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Richard Barthelmess
Richard Barthelmess Way Down East Motion Picture Classic 1920.png
Barthelmess in Way Down East
Richard Semler Barthelmess

(1895-05-09)May 9, 1895
Died August 17, 1963(1963-08-17) (aged 68)
Occupation Actor
Years active 1916–1942
Spouse(s) Mary Hay (1920–1927) 1 daughter
Jessica Stewart Sargent (1928–1963)

Richard Semler "Dick" Barthelmess (May 9, 1895 – August 17, 1963) was an Oscar-nominated American movie actor. He was nominated for the first Academy Award in the Best Actor category in 1928.

Movie career

Barthelmess was born in New York City. He went to Hudson River Military Academy and Trinity College at Hartford, Connecticut. He worked in theaters during his school days doing "walk-ons". In college, he played in amateur productions.

He made his first movie appearance in 1916 in a movie serial as an extra. At this time, he also appeared as a supporting player in several movies. Director D. W. Griffith saw him. He cast Barthelmess opposite Lillian Gish in Broken Blossoms (1919) and Way Down East (1920).

He soon became one of Hollywood's highest paid actors. He was nominated for Best Actor at the first Academy Awards in 1928. He founded a production company, Inspiration Film Company. He starred in the company's Tol'able David (1921). This movie was a great success.

Barthelmess made several "talkies". He failed to hold on to the star status of his silent movie days. He joined the United States Navy Reserve during World War II. He was a lieutenant commander. He never went back to movies. He died of cancer in 1963. He was 68. He was buried at Ferncliff Cemetery and Mausoleum in Hartsdale, New York.


Barthelmess married Mary Hay, a stage and movie star. They had one daughter Mary Barthelmess. In 1927, Barthelmess became engaged to Katherine Young Wilson, a Broadway actress. The engagement was called off, possibly due to his affair around this time with the journalist Adela Rogers St. Johns. In 1928, Barthelmess married Jessica Stewart Sargent.


Barthelmess was one of the founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Barthelmess received the George Eastman Award for distinguished contribution to movies.

Composer Katherine Allan Lively dedicated her piano piece, Within the Walls of China: A Chinese Episode, to Barthelmess. It was published in 1923 by G. Schirmer, Inc. An article in The Music Trades reported that Mrs. Lively was inspired by a seeing Broken Blossoms. She played the piece for Barthelmess and his friends in New York in the summer of 1922.

  • The First Male Stars: Men of the Silent Era by David W. Menefee.
  • Richard Barthelmess: A Life in Pictures by David W. Menefee

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