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|George Arliss as Nathan Mayer Rothschild in The House of Rothschild (1934).|
|Birthday/Birthplace||Augustus George Andrews
(1868-04-10)10 April 1868
London, England, UK
|Deceased||5 February 1946(1946-02-05)
London, England, UK
|Cause of death||Bronchitis|
|Profession(s)||Actor, author, playwright, filmmaker|
|Wife/Husband||Florence Kate Montgomery Smith (1899–1946)|
George Arliss (April 10, 1868 – February 5, 1946) was an English actor, writer, playwright and film director, winner of an Oscar, and who achieved success in the United States. United. He was the first Briton to receive an Oscar Award.
His real name was George Augustus Andrews , and he was born in London, England. He began his acting career in the English provincial theater in 1887. By 1900 he was performing in the London West End, the equivalent of Broadway in New York, playing secondary roles. He embarked to make a tour of the United States in 1901 with the company of Patrick Campbell. Although his intention was to return at the end of the tour, Arliss finally stayed in the country for twenty years, becoming a star in 1908 with The Devil. Producer George Tyler commissioned Louis Napoleon Parker in 1911 to write a play thinking specifically of Arliss, and the actor traveled with Disraeli for five years, eventually becoming identified with the 19th century British prime minister.
His film career began with The Devil (1921), followed by Disraeli and four other silent films. Today, only The Devil and The Green Goddess (1923), based on a theatrical success of Arliss in the early twenties, are known and have survived. He returned to shoot Disraeli (1929) in sound version (and won the Oscar for best actor), becoming at 61 years a star of sound movies.
Arliss made ten sound films exclusively for Warner Bros. under a contract that gave the star unusual creative control over his films. One of those films, The Man Who Played God (1932), was the first leading role of Bette Davis. Until the end of her life, Davis was grateful for the opportunity that Arliss gave her to trust in her dexterity. Both also worked together in The Working Man in 1933.
Arliss formed a production unit at Warner, both in front and behind the scenes. Her stage director, Maude Howell, became a production assistant and was one of the few film executive women in Hollywood at the time. After his first three films, Arliss approved that a mediocre director, John G. Adolfi, directed each one of his films from that moment. Adolfi was soon recognized as the successful director of the profitable Arliss films. Arliss preferred to use the same reliable actors in his films, as happened with Ivan Simpson (who was also a sculptor) and Charles Evans. Nevertheless Arliss had instinct to discover new talents, and thus it happened with James Cagney, Randolph Scott, and Dick Powell, among others. Despite his involvement in the planning and production of his shootings, Arliss claimed to appear in the credits only as an actor.
Photograph taken by George Grantham Bain.
Working closely with Warner’s production manager, Darryl F. Zanuck, Arliss left the studio when Zanuck resigned in April 1933. Zanuck quickly signed on for Arliss to shoot new films in Zanuck’s new studio, 20th Century Pictures, getting Warner to complain bitterly to the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences that Zanuck had stolen his star. Arliss is remembered primarily for his ingenious series of historical biographies, such as Alexander Hamilton, Voltaire, The House of Rothschild, The Iron Duke, and Cardinal Richelieu. However, he also did a delicious series of domestic comedies such as The Millionaire, A Successful Calamity, The Working Man, and The Last Gentleman, among others.
He often acted alongside his wife, Florence Arliss (1871 – 1950), with whom he remained married since the wedding on September 16, 1899 until his death. They had no children. Florence worked in the theater and in the cinema (both silent and sonorous) with her husband and almost always played the role of his wife.
Arliss was about 70 years old when he completed the British film Doctor Syn in 1937. He and Florence returned to the United States at the end of that year to visit old friends such as the famed astronomer Edwin Hubble in California. Producer and director Cecil B. DeMille got the Arliss to reprise their Disraeli roles on DeMille’s popular radio program, Lux Radio Theater, in January 1938. This occasion was celebrated as “a new page in the history of radio” . George and Florence later acted in Lux and radio adaptations of The Man Who Played God and Cardinal Richelieu, which was apparently his last dramatic performance in any medium.
Back in his home in London in April 1939, the start of World War II prevented his return to the United States in his later years. The only blemish in his career was caused by the accusation by the British Government in September 1941 that Arliss had not complied with a recent order obliging him to review the bank accounts he kept in the United States and Canada. Similar charges also faced the actor and dramatist Noel Coward a few weeks later. Both men said they ignored the new law, but were fined and publicly humiliated by the experience.
Despite the embarrassment, or perhaps to alleviate it, producer Darryl Zanuck tried to get Arliss back to Hollywood to work at The Pied Piper in 1942. However, enduring the German aerial bombardment of London, Arliss remained in his native city, where he died of a bronchial disease in February 1946.
Apart from his artistic career, Arliss founded the National Anti-Vivisection Society of Chicago, Illinois. He was also president of the Episcopal Actors Guild of America between 1921 and 1938. Arliss published two autobiographies:
- Up the Years from Bloomsbury (1927)
- My Ten Years in the Studios (1940)
- 1930. Oscar won by Disraeli
- 1930 Nominated by The Green Goddess
He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 6648 Hollywood Boulevard.
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