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samedi 30 avril 2011

Richard Dix

(English text below)

Blog sur Richard Dix
Merci à S.P. !

Naissance : le 18 juillet 1893 à St Paul Minnesota
Décès : le 20 septembre 1949 à Los Angeles Californie d'une crise cardiaque 

Nom  : Ernest Carlton Brimmer 
Souche : anglaise

Taille :1.83 m (6'), 90 kg
Cheveux : châtains foncés
Yeux : bruns foncés.







Un visage de chérubin au profil volontaire et énergique. Des expressions qui passent d'inflexibles et déterminées mais basculent facilement vers un sourire d'enfant aux yeux pétillants... Un jeu tout en finesse d'une grande sobriété. C'est peut-être ce qui explique la grande versatilité de Richard Dix et  la grande diversité de ses rôles.


http://www.richarddix.org/index.htm

Richard Dix était un acteur de premier plan de 1929 à 1943, pour la RKO Radio Pictures. Il est né Ernest Carlton Brimmer le 18 juillet 1893, à St Paul au Minnesota où il fera ses études, puis selon la volonté de son père étudiera pour devenir chirurgien.
Un talent évident sur scène lors de ses début à l'école d'art dramatique de son quartier le conduit à persévérer dans son école.
Une taille de 1m83 pour un poids de 90 kilos en font un sportif qui excellait surtout dans le football et le baseball. Ces compétences lui seront très utiles pour le reste de sa carrière.

Après une année passée à l'Université du Minnesota, il travaille de jour dans une banque puis pour un architecte pour payer sa formation théâtrale le soir, malgré les objections de ses parents. Ses débuts professionnels ont débuté avec l'aide d'une petite société locale, et se poursuivent à New York.
Au grand dam de son père, il poursuit la voie théâtrale aidé par son frère Archie, un chirurgien réputé beaucoup plus âgé qui le soutient dans sa démarche et l'aide financièrement secrètement.

E.H. Southern lui offre $18 par semaine pour jouer les petits rôle dans sa compagnie.
Une de ses premières chances est d'avoir été engagé dans The College Widow, une pièce produite par James Neill et Edythe Chapman Company qui avaient besoin d'un jeune homme pour jouer un joueur de football.
Il change ensuite son nom pour celui de Richard Dix et part pour Broadway. Après deux mois sans travail, il rejoint Pittsburgh où il joue pour $35 par semaine ce qui l'amène à travailler à Dallas et à Montreal. 

Engagé à la fin de la première guerre mondiale mais déchargé dès l'armistice signée.

De retour à Broadway il a la chance d'obtenir un rôle dans The Hawk de William Faversham qui le prend sous son aile. Un soir alors qu'il joue dans The Song of Songs il retrouve enfin son père dans sa loge. A Broadway il joue différents caractères dans toutes sortes de pièces avec David Butler et Douglas McLean. Après un an, il retourne à la maison à la mort de son frère. Après des déboires financiers, son père décède à son tour. Entre temps Butler et McLean partent pour Hollywood où ils obtiennent rapidement du succès.

Le décès de son père lui laisse sa mère et sa sœur à charge. Pendant trois ans il soutient sa famille en travaillant dans des théâtres locaux.
En 1920, Il décide de partir pour Los Angeles où il devient un des acteurs principaux pour la Société Morosco en remplacement d'Edmund Lowe (Il fallut 3 semaines aux fans de Lowe pour accepter Dix !) et alla de succès en succès. Après un bref retour à Des Moines où vivent maintenant sa sœur et sa mère qui décèdera en 1924, il retourne à Hollywood, attiré par l'industrie cinématographique.

David Butler l'aide à passer ses tests d'écran et il obtient le rôle de Not Guilty pour la First National ce qui entraina Joseph Schenk à l'engager chez Goldwyn où il tourne Dangerous Curves Ahead, Racing Hearts et Souls for Sales.

Un succès grandissant fait qu'il devient l'une des stars la plus populaire de l'époque. Le succès ne lui monte pas à la tête et il reste un homme simple aimant simplement bavarder avec tout un chacun.

A 37 ans "Dickey" Dix est toujours un célibataire convoité. Louella Parson l'interviewe en 1931 et le presse de révéler le nom d'une fiancée et une date de mariage. Alors qu'il répond "un jour", elle répliqua "mais vous avez parié que vous seriez marié dans l'année" sa réponse fusa "mais je n'ai pas dit quelle année" ! Dans le même interview, il révèle qu'il cherche une femme ayant le nez de Norma Shearer, les yeux de Bebe Daniels, la voix d'Irene Dunne et les cheveux d'Ann Harding ... avec la personnalité de Louella Parson !

Mais le 20 octobre 1931 (certaines sources citent septembre) il épouse Winifred Coe de San Francisco avec laquelle il a une fille Martha Mary Ellen. Ils s'étaient rencontrés 6 ans auparavant et correspondaient depuis ce temps. Divorce en 1933.
Il épousera en seconde noce Virginia Webster le 07 mai 1935 (ou le 19 juin 1934 voire le 29 juin, enfin ça dépend des sources !) Des jumeaux naitront  - Richard (qui décèdera d'un accident à l'age de 18 ans en laissant une petite fille) et Robert (qui suivra ses traces en devenant acteur à son tour). Le couple adoptera plus tard une petite fille, Sarah Sue.


Richard Dix était considéré par tous comme un homme réglo. Grand, scrupuleusement honnête, charmeur, sain, travailleur, direct et sincère, il semble que tout le monde l'appréciait. Il détestait toute référence à son physique ou à ses fossettes et était hostile aux photographes qui le mettaient trop en valeur. Il était de plus très modeste en ce qui concerne ses talents d'acteur.
Fan de sport et  bon athlète lui-même lorsqu'il en avait le temps. Il assistait volontiers à des matchs de boxe, aimait la chasse et la pêche, le golf et jouait volontiers au tennis. Il avait un chenil de 15 chiens setters llewellyn  qu'il élevait.
Dans les montagnes de Santa Monica près de Topanga il achète un ranch de 148 acres de 15 pièces tout confort, sans le téléphone ! 

Son physique et ses traits sombres en faisaient un acteur de western par excellence. Ses capacités athlétiques l'ont mené au rôle vedette de Paramount's Warming Up (1928), une histoire de baseball et aussi le premier long métrage du studio avec synchronisation et des effets sonores.
Une voix profonde et grave lui permet de passer au parlant sans problème.

Sous contrat avec Paramount depuis 1923, à l'avénement du parlant il est impatient de passer  au parlant mais en 1927 Paramount souhaite l'obliger à tourner des muets pour les villes de provinces et les audiences sur d'autres continents. La goutte fait déborder le vase lorsque Paramount rachète les droits de Quicksands pour le ressortir et bénéficier de la popularité de Dix. Celui-ci offre $1 million cash pour racheter son contrat le liant à Paramount qui refuse en renonçant toutefois à ressortir le film mais en lui offrant un contrat de 52 semaines à $ 4'500 par semaine.
Premier film parlant pour Paramount en 1929, année où il quitte cette compagnie pour la RKO pour tourner Seven Keys to Baldpate.

Engagé par la RKO Radio Pictures en 1929, leur première collaboration débute par un triomphe, Seven Keys to Baldpate (1929).
En 1931, il est nominé pour un Oscar du meilleur acteur pour sa prestation magistrale dans Cimarron (1931). Le film remporte l'Oscar de la meilleur image.
Durant les années 30, Richard Dix fait un carton au box-office de la RKO, en figurant dans des drames policiers, des fictions, des westerns, etc.
Vers le milieu des années 40, il apparait dans une série tirée d'une émission de radio, "The Whistler", une série de films mystérieux et noirs tournés pour la Columbia.

En 1943 sa santé commence à se dégrader. Souffle court et hypertension, il réduit ses efforts physiques et se retire de l'industrie cinématographique en 1947. En octobre 1948, il a une crise cardiaque. Peu de temps après, il vend le ranch et entreprend un voyage en Europe avec sa femme. En Aout 1949, en embarquant à Cherbourg, il refait une crise cardiaque et est hospitalisé à New York. Désireux de rentrer chez lui, sur le chemin de retour il est à nouveau hospitalisé à Chicago, demande à rentrer en avion à Los Angeles où il décède au Presbyterian Hospital le 20 septembre 1949, à l'âge de 56 ans.


Sources principales


 Out of Hollywood, An Autobiography by Robert Dix, Ernest Publishing, 2009



Eighty Silent Film Stars, Biographies and Filmographies of the Obscure to the Well known de George A. Katchmer, McFarland (1991)



pour les curieux qui ont le temps ...
http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/kt1489q206
Online archive of California ... mais il faut s'annoncer ...

Silent gents
http://silentladies.com/PDix.html
Silent gents


Richard Dix

By CP & T. H.

In the late 20’s and early 30’s, few actors better personified the “strong, silent” type than Richard Dix. Dix specialized in playing the kind of man who was usually quiet, reliable and hard working. But this was also a man imbued with nobility, prepared to sacrifice his own happiness for others and ready to throw himself into two-fisted action when the need arose.

He stood six-feet tall, with an athletic 180 pound frame, brown eyes and cherub-like yet masculine face. Dix was so well suited to the rugged action heroes popular in this period that he was sometimes referred to as “The Jaw”. But he took his acting seriously and despite occasional moments of bombast, could shift from seemingly inflexible, determined and straight-talking “regular fellows” to a more thoughtful, even tender figure with a child's smile and sparkling eyes.

In an era when the mood was for entertainment first, Dix was an ideal hero, the kind born of fiction rather than real life. His rugged yet kindly features made him an ideal pioneer figure and star of westerns. And thanks to his intelligence he was also frequently cast as a construction engineer.

Dix brought a sense of conviction to these parts, which wasn’t merely technique. For if we examine Richard’s early life and struggles, we find these traits closely matched his own.

He was born Ernest Carlton Brimmer in St Paul, Minnesota on July 18, 1893. Both his mother and father were of English stock and he was proud that the first Brimmers in the USA had been passengers on the Mayflower.

On graduating from St. Paul’s Central High School, young Ernest entered the University of Minesota Medical School, intending to become a surgeon like his older brother Archie. But after several uncomfortable viewings of operations he decided against surgery, briefly working in a bank, then joining an architect’s office.

At this time, he had begun attending drama classes at the University. Realizing that Ernest had caught the acting bug, his dismayed parents did everything possible to dissuade him. But thanks to brother Archie’s financial support and encouragement, the youngster was able to pursue his dream. He never forgot the help he received from his brother, citing him as the greatest single influence in the shaping of my career.

But stardom – let alone a career, was some time coming.  Making the rounds of auditions, he eventually attracted the attention of E.H. Southern, who offered him $18 a week to play small roles in his company. This, at least was a start. A larger part and an indication of his future career; came when he was cast as a football player in The College Widow, for the James Neill and Edythe Chapman Company.

Changing his name to Richard Dix he moved to Broadway to try his luck there. Several months without work followed, but his tenacity – and a willingness to travel wherever the work was to be had eventually paid off (he performed for companies as far afield as Pittsburg, Dallas & Montreal). He even made his first foray into film acting with an atypical appearance as a lecherous butler in the lost 1917 film One of Many. However the US entry into World War 1 prompted Dix to set aside his career plans in order to enlist, although he never actually saw active service.

Following Armistice and his return to civilian life, Dix began finding more regular work on Broadway, appearing first in The Hawk for William Faversham, who took the young actor under his wing. This led to a rapid succession of appearances in such diverse productions as The Song of Songs, The Little Brother, The First is Last, Maxim Gorky’s A Night’s Lodging and others. In several of these he worked alongside two similar aged actors with whom he formed close friendships - David Butler and Douglas McLean.

The end of the war also marked a great change in the way American’s saw themselves. Recovering from the bloodshed and sheer waste of the War, young Americans now felt at odds with the previous generation’s Victorian belief in propriety, sobriety and hard work – and particularly with the current campaign by religious groups for prohibition. Prohibition or not, a new era was at hand, in which a thirst for fun and excitement was encouraged. Hollywood quickly embraced what would be referred as the roaring 20’s. This new era required new faces. Butler and in particular McLean (with his ever ready smile and hyper active persona) were ideal film material and soon moved East to begin successful film careers. Dix, with his previous film experience, might well have joined them, but for some tragic news from home.

Archie, his beloved older brother, and the one family member who had supported his ambition, had died. Richard returned home for the funeral and discovered his father deep in debt. In addition the elder Brimmer was seriously ill and soon passed away, leaving Dix the sole breadwinner to his widowed mother and sister. A return to Broadway being temporarily impossible he supported his family with whatever work he could find in local theatres.

A break came in 1920, when Oliver Morosco engaged him to replace popular leading man Edmund Lowe at his Los Angeles Company. However Lowe,  had a loyal fan base and for the first three weeks audiences were quite hostile to the replacement – though gradually won over by Dix’s dynamic acting and evident sincerity. Over the following couple of years, Dix would enjoy considerable success building his reputation as a stage actor. And following increased interest from the studios – in particular Paramount - Dix decided to have a shot at Hollywood but hated his first screen test and turned down several movie offers.

However his old friend, David Butler, insisted he make another test, and supervised it himself. This then led to Dix’s first film lead, in Sidney Franklin’s 1921 production Not Guilty. This unfortunately lost film told a complex tale in which Dix played a dual role as twins (one who is good & one who confesses to having committed a murder) it gave the actor a prototypical part in which the good brother – feeling responsible for his twin’s downfall takes the blame for the other’s crime.

Playing twins is always a good opportunity for an actor to show his mettle and Not Guilty seems to have given Dix the opportunity – although it’s unfortunately lost along with 31 of Dix’s other silent films. Not Guilty led to another First National feature Fools First (22) and then to a contract with Goldwyn pictures. He appeared in 9 films for Goldwyn, 4 as co-star to popular leading lady Helen Chadwick, but only the last 2 survive.

One was The Christian (1923) helmed by gifted director Maurice Tourneur – a film for which Dix won his best notices to date, at the time of its release. But it was with his last film for Goldwyn Souls for Sale, (a kind of precursor to What Price Hollywood) that gave Dix his first bona-fide hit – with a prominent co-starring role as the film director who first discovers, then falls in love with rising star Remember (Eleanor Boardman) only to discover she’s already married (and fleeing) a would be killer. The film was helped immeasurably by the presence of a staggering array of guest star cameos (including an out of costume Charles Chaplin – seen directing A Woman of Paris)

At around this time, Paramount had lost their top male star, when actor Wallace Reid – everyone’s idea of the happy go lucky boy next door suddenly died whilst attempting to dry out from an acute morphine addiction. The scandal was immense. Paramount desperately needed a replacement. Dix was a more serious and grounded personality than Reid, but he also had much the same “boy next door” charm, so Paramount quickly signed him to a seven year contract.

At first Paramount tested the waters with second leads or co-starring roles with popular leading ladies, such as Betty Compson and Agnes Ayres. But then Cecil B De Mille cast him as the good brother in the modern segment of The Ten Commandments. The role perfectly captured the essence of Dix’s persona, upright, honest, but with just enough sense of humour to stop the character seeming priggish.

Paramount now promoted Dix to stardom and he worked hard over the next 6 years – making 27 films. Unfortunately two-thirds of these are lost – though two of his key silent films survive intact: The Vanishing American (1925) a major film which looked at the plight of the Native American and the exploitation inflicted by the white man, and a semi follow up, the part-Technicolored Redskin (1928) – which examines the benefits and problems of integration. Both films are very much products of their time in terms of their attitudes and the casting of “Apple Pie American” Dix as Native Americans. Yet Dix brings great sincerity and nobility to both films – and contributes greatly to their overall effectiveness.

By the late 20’s Dix had become one of Paramount’s most profitable and dependable stars. Off screen Dix was considered a regular fellow. A big, incurably honest, generous, engaging & hard working fellow, whom everybody respected. He had a good sense of humour and hated any reference to himself as a good-looking man. He was also modest about his acting and happy to help unknown players with potential to get started.  He was an easy man to work with, yet found himself increasingly at odds with a studio, which treated him with scant respect.

Prior to his Paramount contract Dix had played a supporting part in the independently produced Quicksands (1923). Paramount, in a move - at best “cheap” (and more seriously an abuse of one of their top stars) bought the rights to Quicksands for re-release in 1927 to cash in on his popularity. Dix was furious and wanted nothing further to do with a studio which would treat him and his fans this way. He offered to buy up his contract for $1,000,000 cash. Paramount refused but agreed to cancel the re-release while giving him a new 52 weeks contract at $4,500 per week. Whilst Dix accepted this, his relationship with Paramount’s executives was permanently soured.

As well as colour, Redskin had a synchronised music track though no dialogue. As an accomplished stage performer Dix was eager to make talkies but Paramount, conscious perhaps that his contract would end in 1929 and knowing Dix wouldn’t renew, kept him in silent films for the small town and overseas audiences.  Then in the final few months of his contract the studio again rushed the actor through 3 quickie talkies to extract the last possible profits before he left. This might seem a curious way to treat a star near the peak of his drawing power but this was a time of immense power struggles between the heads of several studios and any signs of dissension amongst the actors and actresses was treated severely.


In the event, Dix was one of the few top silent stars to successfully bridge the transition from silent films to talkies, and after those first Paramount talkies he left to join RKO Radio Pictures, a newly formed company at which his friend William Le Baron was production head. The new company had high aspirations but few box office names - so they were eager to have Dix join it’s roster. Their first collaboration began with a triumph, Seven Keys to Baldpate (1929).

Dix’s next major vehicle was the first adaptation of Edna Feber’s novel Cimarron (1931). Here he played a character that was quite different from Dix’s usual straight arrow persona. On the surface Yancey Cravet is a typical western hero, constantly in search of adventure yet displaying more chivalry than anyone else in the movie.  Yet he’s a flawed man, adopting a patronising attitude to his wife and repeatedly abandoning his family to pursue his western ambitions. The story spanned almost forty years – beginning with the 1893 land rush (a sequence that still thrills) and at a budget of $1,500,000 it was easily one of the biggest films of its year. Dix was nominated for an Oscar for best actor and the film was voted Outstanding Production by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

Growing success had made Dix one of the most popular screen stars of the era.
Yet fame didn’t go to his head, he remained a simple man who could chat with everyone. At 37 "Dickey" Dix was a coveted bachelor. In a Louella Parson interview in 1931 she pressed him to reveal the name of a bride and a possible wedding date. He replied "some day". She countered "but you bet $100 you'd be married within the year". His response "but I did not say what year!” In the same interview, he reveals that he seeks a woman with the nose of Norma Shearer, Bebe Daniels's eyes, Irene Dunne’s voice and Ann Harding's hair ... with the personality of Louella Parsons !

However in 1931 he married Winifred Coe of San Francisco with whom he had a daughter, Martha Mary Ellen. They had met six years earlier and their romance had blossomed through correspondence. Unfortunately the marriage didn’t last and the two divorced in 1933.

A second attempt at marriage, this time to Virginia Webster in 1935 proved considerably more durable – lasting until his death. They had twin sons - Richard (who tragically died from a logging accident at just 18) and Robert (who followed his father’s footsteps into acting). The couple later also adopted a little girl, Sarah Sue.

Over the next few years Dix remained a top star at RKO with such vehicles as The Lost Squadron (ex WW1 flying heroes eking a living as stunt fliers for maniacal director Erich Von Stroheim’s war movie.) Roar of the Dragon (an exciting China set adventure of Dix’s heroic Captain leading a motley group of refugees to safety from marauding bandits.) Hell’s Highway a prison drama with a chain gang setting and The Conquerors another epic in which pioneering couple Dix and Ann Harding found a banking empire.

In private Dix was an avid sports fan and quite a good athlete in his spare time, He frequently attended boxing matches, loved hunting and fishing, golfing and playing tennis.  And when Dix wanted to get away from the studio he meant it: buying a ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains with 15 rooms, 148 acres of land and no phone! Yet people could always pop in if the gates were open. He had a kennel, bred Dalmatians, horses, dairy cows, and poultry. He had great respect for nature.

Dix was known as ”The Star who Never Let You Down” and throughout his career Dix retained a loyal following. However by the mid 1930’s other stars were beginning to overtake him. His deal with RKO was non-exclusive and he increasingly worked for other studios, both major (20th Century Fox & Universal) and minor (Columbia & Republic). His films at this time were more modest but still handsomely mounted vehicles targeted for the upper half of double bills.

An interesting example is a 1937 Columbia vehicle It Happened in Hollywood, boasting one of Samuel Fuller’s first screenplays. In this, Dix played a washed up former Western star of silent films, who finds it impossible to adapt to the kind of films his studio wants him to make when sound come in and finds himself out of work.. The character is a likeable, straight forward fellow, much like Dix himself and the film serves up a unique ending in which Dix throws a party for an orphan who has become attached to his - at which the guests are some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. At least it seems that way on first sight. In fact his guests are the real-life stand ins to those stars – whom Dix is friendly with. It’s a film that has a lot of charm.

His last film at RKO and indeed his last really notable part was in the Val Lewton produced The Ghost Ship (1943) a compact reworking of Conrad’s The Sea Wolf. In this Dix gives a gripping performance as the initially benign Captain Will Stone, who takes new 3rd Officer Tom Merriam under his wing at the beginning of what looks to be a pleasant see voyage. But Merriam slowly realises that this seeming father figure is a man on the brink of insanity, obsessed with authority and murderously disposed to those who defy him.

Perhaps this demonstration of the darker side of his acting, inspired Columbia to sign him to appear in a new film series they were producing. Suggested by the long running CBS radio program, The Whistler, the films would be low budget thrillers with no recurring characters - Dix played a different role in each film. These roles were more diverse than he’d been offered in early years – from the decent fellows he was known for to characters who were on the edge of society.  Well-produced, they were extremely popular and received very good reviews.

From 1943 his health began to deteriorate. He was diagnosed with high blood pressure and found himself increasingly short of breath. Cutting down on his alcohol consumption Dix soldiered on, making 7 films over the next 4 years. Although he couldn’t perform strenuous action sequences, such exertion was not required in these noir-ish films and Dix’s health problems aren’t particularly noticeable. Even in his final performance, in 1947’s The Thirteenth Hour as a truck driver accused of causing damage whilst under the influence, Dix seems in good shape. Dix withdrew from the film industry shortly after completing this.

In October 1948, he had a heart attack. Shortly after, he sold the ranch and began a trip to Europe with his wife and his children. During the journey he didn’t feel well but never complained. In August 1949, he had a heart attack again after boarding the Queen Mary I at Cherbourg. On the train from New York to Chicago he became very ill and an ambulance met the train and took him to hospital in Chicago.

There he kept asking to be allowed to return home. He finally flew back to Los Angeles where he died in the Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital on September 20, 1949 at the age of 56.



Main Sources
Out of Hollywood, The Autobiography of Robert Dix, Ernest Publishing, 2009

Eighty Silent Film Stars, Bios and Filmographies of the Obscure to the Well Known, George A. Katchmer, McFarland (1991)

Additional background material derived from the Richard Dix webpage.



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