Henry Victor: Hercules in “Freaks”

Actor Henry Victor (1892-1945) is known for appearing in horror classics, such as Tod Browning’s Freaks (1932), in which he played the boorish strong man Hercules, as well as The Mad Doctor and King of the Zombies, both in 1941; and for playing Nazis, often in classic comedies like To Be or Not to Be (1942) with Jack Benny and Carole Lombard, Pack Up Your Troubles (1939) with the Ritz Brothers and Jane Withers, They Got Me Covered (1943) with Bob Hope, and That Nazty Nuisance (1943) with Bobby Watson.

These obvious character roles were due of course to Victor’s thick, almost incomprehensible German accent. The irony is that Victor was English by blood, and had been born in London. He had merely grown up in Germany. By his young manhood he was back in his home country. He went into films when he was 22, and immediately became a star. During the silent era his accent mattered not a jot; his fine physique and good looks were the crucial attributes. One of his very first pictures, in fact, was the title character in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1916). Another notable vehicles from the early period include the 1916 version of H. Rider Haggard’s She, an adaptation of Boucicault’s The Colleen Bawn (1924), The White Shadow (1924) with Betty Compson, and Topsy and Eva (1927) with the Duncan Sisters, in which he played the kindly St. Claire.

Victor had appeared in over 100 British and American films at the time of his death of a brain tumor in 1945. He was 52 years old.

For more on show biz history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on early film history read  Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.