Birthdate: April 15th, 1891
Location: St Louis, Missouri, USA
Died: January 18th, 1923
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA
Cause of death: Renal suppression and pneumonia caused by morphine addiction
Best known for: American silent film star labelled "the screen's most perfect lover" by Motion Picture Magazine who appeared in more than 200 productions, including D W Griffith's Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916), as well as The World's Champion (1922) and Across the Continent (1922).
Born into a showbiz family (both his parents were actors or playwrights), Wallace Reid was an accomplished athlete and outdoorsman, but slipped into the film industry when his father began working for motion pictures rather than theatres. Wallace's first appearance on film was in the 1910 short The Phoenix, and although he initially preferred to remain behind the scenes, directing rather than acting, the studios soon latched onto his matinee idol looks and turned him into one of the greatest sex symbols of the silent era.
Nevertheless, between 1912 and 1917 Wallace directed a total of 69 productions, and wrote 26 scripts between 1912 and 1916. In 1913, while working for Universal Pictures, the 6ft 1in performer met the actress Dorothy Davenport, who he married the same year and had two children with (Wallace Jr, and Betty, who was adopted but who it is believed was Wallace's daughter via an affair).
|Wallace with his son Wallace Jr|
In order to keep up with the filming schedule he was prescribed morphine for pain relief, but he soon became addicted to the drug. His addiction got worse and worse at a time when drug rehabilitation programmes were virtually non-existent, and the studios decided that the best way to preserve Wallace's box office bang was to feed him more and more morphine to keep him alive! His addiction ate into his health, and Wallace began to waste away, lose his teeth and become moodier.
|A 30-year-old Wallace Reid|
in his final film, Thirty Days
While making his final film, Thirty Days (released in December 1922), Wallace was barely able to stand, let alone act, and reviews from the time describe him as looking tired and haggard (sadly, the film is now lost, so we can't see it for ourselves). Despite his condition, Wallace was cast in another film soon after, entitled Nobody's Money. Assistant director Henry Hathaway later recalled Wallace's last day on set: "He sort of fumbled about, and bumped into a chair, and then just sat down on the floor and started to cry. They put him in a chair, and he just keeled over. They sent for an ambulance and sent him to hospital."
|Wallace with his wife Dorothy, son|
Wallace Jr and daughter Betty, circa 1921
|Mrs Wallace Reid inspecting a fortune in|
drugs and narcotics at the opening of her
film Human Wreckage in San Francisco
in the summer of 1923.
After Wallace's tragic early death, his widow Dorothy (as Mrs Wallace Reid) toured the US publicising the film Human Wreckage, released in June 1923 - just five months after his death - which told the tragic tale of drug addict Jimmy Brown, played by George Hackathorne. At the end of each performance of the film, Dorothy would address the audience directly, imploring them to help in her crusade to wipe out the menace of narcotics. Obviously, her mission was far from accomplished, and sadly no prints of this film are known to have survived.
Wallace appeared briefly in one film posthumously as one of many cameos in the now lost film Hollywood, released in August 1923 and also featuring Fatty Arbuckle, Mary Astor, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, ZaSu Pitts, Gloria Swanson and Ben Turpin.
|Wallace Reid's urn at Forest|
Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery
Wallace was recalled by co-stars and colleagues in the epic 1980 documentary series Hollywood, by Kevin Brownlow (episode 3: Single Beds and Double Standards), and in 2007, E J Fleming wrote an autobiography called Wallace Reid: Life and Death of a Hollywood Idol.
|Wallace pictured in 1912 (aged just 21) in|
a publicity still for a Western short.