Jean Hersholt: A Dane Unashamed


A few words on Danish-American actor Jean Hersholt (1886-1956). A graduate of the Copenhagen Art School, his first acting experience was with the Danish Folk Theatre. After a couple of early movies in Germany, he moved to Hollywood where he began acting in bit roles in 1915.

Ultimately he would star in numerous important pictures, including Greed (1924), Don Q Son of Zorro (1925), the original Stella Dallas (1925), Abie’s Irish Rose (1928), The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932), Dinner at Eight (1933), Heidi (1937), Alexander’s Ragtime Band (1938), the radio and film series’ Dr. Christian, and many others. The latter series was spawned after Hersholt had portrayed the lead character in The Country Doctor (1936), a film in which his character delivers the real-life Dionne Quintuplets. 

According to Anthony Slide, in 1932, Hersholt appeared in an elaborate vaudeville stage show at the Capitol Theatre in New York with Jack Benny, Una Merkel, Anna May Wong, the Abe Lyman Orchestra and others, along with Hersholt’s movie Unashamed (this was the age of vaudeville and movie packages at presentation houses), to great reviews.

Here’s an article he wrote for the inspirational magazine Guideposts in 1953, courtesy my friend Brett Leveridge. 

To find out more about  the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And for more on silent film and stars like Jean Hersholt check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from etc etc etc

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