I guess this is what happens when you’ve been dead for nearly 60 years. I’m reading a couple of books about Warner Brothers movies and stars right now, Daniel Bubbeo’s “The Women of Warner Brothers” from 2002 and the Ted Sennett’s 1971 “Warner Brothers Presents.” I’m about two-thirds of the way through each of these titles and sadly there isn’t any worthwhile Warren William information in either. This is basically what you get:
“(Name of Warner Bros. star here) next appeared in (Name of Warner Bros. movie here) starring (choose one: dapper, suave, caddish) leading man Warren William.”
I’ve run into this sentence in other books previously as well. The Sennett book is 36 years old, I really thought I’d hit upon a gem or two in there, but alas, Warren William is already dead 23 years at its time of publication and already, it seems, forgotten.
Poor Warren William, it seems, did not live long enough to enjoy any possible retrospective on his career. William died September 24, 1948, his wife, Helen, passed just a few months later on December 31, 1948. The couple had no children. From the information I’m gathering, it’s pretty clear that William was a bit of a loner on the studio lots and usually raced home as soon as his work day was over. So there has been no family to keep his legend alive and it appears his co-workers didn’t have much of a reason to prop him up either.
I have found a couple of great articles about Warren William in different issues “Classic Images” that I’ll be referring to at some point. But I’ve found the best resources to be online newspaper archives. These cost a few dollars, so I’ve been buying articles only when I’ve had a few extra bucks lying around, but so far I’ve accessed articles from The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Chicago Daily Tribune. These primary sources actually treat Warren William as the star he obviously was in the early 1930’s. He and his films are popular and usually well-reviewed (especially by Mae Tinee of the Chicago Daily Tribune who really seemed to love his work). Beyond the standard reviews I’ve also come across some more general articles about Warren William’s life. I’m slowly buying them, reading them, arranging them and trying to decide how to best use the information I find in these papers. Perhaps a “Press” section on the site, we’ll see.
I was happy today to locate an article I’d been searching for without having to buy the back issue and wait for it, etc. Also, I wasn’t sure if the information I had on this back issue was correct–it was, however the article was just a single page column rather than the longer feature I’d expected. Seeing it, I was glad to save a few dollars for a change!
This was in Film Comment, the May-June 2005 issue, which somebody was gracious enough to scan and place on their site. It’s Guy Maddin’s column, “My Jolly Corner” titled this issue “Slippery When Wet.” Maddin opens his column by stating, “Buttery joy is mine when I consider the career of Warren William. His Most Oleaginous Imperial Potentate of the Pre-Code.” Maddin mentions The Mouthpiece, Skyscraper Souls, Employees’ Entrance, The Mind Reader, and Gold Diggers of 1933 all by name as proof of William’s talents. Of William’s performances in these, all favorites of mine as well, Maddin writes “…William typically portrays a ruthless entrepreneur whose conscience was somehow lost at birth (one can’t help thinking of William’s 1894 genesis in Minnesota as some kind of natal oil spill), a man who knows what he wants … and wastes no time embezzling his way to this end, pausing only to feast at the banquets of adultery that the era spreads before him like soup kitchens transmogrified by the collective lust of the movie-crazed public.” He remarks that Breen and the code “squeezed the juice out of William’s unambiguous, all-American powerlust,” which is largely true. Afterwards “he was shunted into dull series work,” which is partially true–the Perry Mason and Lone Wolf movies are certainly altogether different from William’s pre-code work, but they are far from dull. Maddin closes by declaring “Long live the suave and smeary stain of Warren William!”
I finally got around to reading some more of the very interesting information you’ve provided here. Thanks again. From my own attempts to learn more about Warren William, I know it requires some determination.
I know Mr. William died of multiple myeloma, which is cancer of the muscles. I was wondering, do you know what was the cause of Mrs. William’s passing?
Dennis Hutson says
Congestive Heart Failure
Multiple Myeloma is a disease of the blood plasma, affecting the white blood cells, which ordinarily aid the body in fighting infection. It can require much testing to diagnose conclusively and proteins in the urine is one indicator, as well as blood pooling under the skin, such as under the eyes, resembling black eyes, and in the lips. It can be either acquired or genetic, and its usual age of onset is age 55 or older. There are many forms, AL and AA are just 2 examples of groupings of Multiple Myeloma. Treatment consists of blood transfusion(s) and organ transplantation(s).
I thought you might be interested in a link I found which has photos of Warren William, as well as his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and his house in Encino.
I couldn’t find any details on Mrs. William’s death other than the small New York Times obituary (published January 1, 1949) which simply states “Mrs. Helen Barbara Nelson Krech, widow of Warren William Krech,…died here today at the Manhasset Medical Center Hospital after a long illness. The write-up also mentions Mrs. Krech (William) had been visiting her sister-in-law in Port Washington, Long Island since Warren William’s death in September.
Thanks for reading,
Dennis Hutson says
Congestive Heart Failure while visiting sister after Warren William’s death.
Hi again Kathy,
Interesting, some images I hadn’t seen before, thanks for posting.
While I’m far from having time freed up to write any long reviews anytime soon, I have picked up several Warren William photos myself since my last posting…look for them soon as my next post.
Wonderful finding your charming tribute to Warren William; he certainly is deserving! Do keep up the good work Cliff; your efforts are definitely appreciated.
Thought perhaps you might be interested in the following regarding Mr. William’s death: He suffered for approximately 10 months from multiple myeloma aka Kahler’s Disease. Briefly, this is cancer of the masma cells which is located within the bone marrow and is still considered incurable. The year before he had been stricken with an unknown virius (referred to as “X”) as well as influenza which further compromised his immune system. Sadly, he passed away at his Encino home on his 25th wedding anniversary with Helen at his bedside. He was cremated at Chapel of the Pines in Los Angeles. His ashes were given to his widow for the original intention of burial with his parents at Nassau Knolls Cemetery in Port Washington, Long Island, NY. Reportedly, it was a death bed wish to have them scattered in Long Island Sound, which of course, they were. Two months later in November, Helen carried out his request and as the poor woman’s devestation at the loss of her husband continued to aggravate her exhausted heart, she remained in New York, staying with one of Warren’s sisters. As her condition worsened, she entered Manhasset Medical Center on December 26 and died December 31st. Ironically, upon Helen Nelson William’s death, her ashes were taken to the opposite coast, returning back to California. The cremains were placed in a niche in the beautiful Columbarium of Memory, on the Memorial Terrace of the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Ca. Warren’s name is included on the marker (aka a cenotaph), although as we know, his ashes are not there. His estate was reportedly valued at $400,00.00 (!!); although naming his wife as sole beneficary, upon her death perhaps the estate was divided among his remaining family members and hopefully a charity or two or twelve.
Thanks so much, Melissa, glad you found me!
Thank you so much for supplying this valuable (and very tough to find!) information! This helps answer Kathy’s question in great detail. Great factoid about Helen’s ashes, I did not know that, and as you said, very ironic!
I’ll have to head over and have a look at your Ross Alexander Chronicle, thanks for posting!
John Spahn says
The is a book on Amazon all about Warren.
Cliff Aliperti says
The book was still a few years away when this post originally went up (2008). If you poke around the site some you’ll find a review and an interview with the author.
Thanks for commenting!
You’re more than welcome, Cliff…..so glad to have been of help!
cathy hansen says
I enjoyed “The Lone Wolf”, “The Falcon” and “Boston Blackie” on TCM and can’t understand why they’re not available on DVD. Given that every grade-D film has rated a studio release for distribution why are there so many great series and A-films still left permanently forgotten in their studio vaults?
Do you know of any plans to release Warren William’s “The Lone Wolf” on DVD?
Thanks for visiting!
I haven’t seen or heard anything about a potential Lone Wolf release, which surprises me as well since TCM plays them–I’d assume if they can be aired, then there wouldn’t be rights issues holding up any DVD release (of course, that I could be wrong about). Perhaps they haven’t had much luck with sales of Detective/Mystery series from this period (other than The Thin Man, of course). Just a guess.
My only real suggestion is to be ready for them and tape or DVR them next time they air. There is an eBay seller offering burnt DVD-R copies of the set, but I don’t know how you feel about that. If you have to have them, here they are, just keep in mind that I’m in no way affiliated with the seller and can’t vouch for the quality (nice feedback though).
I’m just crossing my fingers that we get to see some Warren William films in a Forbidden Hollywood Collection Volume 3 sometime in the near future. (I know Three on a Match is in Volume 2, but that’s more of a film with Warren William rather than a Warren William film).
Thanks again, all I can say is that I know I’ll be right there with you ready to buy if we ever do see a Lone Wolf Collection!
I am working on an article about Warren William and would be very interested in talking to you. Please contact me at your earliest convenience. Thank you!
Regarding Lone Wolf availability for those without TCM, or disinclined to await another showing: 1. Amazon.com offers Counter-Espionage and Passport to Suez, not on DVD, but as streaming video or for download. Quality on Counter-Espionage is flawless; I didn’t order Passport, because … 2. ScooterMovieShop.com has DVD-Rs of The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt, The Lone Wolf Strikes, The Lone Wolf Meets a Lady, The Lone Wolf Keeps a Date, and Passport to Suez in very nice quality (for public domain releases) and professional-quality disc and liner art. 3. On eBay, seller truth3152 offers a DVD-R set of 15 Lone Wolf movies, including all the Warren William ones, most in very nice public domain quality, no disc art or label.
Thanks, Jeffers, appreciate the info!
(The Boston Blackie and Falcon series, as well as the 30s Perry Mason movies starring William and others, can also be had on DVD-R from truth3152 and/or others. While one would love to have official releases of all these series, digitally restored and replete with bonus features as was done with the Fox Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto sets, it is a wonderful thing just to be able to watch them at will in these handy collections. I should also mention, DVD-Rs of pre-Code William classics such as Skyscraper Souls and Beauty and the Boss, usually derived from TCM showings, can also be found if one Googles determinedly enough.)
Thanks again. I actually found most of my DVD-Rs from sellers on the iOffer site. Just run a search for Warren William and you can find treasures such as The Mind Reader, Bedside and much more!
Yes, iOffer does seem to have the largest number of really elusive titles–I got Under 18, Goodbye Again, and (post-Code) Trail of the Vigilantes and Wild Geese Calling there. The “suggestions” one gets from Google when typing in iOffer do not immediately inspire confidence, but as a customer I have had only good experiences there.
Also of interest to Warren William addicts who don’t mind DVD-Rs: the Serial Squadron’s Lost Serials Collection (available from their website but also from Amazon) features a few minutes of William and Pearl White from the 1923 serial Plunder. The two-disc Lost Serials set features excerpts from many, many silent serials (no sound serials), most of which survive only in bits and pieces–though at least one represented here, A Woman in Grey, is also available substantially complete. I don’t know whether more of Plunder exists than is found here (two excerpts totalling 16 minutes, only one of which includes William); does anyone have more info on that?
Actually, Jeffers, I have nothing to add there because I wasn’t even aware that Plunder was available! Thank you for posting that, guess we all know what goes inside my Amazon cart next.
From an eight-paragraph, page 2 article in the Aitkin Independent Age for November 30, 1994, heralding the 100th anniversary on December 2 of Warren William’s birth:
After noting the connection of William’s family with the Aitkin Age newspaper and hence indirectly with its post-merger incarnation, the writer, Kathleen Pakarinen, adds: “He was also responsible for our most famous visitor. About fifty years ago on the way to visit her own childhood home in Grand Rapids, Judy Garland paid us a visit. She wanted to see the newspaper where her friend, Warren William, used to work. Partner at the time, Tony Klee, told Garland that William had frequently been on the premises but they couldn’t get him to do any work.” … “He was a good sportsman–one of Hollywood’s best tennis players and yachtsman.” The article definitely contains some errors and I’m not sure how solid the above information is; William’s acquaintance with Garland and proficiency as a sportsman are pieces of information I haven’t seen elsewhere. The article is accompanied by an old publicity photo of William and a new (I guess) photo of the house he grew up in, built the same year he was born. Cliff, I don’t own the clipping of this article but I can send you a photocopy if you’re interested and let me know where to send it.
No problem, I just went in and cleaned it up, leaving just your complete comment.
More interesting stuff, thank you! Any way you can send that as an email attachment? I’m going to send you an email that you can just reply to with the attachment if that’s possible. Thanks!
Elizabeth Grace says
Watching “The Mouthpiece” now on TCM.
Had never heard of Warren William, and he is a lost treasure.
To the brand new typist: “Did you type this? With both hands?” when he is interested in her other assets.
Watched immediately previous movie, “Wives Under Suspicion”, because it was directed (snappily) by James Whale (“Bride of Frankenstein” and the subject of “Gods and Monsters”).
Anybody else out there today?
Oh, I envy you with these all being new for you! Wives Under Suspicion isn’t even one of the better ones … be sure to keep your TV on for The Match King and The Mind Reader this afternoon and Employees’ Entrance later tonight. Of the remaining titles, those 3 are some of his personal best.
PS: Check out the the latest post on the site to see how some others are celebrating him today (in the comments section).
Elizabeth Grace says
Thank you. The three you mentioned sounded worth the watch.
Losing a day and finding work and projects I can do in front of the telly!
Thank you for putting up this website.
Because I love watching all the old movies from the 30’s and 40’s on TCM, I can’t believe I never heard of Warren William before today. Thanks for all the interesting info on this site.
Hi Chickadee, see my reply to Elizabeth Grace directly above. I’m so glad TCM has given you the chance to discover Warren today. That was my greatest hope for this day of movies! Enjoy the rest!
Elizabeth Grace says
Less than six degrees of separation.
In Skyscraper Souls, WW’s wife was played by Hedda Hopper. (The gossip columnist. Hadn’t realized she was in some movies, too.)
And Hedda Hopper, in real life, is the mother of William Hopper.
Who was Paul Drake in the Raymond Burr Perry Mason TV series.
AND: circles back to WW, who was the first big screen “Perry Mason.” Made 4 Mason movies, and one or two of them are on TCM in the early morning hours tonight.
Warren William is extremely watchable.
Does anyone know what Warren’s last words were?
Peter Petropolis says
is this article about Warren William, or about you? You certainly seem very self-absorbed. If you don’t have money for buying things, then save up and you will.
Lora Saname says
Thank you so much for spot lighting Warren William! He was great and I’ve like all the work that I’ve seen even love some of them. The match king hurt my feelings but it might be my favorite of his works. Beautiful man and loved his wife. That’s a lesson for these days.
Warren William’s niece, Barbara Lyon-Hall, is 95 and has very fond memories of her beloved “Uncle Woog”. She and her younger sister contributed greatly to the research done by John Stangeland for his excellent book about Warren. Barbara is my mother-in-law, and she gifted us the beautiful bust of Warren as Julius Caesar that was made for the film, Cleopatra. (There are at least two busts, as the son of the sculptor has a bust in his home.) My brother-in-law also has some mementos, as does the family of Barbara’s oldest sister. The guest room where Barbara stays when visiting us is decorated with copies of posters from some of his many films. I’ve enjoyed reading your WW specific pages over the years. Thank you from his family for bringing his shining talent to light.
Are there any pictures of the RV he invented?