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Richard Barthelmess
Richard Barthelmess - publicity.JPG
Barthelmess in 1934
Born (1895-05-09)May 9, 1895
New York City, U.S.
Died August 17, 1963(1963-08-17) (aged 68)
Resting place Ferncliff Cemetery
Alma mater Trinity College
Occupation Actor
Years active 1916–1942
Mary Hay
(m. 1920; div. 1927)

Jessica Stewart Sargent
(m. 1928)
Children 2

Richard Semler Barthelmess (May 9, 1895 – August 17, 1963) was an American film actor, principally of the Hollywood silent era. He starred opposite Lillian Gish in D. W. Griffith's Broken Blossoms (1919) and Way Down East (1920) and was among the founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1927. The following year, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for two films: The Patent Leather Kid and The Noose.

Early life

Barthelmess was born in New York City, the son of Caroline W. Harris, a stage actress, and Alfred W. Barthelmess. His father died when he was a year old. Through his mother, he grew up in the theatre, doing "walk-ons" from an early age. In contrast to that, he was educated at Hudson River Military Academy at Nyack, New York and Trinity College at Hartford, Connecticut. He did some acting in college and other amateur productions. By 1919 he had five years in stock company experience.


Russian actress Alla Nazimova, a friend of the family, was taught English by Caroline Barthelmess. Nazimova convinced Richard Barthelmess to try acting professionally, and he made his debut screen appearance in 1916 in the serial Gloria's Romance as an uncredited extra. He also appeared as a supporting player in several films starring Marguerite Clark.

With Lillian Gish in the 1920 release Way Down East

His next role, in War Brides opposite Nazimova, attracted the attention of director D.W. Griffith, who offered him several important roles, finally casting him opposite Lillian Gish in Broken Blossoms (1919) and Way Down East (1920). He founded his own production company, Inspiration Film Company, together with Charles Duell and Henry King. One of their films, Tol'able David (1921), in which Barthelmess starred as a teenage mailman who finds courage, was a major success. In 1922, Photoplay described him as the "idol of every girl in America."

Richard Barthelmess - Mar 1922 Silverscreen
Silverscreen magazine, 1922

Barthelmess had a large female following during the 1920s.

Barthelmess soon became one of Hollywood's higher paid performers, starring in such classics as The Patent Leather Kid in 1927 and The Noose in 1928; he was nominated for Best Actor at the first Academy Awards for his performance in both films. In addition, he won a special citation for producing The Patent Leather Kid.

With the advent of the sound era, Barthelmess remained a star for a number of years. He played numerous leads in talkie films, most notably Son of the Gods (1930), The Dawn Patrol (1930), The Last Flight (1931), The Cabin in the Cotton (1932) and Heroes for Sale (1933). He was able to choose his own material and often played in controversial or socially conscious films. However, his popularity began to wane in the 1930s as he was getting too old for the boyish leads he usually played, and in his later films between 1939 and his retirement in 1942, he turned towards character roles – most notably in his supporting role as the disgraced pilot and husband of Rita Hayworth's character in Only Angels Have Wings (1939).

Post-acting career

Barthelmess failed to maintain the stardom of his silent film days and gradually left entertainment. He enlisted in the United States Navy Reserve during World War II, and served as a lieutenant commander. He never returned to film, preferring instead to live off his real estate investments.

Personal life

On June 18, 1920, Barthelmess married Mary Hay, a stage and screen star, in New York. They had one daughter, Mary Barthelmess, before divorcing on January 15, 1927.

In August 1927, Barthelmess became engaged to Katherine Young Wilson, a Broadway actress. However, the engagement was called off due to Wilson's stated desire to continue acting, or possibly his affair around this time with the journalist Adela Rogers St. Johns.

On April 21, 1928, Barthelmess married Jessica Stewart Sargent. He later adopted her son, Stewart, from a previous marriage. They remained married until Barthelmess' death in 1963.


Barthelmess died of throat cancer on August 17, 1963, aged 68, in Southampton, New York. He was interred at the Ferncliff Cemetery and Mausoleum in Hartsdale, New York.


  • Barthelmess was a founder of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
  • In 1960, Barthelmess received a motion picture star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6755 Hollywood Boulevard for his contributions to the film industry.
  • Barthelmess was among the second group of recipients of the George Eastman Award in 1957, given by the George Eastman House for distinguished contribution to the art of film.
  • Composer Katherine Allan Lively dedicated her piano composition Within the Walls of China: A Chinese Episode to Barthelmess in the sheet music published in 1923 by G. Schirmer, Inc. An article in The Music Trades reported that Mrs. Lively was inspired by a viewing of the film Broken Blossoms, and performed the piece for Barthelmess and his friends in New York in the summer of 1922.


Collage of Richard Barthelmess, 1920
Collage of various characters portrayed by Barthelmess, 1920
Barthelmess collage
Another collage of stills from various films, 1930
  • Gloria's Romance (1916) (uncredited)
  • War Brides (1916) as Arno
  • Snow White (1916) as Pie Man (uncredited)
  • Just a Song at Twilight (1916) as George Turner
  • The Moral Code (1917) as Gary Miller
  • The Eternal Sin (1917) as Gennaro
  • The Valentine Girl (1917) as Robert Wentworth
  • The Soul of a Magdalen (1917) as Louis Broulette
  • The Streets of Illusion (1917) as Donald Morton
  • Camille (1917)
  • Bab's Diary (1917) as Tommy Gray
  • Bab's Burglar (1917) as Tommy Gray
  • Nearly Married (1917) as Dick Griffon
  • For Valour (1917) as Henry Nobbs
  • The Seven Swans (1917) as Prince Charming
  • Sunshine Nan (1918) as MacPherson Clark
  • Rich Man, Poor Man (1918) as Bayard Varick
  • Hit-The-Trail Holliday (1918) as Bobby Jason
  • Wild Primrose (1918) as Jack Wilton
  • The Hope Chest (1918) as Tom Ballantyne
  • Boots (1919) as Everett White
  • The Girl Who Stayed at Home (1919) as Ralph Grey
  • Three Men and a Girl (1919) as Christopher Kent
  • Peppy Polly (1919) as Dr. James Merritt
  • Broken Blossoms (1919) as Cheng Huan - The Yellow Man
  • I'll Get Him Yet (1919) as Scoop McCready
  • Scarlet Days (1919) as Don Maria Alvarez
  • The Idol Dancer (1920) as Dan McGuire
  • The Love Flower (1920) as Bruce Sanders
  • Way Down East (1920) as David Bartlett
  • Experience (1921) as Youth
  • Tol'able David (1921) as David Kinemon
  • The Seventh Day (1922) as John Alden Jr.
  • Sonny (1922) as Sonny Crosby / Joe
  • The Bond Boy (1922) as Peter Newbolt (father) / John Newbolt
  • Fury (1923) as Boy Leyton
  • The Bright Shawl (1923) as Charles Abbott
  • The Fighting Blade (1923) as Karl Van Kerstenbroock
  • Twenty-One (1923) as Julian McCullough
  • The Enchanted Cottage (1924) as Oliver Bashforth
  • Classmates (1924) as Duncan Irving Jr
  • New Toys (1925) as Will Webb
  • Soul-Fire (1925) as Eric Fane
  • Shore Leave (1925) as D.X. (Bilge) Smith
  • The Beautiful City (1925) as Tony Gillardi
  • Just Suppose (1926) as Prince Rupert of Koronia
  • Ranson's Folly (1926) as Lt. Ranson
  • The Amateur Gentleman (1926) as Barnabas Barty
  • The White Black Sheep (1926) as Robert Kincarin
  • The Patent Leather Kid (1927) as Patent Leather Kid
  • The Drop Kick (1927) as Jack Hamill
  • The Noose (1928) as Nickie Elkins
  • The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come (1928) as Chad Buford
  • Wheel of Chance (1928) as Nicolai Turkeltaub / Jacob Taline
  • Out of the Ruins (1928) as Lt. Pierre Dumont
  • Scarlet Seas (1928) as Steven Dunkin
  • Weary River (1929) as Jerry Larrabee
  • Drag (1929) as David Carroll
  • Young Nowheres (1929) as Albert 'Binky' Whalen
  • The Show of Shows (1929) as 'Meet My Sister' Presenter
  • Son of the Gods (1930) as Sam Lee
  • The Dawn Patrol (1930) as Dick Courtney
  • The Lash (1930) as Francisco Delfino 'Pancho'
  • The Finger Points (1931) as Breckenridge 'Breck' Lee
  • The Last Flight (1931) as Cary Lockwood
  • Alias the Doctor (1932) as Karl Brenner
  • The Cabin in the Cotton (1932) as Marvin Blake
  • Central Airport (1933) as James 'Jim' Blaine
  • Heroes for Sale (1933) as Tom Holmes
  • Massacre (1934) as Chief Joe Thunderhorse
  • A Modern Hero (1934) as Pierre Radier aka Paul Rader
  • Midnight Alibi (1934) as Lance McGowan / Robert Anders
  • Four Hours to Kill! (1935) as Tony Mako
  • Spy of Napoleon (1936) as Gerard de Lanoy
  • Only Angels Have Wings (1939) as Bat MacPherson
  • The Man Who Talked Too Much (1940) as J.B. Roscoe
  • The Spoilers (1942) as Bronco Kid Farrow
  • The Mayor of 44th Street (1942) as Ed Kirby (final film role)
Short subjects
  • Camille (1926) as Gaston (home movie by cariacaturist Ralph Barton)
  • The Stolen Jools (1931) as Himself
  • How I Play Golf, by Bobby Jones No. 1: The Putter (1931) as Himself (uncredited)
  • Starlit Days at the Lido (1935) as Himself (uncredited)
  • Meet the Stars #5: Hollywood Meets the Navy (1941) as Himself (uncredited)

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Richard Barthelmess para niños

  • List of actors with Academy Award nominations
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