s a lefty, J. Carrol Naish his sidekick Yancey, Marshall Thompson his literate conscript Jimmy, and Frank Darien the unlucky Mormon traveler, early in MGM’s Bad Bascomb, 1946, also starring Margaret O’Brien.
Bad Bascomb (1946) -- (Movie Clip) When We Get To Utah Bandit Wallace Beery (title character), hiding out in a Mormon wagon train, has just learned that male converts are required to work, and he’s been drafted by Marjorie Main as Abbey, whose granddaughter Emmy (Margaret O’Brien) he’s already met, his pal Yancey (J. Carrol Naish) making out better, in MGM’s Bad Bascomb,1946.
Bad Bascomb (1946) -- (Movie Clip) Thou Shalt Not Steal Fugitive illiterate title character Wallace Beery has bluffed his way into a Mormon wagon train in Wyoming, unhappy with the provisions, helping himself when Margaret O’Brien, with whom he shares top billing, appears as orphaned Emmy, in MGM’s Bad Bascomb, 1946, also starring Marjorie Main.
Big House, The (1930) -- (Movie Clip) Mushrooms All Over It Director George Hill capturing more of the remarkable scale of the MGM sets in another famous scene, in the mess hall, Butch (Wallace Beery) sowing discontent, the warden (Lewis Stone) intervening, and new inmate Kent (Robert Montgomery) timidly foiling a plot, in The Big House, 1930.
Big House, The (1930) -- (Movie Clip) You're Too Nice A Kid More of MGM’s massive interior sets, derived partly from writer Frances Marion’s visit to San Quentin, our first trip to the yard with new inmate Kent (Robert Montgomery), with the boys playing what looks like a standard trick, DeWitt Jennings the head screw, in The Big House, 1930.


Dinner at Eight - (Original Trailer) A high society dinner party masks a hotbed of scandal and intrigue in Dinner at 8 (1933), directed by George Cukor.
Barbary Coast Gent - (Original Trailer) Wallace Beery plays a bandit from the gold fields who moves to San Francisco and tries to go straight in Barbary Coast Gent (1944).
Bad Man, The - (Original Trailer) Wallace Beery (Viva Villa!) returns to portraying a Mexican bandit in The Bad Man (1941) but he's really not as bad as all that.
Alias a Gentleman - (Original Trailer) Wallace Beery plays an aging convict who tries to keep his daughter from following in his footsteps in Alias a Gentleman (1948).
West Point Of The Air - (Original Trailer) An army sergeant (Wallace Beery) inspires his son to become an ace flyer and join the West Point of the Air (1935).
Twenty Mule Team - (Original Trailer) A miner (Wallace Beery) fights his way across Death Valley to beat out the competition in Twenty Mule Team (1940).
Viva Villa! - (Original Trailer) Wallace Beery stars in Viva Villa! (1934), the story of the bandit chief who led the battle for Mexican independence.
Rationing - (Original Trailer) A small-town butcher (Wallace Beery) has problems coping with meat rationing during World War II in Rationing (1944).
Grand Hotel - (Re-issue Trailer) Guests at a posh Berlin hotel struggle through scandal and heartache in Grand Hotel (1932) starring Greta Garbo.
Man from Dakota, The - (Original Trailer) A Yankee soldier becomes a spy with the help of a beautiful woman in The Man From Dakota (1940) starring Wallace Beery.
Champ, The (1931) - (Re-issue trailer) Wallace Beery got the Oscar but Jackie Cooper stole the show in the 1931 version of The Champ, directed by King Vidor.
This Man's Navy - (Original Trailer) The director of Wings (1927), William Wellman, turns his attention to dirigibles in This Man's Navy (1945) starring Wallace Beery.


William C Beery
Actor. Born in 1879; died in 1949.
Noah Beery
Actor. Born in 1885; died in 1946.
Carol Ann Beery
Noah Beery Jr


Gloria Swanson
Actor. Married in 1916; divorced in 1918.
Rita Beery
Divorced in the 1930s.