Wallace Reid

Wallace Reid

Reid in a publicity portrait from the Famous Players-Lasky Studio (1920)
Born William Wallace Halleck Reid
(1891-04-15)April 15, 1891
St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Died January 18, 1923(1923-01-18) (aged 31)
Los Angeles, California, United States
Cause of death Morphine addiction
Occupation Actor
Years active 1910–1922
Spouse(s) Dorothy Davenport
(m. 1913–1923; his death)
Children Wallace Reid, Jr.
Betty Mummert (1919-1967)

Wallace Reid (April 15, 1891 – January 18, 1923)[1] was an American actor in silent film referred to as "the screen's most perfect lover".[2]

Early life

Reid was born William Wallace Halleck Reid in St. Louis, Missouri, into a show business family. His mother, Bertha Westbrook (1868–1939), was an actress and his father, James Halleck "Hal" Reid (1862–1920), worked successfully in a variety of theatrical jobs, mainly as playwright and actor, traveling the country. As a boy, Wallace Reid was performing on stage at an early age, but acting was put on hold while he obtained an education at Freehold Military School in Freehold Township, New Jersey. Reid graduated from Perkiomen Seminary in Pennsburg, Pennsylvania, in 1909. A gifted all-around athlete, Reid participated in a number of sports while also following an interest in music, learning to play the piano, banjo, drums, and violin. As a teenager, he spent time in Wyoming, where he learned to be an outdoorsman.


Reid was drawn to the burgeoning motion picture industry by his father, who shifted from the theatre to acting, writing, and directing films. In 1910, Reid appeared in his first film, The Phoenix, an adaptation of a Milton Nobles play filmed at Selig Polyscope Studios in Chicago. Reid used the script from a play his father had written and approached the very successful Vitagraph Studios, hoping to be given the opportunity to direct. Instead, Vitagraph executives capitalized on his sex appeal, and in addition to having him direct, cast him in a major role. Although Reid's good looks and powerful physique made him the perfect "matinée idol", he was equally happy with roles behind the scenes and often worked as a writer, cameraman, and director.

Wallace Reid appeared in several films with his father, and as his career in film flourished, he was soon acting and directing with and for early film mogul Allan Dwan. In 1913, while at Universal Pictures, Reid met and married actress Dorothy Davenport (1895–1977). He was featured in Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916), both directed by D.W. Griffith, and starred opposite leading ladies such as Florence Turner, Gloria Swanson, Lillian Gish, Elsie Ferguson, and Geraldine Farrar en route to becoming one of Hollywood's major heartthrobs.

Already involved with the creation of more than 100 motion picture shorts, Reid was signed by producer Jesse L. Lasky and starred in another 60 plus films for Lasky's Famous Players film company, later Paramount Pictures. Frequently paired with actress Ann Little, his action-hero role as the dashing race-car driver drew young girls and older women alike to theaters to see his daredevil auto thrillers such as The Roaring Road (1919), Double Speed (1920), Excuse My Dust (1920), and Too Much Speed (1921). One of his auto-racing films, Across the Continent (1922), was chosen as the opening night film for San Francisco's Castro Theatre, which opened 22 June 1922.


The urn of Wallace Reid, in the Great Mausoleum, Forest Lawn Glendale

While en route to a location in Oregon during filming of The Valley of the Giants (1919), Reid was injured in a train wreck near Arcata, California, and needed six stitches to close a three-inch scalp wound.[3] To keep on filming, he was prescribed morphine for relief of his pain. Reid soon became addicted, but kept on working at a frantic pace in films that were growing more physically demanding and changing from 15–20 minutes in duration to as much as an hour. Reid's morphine addiction worsened at a time when drug rehabilitation programs were nonexistent, and he died in a sanitarium while attempting recovery.[4]

Wallace Reid was interred in the Azalea Terrace of the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.


His widow, Dorothy Davenport (billed as Mrs. Wallace Reid), co-produced and appeared in Human Wreckage (1923), making a national tour with the film to publicize the dangers of drug addiction. Reid and she had two children: a son, Wallace Reid, Jr., born in 1917; and a daughter, Betty Mummert, whom they adopted in 1922 at age three.[5] Reid's widow never remarried.

Wallace Reid's contribution to the motion-picture industry has been recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Reid's name is mentioned by William Holden in Sunset Boulevard, a film in which Gloria Swanson, one of Reid's original costars, appeared as a forgotten silent film star. In Ken Russell's 1977 film Valentino, Reid is portrayed briefly and inaccurately as a bicycle-riding childish movie star and is made up to look like a cross between the character he played in Clarence, Harold Lloyd, and the comic actors Jimmie Adams and Churchill Ross. In the 1980 documentary Hollywood episode "Single Beds and Double Standards", Reid's story is recalled by those silent film survivors who worked with him: Gloria Swanson, Karl Brown, Henry Hathaway, and stuntman Bob Rose.

In 2007, a biography Wallace Reid: Life and Death of a Hollywood Idol by author E. J. Fleming appeared, the first since his mother's personal recollections after Reid's death. In 2011, his official biography, Wally: The True Wallace Reid Story by David W. Menefee (foreword by Robert Osborne), was sanctioned by Reid's surviving relatives and published by BearManor Media. The biography was submitted for a 2011 Pulitzer Prize.


  • The Phoenix (1910)*short
  • The Leading Lady (1911)*short
  • The Reporter (1911)*short
  • The Mother of the Ranch (1911)*short
  • War (1911)*short
  • A Red Cross Martyr; or, On the Firing Lines of Tripoli (1912)*short
  • The Path of True Love (1912)*short
  • Chumps (1912)*short
  • Jean Intervenes (1912)*short
  • Indian Romeo and Juliet (1912)*short
  • Playmates (1912)*short
  • The Telephone Girl (1912)*short
  • The Seventh Son (1912)*short
  • The Illumination (1912)*short
  • At Scrogginses' Corner (1912)*short
  • Brothers (1912)*short
  • The Victoria Cross (1912)*short
  • The Hieroglyphic (1912)*short
  • Fortunes of a Composer (1912)*short
  • Diamond Cut Diamond (1912)*short
  • Curfew Shall Not Ring Tonight (1912)*short
  • His Mother's Son (1912)*short
  • Kaintuck (1912)*short
  • Virginius (1912)*short
  • The Gamblers (1912)*short
  • Before the White Man Came (1912)*short
  • A Man's Duty (1912)*short
  • At Cripple Creek (1912)*short
  • Making Good (1912)*short
  • The Secret Service Man (1912)*short
  • The Indian Raiders (1912)*short
  • His Only Son (1912)*short
  • Every Inch a Man (1912)*short
  • Early Days in the West (1912)*short
  • Hunted Down (1912)*short
  • A Daughter of the Redskins (1912)*short
  • The Cowboy Guardians (1912)*short
  • The Tribal Law (1912)*short
  • An Indian Outcast (1912)*short
  • The Hidden Treasure (1912)*short
  • The Sepoy Rebellion (1912)*short
  • Love and the Law (1913)*short
  • Their Masterpiece (1913)*short
  • Pirate Gold (1913)*short
  • The Rose of Old Mexico (1913)*short
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray (1913)*short
  • Near to Earth (1913)*short
  • The Eye of a God (1913)*short
  • The Ways of Fate (1913)*short
  • When Jim Returned (1913)*short
  • The Tattooed Arm (1913)*short
  • The Brothers (1913)*short
  • The Deerslayer (1913)*short
  • Youth and Jealousy (1913)*short
  • The Kiss (1913)*short
  • Her Innocent Marriage (1913)*short
  • A Modern Snare (1913)*short
  • On the Border (1913)*short
  • When Luck Changes (1913)*short
  • Via Cabaret (1913)*short
  • The Spirit of the Flag (1913)*short
  • Hearts and Horses (1913)*short
  • In Love and War (1913)*short
  • Women and War (1913)*short
  • The Guerilla Menace (1913)*short
  • Calamity Anne Takes a Trip (1913)*short
  • Song Bird of the North (1913)*short
  • Pride of Lonesome (1913)*short
  • The Powder Flash of Death (1913)*short
  • A Foreign Spy (1913)*short
  • The Picket Guard (1913)*short
  • Mental Suicide (1913)*short
  • Man's Duty (1913)*short
  • An Even Exchange (1913)*short
  • The Animal (1913)*short
  • The Harvest of Flame (1913)*short
  • The Spark of Manhood (1913)*short
  • The Mystery of Yellow Aster Mine (1913)*short
  • The Gratitude of Wanda (1913)*short
  • The Wall of Money (1913)*short
  • The Heart of a Cracksman (1913)*short
  • The Cracksman's Reformation (1913)*short
  • The Fires of Fate (1913)*short
  • Cross Purposes (1913)*short
  • Retribution (1913)*short
  • A Cracksman Santa Claus (1913)*short
  • The Lightning Bolt (1913)*short
  • A Hopi Legend (1913)*short
  • Whoso Diggeth a Pit (1914)*short
  • The Intruder (1914)*short
  • The Countess Betty's Mine (1914)*short
  • The Wheel of Life (1914)*short
  • Fires of Conscience (1914)*short
  • The Greater Devotion (1914)*short
  • A Flash in the Dark (1914)*short
  • Breed o' the Mountains (1914)*short
  • Regeneration (1914)*short
  • The Voice of the Viola (1914)*short
  • Heart of the Hills (1914)*short
  • The Way of a Woman (1914)*short
  • The Mountaineer (1914)*short
  • The Spider and Her Web (1914)*short
  • Cupid Incognito (1914)*short
  • A Gypsy Romance (1914)*short
  • The Test (1914)*short
  • The Skeleton (1914)*short
  • The Fruit of Evil (1914)*short
  • The Daughter of a Crook (1914)*short
  • Women and Roses (1914)*short
  • The Quack (1914)*short
  • The Siren (1914)*short
  • The Man Within (1914)*short
  • Passing of the Beast (1914)*short
  • Love's Western Flight (1914)*short
  • A Wife on a Wager (1914)*short
  • 'Cross the Mexican Line (1914)*short
  • The Den of Thieves (1914)*short
  • Arms and the Gringo (1914)*short
  • The City Beautiful (1914)*short
  • Down by the Sounding Sea (1914)*short
  • The Avenging Conscience (1914)
  • Moonshine Molly (1914)*short
  • The Second Mrs. Roebuck (1914)*short
  • Sierra Jim's Reformation (1914)*short
  • The High Grader (1914)*short
  • Down the Hill to Creditville (1914)*short
  • Her Awakening (1914)*short
  • Her Doggy (1914)*short
  • For Her Father's Sins (1914)*short
  • A Mother's Influence (1914)*short
  • Sheriff for an Hour (1914)*short
  • The Niggard (1914)*short
  • The Odalisque (1914)*short
  • The Little Country Mouse (1914)*short
  • Another Chance (1914)*short
  • Over the Ledge (1914)*short
  • At Dawn (1914)*short
  • The Joke on Yellentown (1914)*short
  • The Exposure (1914)*short
  • Baby's Ride (1914)*short
  • The Three Brothers (1915)*short
  • The Craven (1915)*short
  • The Birth of a Nation (1915)
  • The Lost House (1915)*short
  • Enoch Arden (1915)*short
  • Station Content (1915)*short
  • A Yankee from the West (1915)
  • The Chorus Lady (1915)
  • Carmen (1915)
  • Old Heidelberg (1915)
  • The Golden Chance (1915)
  • To Have and to Hold (1916, Lost film)
  • The Love Mask (1916)
  • Maria Rosa (1916)
  • The Selfish Woman (1916)
  • Intolerance (1916)
  • The House with the Golden Windows (1916)
  • The Yellow Pawn (1916, Lost film)
  • The Wall of Flame (1916)*short
  • The Wrong Heart (1916)*short
  • Joan the Woman (1917)
  • The Golden Fetter (1917)
  • The Man Who Saved the Day (1917)*short
  • Buried Alive (1917)*short
  • The Tell-Tale Arm (1917)*short
  • The Prison Without Walls (1917)
  • A Warrior's Bride (1917)*short
  • The Penalty of Silence (1917)*short
  • The World Apart (1917, Lost film)
  • Big Timber (1917, Lost film)
  • The Squaw Man's Son (1917, Lost film)
  • The Hostage (1917, Lost film)
  • The Woman God Forgot (1917)
  • Nan of Music Mountain (1917, Lost film)
  • The Devil-Stone (1917)
  • Rimrock Jones (1918, Lost film)
  • The Thing We Love (1918, Lost film)
  • The House of Silence (1918, Lost film)
  • Believe Me, Xantippe (1918, Lost film)
  • The Firefly of France (1918, Lost film)
  • Less Than Kin (1918, Lost film)
  • The Source (1918, Lost film)
  • The Man from Funeral Range (1918, Lost film)
  • Too Many Millions (1918, Lost film)
  • The Dub (1919, Lost film)
  • Alias Mike Moran (1919, Lost film)
  • The Roaring Road (1919)
  • You're Fired (1919)
  • The Love Burglar (1919, Lost film)
  • The Valley of the Giants (1919)
  • The Lottery Man (1919, Lost film)
  • Hawthorne of the U.S.A. (1919)
  • The Crucifix of Destiny (1920, Lost film)
  • Double Speed (1920, Lost film)
  • Excuse My Dust (1920)
  • The Dancin' Fool (1920)
  • Sick Abed (1920)
  • What's Your Hurry? (1920)
  • Always Audacious (1920, Lost film)
  • The Charm School (1921, Lost film)
  • The Love Special (1921)
  • Too Much Speed (1921, Lost film)
  • The Hell Diggers (1921, Lost film)
  • The Affairs of Anatol (1921)
  • Forever (1921, Lost film)
  • Don't Tell Everything (1921, Lost film)
  • Rent Free (1922, Lost film)
  • The World's Champion (1922, Lost film)
  • Across the Continent (1922, Lost film)
  • The Dictator (1922, Lost film)
  • A Trip to Paramountown (1922, short subject; cameo)
  • Nice People (1922, Lost film)
  • The Ghost Breaker (1922, Lost film)
  • Clarence (1922, Lost film)
  • Thirty Days (1922, Lost film)
  • Hollywood (1922, Lost film) cameo;posthumous


Reid was a favorite of movie-goers. The original caption of this image from Picture-Play Magazine reads, "The only reason why they don’t let Wally play in dress-suit roles all the time is that the casualties among the ladies would soon empty the picture houses. In fact, we feel that we’re toying with the fan hearts even to print this picture."[6]
  1. Wallace Reid: The Life and Death of a Hollywood Idol by E. J. Fleming, c. 2007; McFarland Publishing
  2. Motion Picture Magazine
  3. "Reid Company in Wreck". Moving Picture World. 39 (9): 1474. 1 March 1919. Retrieved 27 October 2015.
  4. Troping the body: gender, etiquette, and performance By Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. Southern Illinois University Press. p. 108
  5. http://artfuljesus.0catch.com/artists/reid.html
  6. (1918). "Favorite Picture Players" Picture-Play Magazine
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