Hollywood Remains to Be Seen

Dwight Frye
1899 - 1943

Forest Lawn Glendale

Actor Dwight Frye built a career playing wild-eyed lunatics, crazed hunchbacks, deranged villagers and mad scientists' assistants in classic horror films of the 1930s and early 1940s. Frye appeared in "Dracula" (1931), "Frankenstein" (1931), "The Invisible Man" (1933) and "The Bride of Frankenstein" (1935), as well as three more films in the Frankenstein series.

As a youngster, Frye received training in voice and piano, and was heading toward a career as a musician. But Frye was drawn to the theater, and began performing in small traveling theater companies. He ended up on Broadway, where he was a popular and successful actor, appearing in a comedies and musicals, including a play titled "The Devil in the Cheese" in 1926, which co-starred Bela Lugosi.

Frye made his film debut in a small role as a wedding guest in "The Night Bird" (1928), then appeared in two crime dramas in 1930, "The Doorway to Hell" and "Man to Man." Frye next appeared in "Dracula" (1931) as Renfield, the real estate agent who visits the castle of Count Dracula, and becomes the vampire's first victim, as Renfield is transformed into a wild-eyed, bug-eating lunatic, and Dracula's slave. Frye's performance was so memorable, he quickly became type-cast in roles as lunatics and psychopaths.

After "Dracula," Frye appeared in "The Maltese Falcon" (1931), the first filmed version of Dashiel Hammett's classic detective story, then returned to horror films as Fritz, the demented, hunchbacked laboratory assistant in "Frankenstein" (1931). Frye played similar roles in "The Vampire Bat" (1933), "The Circus Queen Murder" (1933), "The Bride of Frankenstein" (1935), "The Great Impersonation" (1935), "The Man Who Found Himself" (1937), "Son of Frankenstein" (1939), "The Ghost of Frankenstein" (1942), "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man" (1943) and "Dead Men Walk" (1943).

Frye fought against the type-casting, and also played small roles in other films, including "The Western Code" (1932), "Attorney for the Defense" (1932), "Florida Special" (1936), "Something to Sing About" (1937), "Fast Company" (1938) and "The Son of Monte Cristo" (1940). He often returned to the stage, where he had more of an opportunity to play more varied roles, although he also revived the role of Renfield in a stage version of "Dracula."

In early 1943, with his opportunities in film dwindling, Frye went to work as a draftsman and tool designer at an aircraft manufacturing company in Los Angeles. A few months later, he was offered a significant role in a filmed biography of President Woodrow Wilson, and it looked as if Frye's film career might be on the rebound. Unfortunately, Frye suffered from heart problems and, because he was a devout Christian Scientist, he refused any medical help. On Nov. 7, 1943, three days before filming was scheduled to begin on "Wilson," Frye suffered a fatal heart attack while riding on a crowded bus in Hollywood with his wife and young son. He was 44.

Frye was born Dwight Iliff Fry on Feb. 22, 1899, in Salina, KS. He died on Nov. 7, 1943, in Los Angeles, CA.

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