Warren William (born Warren William Krech; December 2, 1894 – September 24, 1948) was a Broadway and Hollywood actor, immensely popular during the early 1930s; he was later nicknamed the "King of Pre-Code". He was the first actor to play Perry Mason.
William, who appeared in his first Broadway play in 1920, soon made a name for himself in New York, and appeared in more than 20 plays on Broadway between 1920 and 1931. During this period he also appeared in two silent films, The Town That Forgot God (1922) and Plunder (1923).He moved from New York City to Hollywood in 1931. The Village Voice called him "The King of Pre-Code". He began as a contract player at Warner Bros. and quickly became a star during what is now known as the 'Pre-Code' period. He developed a reputation for portraying ruthless, amoral businessmen (Under 18, Skyscraper Souls, The Match King, Employees' Entrance), crafty lawyers (The Mouthpiece, Perry Mason), and outright charlatans (The Mind Reader). These roles were considered controversial, yet they were highly satisfying. This was the harshest period of the Great Depression, characterized by massive business failures and oppressive unemployment. Movie audiences jeered at the businessmen, who were often portrayed as predators. William did play some sympathetic roles, including Dave the Dude in Frank Capra's Lady for a Day, and a loving father and husband cuckolded by Ann Dvorak's character in Three on a Match (1932). He was a young songwriter's comically pompous older brother in Golddiggers of 1933. William was Julius Caesar in Cecil B. DeMille's Cleopatra (1934; starring Claudette Colbert in the title role), and with Colbert again the same year as her character's love interest in Imitation of Life (1934). He played the swashbuckling musketeer d'Artagnan in The Man in the Iron Mask (1939), directed by James Whale. The studios capitalized on William's popularity by placing him in multiple "series" films, particularly as detectives and crime-solvers. William was the first to portray Erle Stanley Gardner's fictional defense attorney Perry Mason on the big screen and starred in four Perry Mason mysteries. He played Raffles-like reformed jewel thief The Lone Wolf in nine films, beginning with The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt (1939), and appeared as Detective Philo Vance in two of the series films,The Dragon Murder Case (1934) and the comedic The Gracie Allen Murder Case (1939). He also starred as Sam Spade (renamed Ted Shane) in Satan Met a Lady (1936), the second screen version of The Maltese Falcon.Other roles included Mae West's manager in Go West, Young Man (1936), a jealous district attorney in another James Whale film, Wives Under Suspicion (1938), copper-magnate Jesse Lewisohn in 1940's Lillian Russell, the evil Jefferson Carteret in Arizona (also 1940), and sympathetic Dr. Lloyd in The Wolf Man (1941). In 1945, he played Brett Curtis in cult director Edgar G. Ulmer's 1945 modern-day version of Hamlet, called Strange Illusion. In what would be his last film, he played Laroche-Mathieu in The Private Affairs of Bel Ami in 1947. On radio, William starred in the transcribed series Strange Wills, which featured "stories behind strange wills that run the gamut of human emotion."
Warren William Krech's family originated in Bad Tennstedt, Thuringia, Germany. His grandfather, Ernst Wilhelm Krech (born 1819), fled Germany in 1848 during the Revolution, going first to France and later emigrating to the United States. He wed Mathilde Grow in 1851, and had six children. Freeman E. Krech, Warren's father, was born in 1856. Around the age of 25, Freeman moved to Aitkin, a small town in Minnesota, where he bought a newspaper, The Aitkin Age, in 1885. He married Frances Potter, daughter of a merchant, September 18, 1890. Their son Warren was born December 2, 1894.Warren William's interest in acting began in 1903, when an opera house was built in Aitkin. He was also an avid and lifelong amateur inventor, a pursuit that may have contributed to his death. After high school, William auditioned for, and was enrolled in, the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (AADA) in New York City in October 1915.As his senior year at AADA was coming to an end, the United States had entered the First World War, and William enlisted in the United States Army. He was assigned from base to base, in charge of training new men at various locations, and in 1918 was assigned to Fort Dix near New York City, in New Jersey. While in New York, he met his future wife, Helen Barbara Nelson, who was 17 years older than he was. In October 1918 he left for France, to enter the war. William left the army in early 1919, after which he began working on his acting career. In 1923, he and Helen were married.
Movies & TV shows
Hollywood Out-takes and Rare Footage
Out-takes (mostly from Warner Bros.), promotional shorts, movie premieres, public service pleas, wardrobe tests, documentary material, and archival footage make up this star-studded voyeuristic look a...
The Wolf Man
After his brother's death, Larry Talbot returns home to his father and the family estate. Events soon take a turn for the worse when Larry is bitten by a werewolf.
Secrets of the Lone Wolf
Michael Lanyard's faithful butler was mistaken for his boss by a group of jewel robbers.
The Lone Wolf Takes a Chance
A reformed jewel thief is fighting to clear his name after being framed for murder.
Wild Geese Calling
In the 1890s lumberjack John leaves Seattle for Alaska to look for gold. After he marries dancehall girl Sally, he finds she used to be in love with his best friend Blackie.
Alice Faye plays the title role in this 1940 film biography of the early-20th-century stage star.
The Lone Wolf Meets a Lady
A secretary for a rich woman is accused of a murder that she didn't commit, but she is engaged to the woman's son.
Trail of the Vigilantes
A reporter goes undercover to break up an outlaw gang.
The Lone Wolf Keeps a Date
The Lone Wolf kept one step ahead of the police in Havana trying to solve the crime and make a profit, despite theComplicated plot involving missing stamp collection and kidnapped businessman.
The Lone Wolf Strikes
The father of Delia Jordan was murdered and some valuable jewelry was stolen. The Lone Wolf has been hired by her.
Phoebe Titus is a tough, swaggering pioneer woman, but her ways become decidedly more feminine when she falls for California bound Peter Muncie. But Peter won't be distracted from his journey and Phoe...
The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt
Michael Lanyard was forced to steal defense secrets in Washington by the spies.
When a young wife discovers her husband of two years is involved with his beautiful secretary, she applies for a job as secretary to a business rival.
The Gracie Allen Murder Case
The plot follows a woman who is trying to help a detective solve a murder.
The Man in the Iron Mask
King Louis XIV learns that he has an identical twin brother, Philippe, who was raised by his father's trusted friend D'Artagnan and his musketeers, Porthos, Athos and Aramis. After Philippe falls for ...
The First Hundred Years
David and Lynn are a happily married couple. When David gets his dream job in another state, Lynn, a high-powered executive, doesn't want to leave NYC and her job
Wives Under Suspicion
A merciless district attorney prosecutes a case that mirrors his own life.
Arsène Lupin Returns
A woman and a man vying for a woman's affection: the usual love trio? Not quite so since the belle in question is Lorraine de Grissac, a very wealthy and alluring society woman, while one of the two r...
A physician in a small town suddenly finds himself the object of vilification and persecution when one of his patients commits suicide.
A habitual gambler comes to the aid of a desperate woman after her daughter inherits a fortune and is underhandedly taken by her estranged father.
An alcoholic woman was charged and tried for murder and a young defense attorney, unaware that she is his mother, takes the assignment to defend her in court.
Nina Maria Azara is the beautiful and alluring singing spy for Spain during the Napoleonic Wars. Her mission is to seduce French Officers, in order for them to reveal Napolean's intentions toward Spai...
Breakdowns of 1936
Time marches on.
Times Square Playboy
A stock broker's small-town best friend thinks the bride-to-be and her family are gold-diggers so he does everything he can to prevent the wedding.
Go West Young Man
There is a sensational movie star named Mavis Arden. Her popularity is demonstrated by her personal appearance tours. Her car breaks down as she is on her way home from an appearance. She ordered her ...
The Case of the Velvet Claws
Perry and Della are finally married by his old friend, Judge Mary. They plan to go on a honeymoon, but before it can start, Perry is retained by a woman with a gun and $5000.
Satan Met a Lady
In the second screen version of The Maltese Falcon, a detective is caught between a lying seductress and a lady jewel thief.
A Broadway show is forced to bow to the whims of a talentless,whacky, but rich, Broadway actress with a contract.
A Trip Thru a Hollywood Studio
This short shows the entrances of the various Hollywood studios, then specifically visits Warner Bros. / First National Studios. We start at the casting office, then see Busby Berkeley and choreograph...
Things You Never See on the Screen
Collection of Warner's stars blundering through missed takes.
The Widow from Monte Carlo
In this romantic comedy, an aspiring socialite heads for a vacation in Monte Carlo where she befriends a wealthy widowed duchess and then begins blackmailing her after she steals a scandalous letter.
The Case of the Curious Bride
After giving the District Attorney another stinging defeat, Perry plans to take a vacation in China. That is, he was, until Rhoda, his old flame, meets him at a restaurant. It seems that her husband M...
Living on Velvet
A lay-about falls for his best friend's fiancee. The two of them run away from a life of privilege to one of middle-class normalcy. When an influx of money enters their life, their differences come to...
The Case of the Lucky Legs
A con man who stages phony "lucky legs" beauty contests and leaves town with the money is found with a surgical knife in his heart by Mason.
Don't Bet on Blondes
Owen, a small time bookie, decides to open an insurance business as it involves lesser risk. His first client is Colonel Youngblood who insures his daughter, Marilyn, against marriage.
Hollywood on Parade No. B-1
Short film in which Frankie Darro as a Telegram delivery boy visits various Hollywood locations to make deliveries. He visits the Los Angeles Pier and a Gala Hollywood Premiere.
Bob Brown uses his bedside manner to charm his patients while his partner makes the actual diagnoses.
Vicki Wallace takes great pleasure in teasing her husband Tony who takes no pleasure at all in being teased and it isn't long before he ups and clips her on the chin. Vicki's friend and attorney Verno...
A railroad tycoon, disillusioned with his marriage, starts seeing a showgirl. Things go agreeably until the woman's manager decides to blackmail the millionaire.
The Case of the Howling Dog
There is a man in the office who is very nervous and wants his neighbor to be arrested for his dog howling. The howling is a sign that there is a death in the neighborhood, according to him. He wants ...
A prominent New York doctor, unable to have a child, discovers her philandering husband has impregnated her best friend.
Imitation of Life
A struggling widow and her daughter take in a black housekeeper and her fair-skinned daughter. The two women start a successful business but face familial, identity, and racial issues along the way.
The queen of Egypt barges the Nile and flirts with Mark Antony and Julius Caesar.
The Dragon Murder Case
Wonderful idea to give a party with people who dislike each other. Late at night, everyone decides to go into the pool, except Stamm, who is drunk. Montague dives in as does Greeff and Leland, but onl...
The Secret Bride
Before Ruth, the Governor's daughter, can announce her marriage to the Attorney General, the Governor is accused of accepting bribes. They don't tell their marriage secret to avoid any problems. There...
Gold Diggers of 1933
Things get tough for Carol and her showgirl pals, Trixie and Polly, when the Great Depression kicks in and all the Broadway shows close down. Wealthy songwriter Brad saves the day by funding a new Dep...
Lady for a Day
Never-wed, poor, rough around the edges Apple Annie has always written to her daughter, Louise, in Spain that she is married and a member of New York's high society. Upon receiving unexpected word fro...
The Mind Reader
Chandler, a con-man, and his helper Frank decide to create a clairvoyant act for the carny circuit, as a little research reveals Ameicans spent $125 million on mind-readers and astrology. The carny, r...
Kurt Anderson is the tyrannical manager of a New York department store in financial straits. He thinks nothing of firing an employee of more than 20 years or of toying with the affections of every wom...
Flirtatious mix-ups abound when a celebrated novelist tangles with an old flame and her suspicious husband. Will the author's savvy secretary, who's secretly in love with him, save his neck?
Just Around the Corner
Promotional short produced by General Electric for release through Warner Bros. to advertise GE's home appliances.
The Woman from Monte Carlo
On the eve of WW-I the French Navy ship Lafayette returns to its Toulon base for one night. There is no shore leave, although wives are permitted to come to a party. The strain of command on the olde...
Beauty and the Boss
An ultra-efficient Plain Jane secretary blossoms when she accompanies her boss on a business trip to Paris.
The Match King
Unscrupulous Chicago janitor Paul Kroll uses deceit to fund a return trip to his homeland of Sweden. There, via ongoing continuing deceit and manipulation, he gradually attains a monopoly on the match...
A prosecutor quits his job and becomes a defense attorney when he finds out that a man he got convicted and executed was actually innocent.
Skyscraper Souls is a Pre-Code 1932 drama film starring Warren William and Maureen O'Sullivan. The film was directed by Edgar Selwyn and is based upon the novel Skycraper by Faith Baldwin. The film de...
The Dark Horse
The Progressive Party convention is deadlocked for governor, so both sides nominate the dark horse Zachary Hicks. Kay Russell suggests they hire Hal Blake as campaign manager; but first they have to g...
Three on a Match
Mary, Vivian and Ruth are former schoolmates who do some catching up after a chance meeting. Of the three women, Vivian, who married successful lawyer Robert, seems to have the most glamorous life. Vi...
How I Play Golf, by Bobby Jones No. 7: 'The Spoon'
Bobby Jones instructs a husband and the judge in his divorce proceedings on proper use of the Spoon.
Working girl Margie Evans has decided there are two kinds of opportunities for a slum kid during the Depression: Those you make and those you take. Determined to help her family out of its financial b...
Honor of the Family
Intrigue and greed come between an immoral woman and the man who loves her. This film is believed lost.
A wealthy young woman struggles to find love while surrounded by possible suitors.
This article uses material from the Wikipedia article "Warren_William", which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.