Warren William Magnificent Scoundrel of Pre-Code Hollywood - Book Report

By Monica Sullivan

When we watch old movies on the late show, one of the questions that comes to mind is, “Are any of these actors still alive?”  For fans of films made in the 1930’s and 1940’s, the answer to that question is usually no, with a few exceptions among the youngest members of the cast.  One of the busiest actors of that era was Warren William who specialized in playing smartly-tailored rogues. 

John Strangeland has written an absorbing biography “Warren William Magnificent Scoundrel of Pre-Code Hollywood” for McFarland Publishing Company, revealing a wealth of fascinating details about this sensitive, thoughtful actor.  “The Mouthpiece” made Warren William a star in 1932.  Vincent Day was a part that demanded both flamboyance and restraint.  Edward G. Robinson and other Warner Brothers actors had turned down the role, which only made it all the more appealing to Warren William.  Interestingly, Robinson did appear in a 1955 remake, “Illegal”, a well-made lower-key effort which does not quite pack the wallop of the original.  To watch William lose and re-gain his soul as a lawyer is an unforgettable experience.

Warren William was also famous for 1932’s “The Match King” as Paul Kroll, based entirely on Ivan Kreiger, a womanizing Ponzi schemer who destroyed many lives and international economies before his suicide in 1932.  Warren William played this heartless charmer to perfection, blending intense drive and calculated subtlety.

Left to his own devices, Warren William would have made many more comedies like “The Lone Wolf” than villainous character studies.  Imagine Perry Mason lying drunk in his office and still solving 1935’s “The Case of the Lucky Legs” and you get some idea of Warren William’s playful streak.  In real life he was madly in love with Helen, his much older wife, his three pet dogs (they all survived him) and his extremely happy home life.  On page 136, there is a picture of the actor at a Hollywood party, looking bored out of his skull.  Three dozen pages later he looks much happier with the pups Jack, Jill and Babs and they look equally happy to be with him.  Warren William also enjoyed working on his ranch and tinkering with inventions.  His work with carcinogenic chemicals undoubtedly led to his early death at 53 from multiple myeloma.  As he physically weakened, he accepted low budget films like “Strange Illusion” and starred in “Strange Wills”, a series of radio dramas.  John Strangeland's insightful, sympathetic biography packs many great Warren William stories into 230 pages.  For more information go to mcfarlandpub.com.
© 2012 - Monica Sullivan- Air Date: 03/06/12
Movie Magazine International


  1. He bought a dvd copier and bootlegged copies of movies that were currently in theaters, and made copies that he sent to the troops.Recent telugu movies


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