• 9 May 1895
  •  New York City, New York, USA

Richard Barthelmess


Richard Barthelmess was born into a theatrical family in which his mother was an actress. While attending Trinity College in Connecticut, he began appearing in stage productions. While on vacation in 1916, a friend of his mother, actress Alla Nazimova, offered him a part in War Brides (1916), and Richard never returned to college. He appeared in a number of films before signing a contract with D.W. Griffith in 1919. Griffith put Richard into Broken Blossoms (1919) with Lillian Gish which made him a star. He had an uncanny ability to become the characters he played. The next year, he was again teamed with Lillian in Way Down East (1920). This film would become the standard for many movies in the future. Best remembered is the river scene in which Richard jumps over the ice floes in search of Lillian as she heads towards the falls. He formed Inspiration Pictures to make Tol'able David (1921) and gave one of his best performances as a lad who saves the U.S. mail from the outlaws. He remained popular throughout the twenties and became one of the biggest stars at First National Pictures. He received Academy Award nominations for The Patent Leather Kid (1927) and The Noose (1928). Sound was not a medium that would embrace Richard. He did make a number of talkies in the first few years of sound, but his acting technique was not well suited for sound and the parts began to get smaller. With his career over by the mid-30s, but he came back with a fine performance in Howard Hawks's Only Angels Have Wings (1939). Richard joined the Navy Reserve in 1942, and when the war ended he retired to Long Island and lived off his real estate investments.