Warren

Warren William – The Magnificent Scoundrel

Dubbed the ‘King of Pre-Code’, no other actor embodied the classy mix of charm and sleaze that epitomized pre-Code Hollywood than Warren William. Warren Krech was born December 2, 1894 in Minnesota. He became interested in acting at the young age of 9 when an opera house was erected in his hometown. Warren enrolled in acting classes in New York after high school, and then enlisted in the army for World War I.Upon his return, he appeared on Broadway in 1920, and, after a decade of mostly inglorious roles on stage, he moved west to California.

He became a contract player for Warner Brothers and soon made his mark by playing ruthless, cunning businessmen who often looked out for themselves first. Often these morally repulsive characters were made sympathetic by William’s urbane, sly nature. His first major role was in The Mouthpiece, a movie showcasing him as a nasty but fascinating lawyer. This was followed by The Dark Horse, a political black comedy that further pushed him to the limits of likeability.

Perhaps his fondest remembered roles are in Employee’s Entrance and Skyscraper Souls. Virtually identical in setup– tyrannical businessman wants to bend the world his way– but made at vastly different studios– down/dirty Warner Brothers and glitzy/glamorous MGM– the movies are fascinating companion pieces. Employees Entrance is less lofty and generally one of the most notably debased movies of the time, with William’s dominating businessman character committing all manor of cruelties and summarily being forgiven for them when he saves his department store through quick thinking.

Warren is probably most familiar to mainstream classic film audiences for his role as the conniving executive who grabs the wrong gold digger in Gold Diggers of 1933. Others may recognize him from Frank Capra’s perennial classic Lady for a Day with Warren as ‘Dave the Dude’.

As the pre-Code era came to a close, so did the kind of characters that Warren specialized in go out of fashion. Musicals and costume epics were coming into style, neither really William’s forte. He moved more into B-pictures as the decade continued, with William going onto star in a series of Perry Mason mysteries as well as a few Philo Vance movies. He was still working regularly when he passed away in 1948.

Warren William’s Pre-Code Filmography

Studios

Biography

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Warren Williams, Magnificent Scoundrel of Pre-Code Hollywood
By John Strangeland

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