LeoGlossary: Jean Hersholt (Actor)

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Born: July 12, 1886 – Died: June 2, 1956

Jean Hersholt, a beloved actor in Hollywood, was truly a Great Dane in the industry. Born on July 12, 1886, in Denmark, he came from a renowned Danish stage and entertainment family that toured throughout Europe. Graduating from the Copenhagen Art School, Hersholt had a passion for both the stage and films. While he started with silent films in Germany, it was in Hollywood where he truly made his mark. From playing memorable villains in the silent era to portraying the iconic Dr. Christian, Hersholt's contributions to the entertainment industry were vast and varied. His dedication extended beyond acting, as he also made significant humanitarian contributions, earning him two Academy Awards and the prestigious Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

Early Life and Career

Jean Hersholt was born on July 12, 1886, in Denmark. He grew up in a well-known Danish stage and entertainment family that frequently toured throughout Europe. After graduating from the Copenhagen Art School, Hersholt pursued his passion for both the stage and films.

Hersholt's career began with two silent films in Germany in 1906, but it was in Hollywood where he truly found success. He made the move to the United States in 1913, seeking further opportunities like many other European actors at the time. Unlike many of his European counterparts who started on Broadway, Hersholt went straight to Hollywood in 1914, just as silent movies were gaining popularity.

In the early years of his career in Hollywood, Hersholt primarily played small feature player roles and appeared in numerous bit parts. However, his talent as a villain stood out, and he became sought after by directors for his ability to convincingly portray vile characters. Some of his notable roles from the 1920s include "Greed" and "The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg," which helped propel Rudolf Valentino to stardom.

During the later 1920s, Hersholt's roles expanded to include a more balanced mix of characters, including more virtuous roles and the unsuspected guilty party in murder mysteries. He worked for Paramount from 1927 to 1929 and various other studios during this period. By the end of the silent era, Hersholt had appeared in over 75 films, showcasing his versatility as an actor.

One of Hersholt's most iconic roles came in the mid-1930s when he portrayed Dr. John Luke, inspired by the real-life obstetrician Dr. Dafoe, in the film "The Country Doctor." This role would become the basis for his popular radio series, "Dr. Christian," which aired from 1937 to 1954. Hersholt convinced RKO Radio Pictures to produce a series of six Dr. Christian films from 1939 to 1941.

Aside from his acting career, Hersholt had a deep appreciation for Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. He collected important editions of Andersen's works and published an acclaimed English translation of Andersen's fairy tales. Hersholt also wrote several articles about Andersen and edited "The Andersen-Scudder-Letters" in 1948.

In his personal life, Jean Hersholt was married and had children. He had a reputation for being generous and giving back to the community. His dedication to philanthropy led to his involvement with the Motion Picture Relief Fund, which eventually led to the creation of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. He received two Academy Awards during his career and served as the president of the Academy.

Jean Hersholt's impact on Hollywood and the entertainment industry extended beyond his acting talent. He was admired for his contributions to charity and his efforts to promote the welfare of others. His iconic roles and dedication to humanitarian work have solidified his status as a beloved and respected figure in the industry.


Year Title Role
1956 Dr. Christian (TV Series) Dr. Paul Christian
1955 Run for Cover Mr. Swenson
1949 Dancing in the Dark Jean Hersholt
1943 To the People of the United States (Short) Colonel Jensen - Medical Corps.
1943 Stage Door Canteen Jean Hersholt
1941 They Meet Again Dr. Paul Christian
1941 Melody for Three Dr. Paul Christian
1940 Remedy for Riches Dr. Paul Christian
1940 Dr. Christian Meets the Women Dr. Paul Christian
1940 The Courageous Dr. Christian Dr. Paul Christian
1939 Meet Dr. Christian Dr. Christian
1939 Mr. Moto in Danger Island Sutter
1938 Five of a Kind Dr. John Luke
1938 I'll Give a Million Victor
1938 Alexander's Ragtime Band Professor Heinrich
1938 Happy Landing Herr Lars Ericksen
1937 Heidi Adolph Kramer | Grandfather
1937 Seventh Heaven Father Chevillon
1936 One in a Million Heinrich Muller
1936 Reunion Dr. John Luke
1936 His Brother's Wife Professor Fahrenheim
1936 Sins of Man Christopher Freyman
1936 The Country Doctor Dr. John Luke
1936 Tough Guy Doctor
1935 Murder in the Fleet Victor Hanson
1935 Break of Hearts Professor Thalma
1935 Mark of the Vampire Baron Otto
1934 The Painted Veil Herr Koerber
1934 The Fountain Baron Van Leyden
1934 Men in White Dr. 'Hockie' Hochberg
1934 The Cat and the Fiddle Professor
1933 Christopher Bean Rosen
1933 Dinner at Eight Jo Stengel
1933 Song of the Eagle Otto Hoffman
1933 The Crime of the Century Dr. Emil Brandt
1932 Flesh Mr. Herman
1932 The Mask of Fu Manchu Von Berg
1932 Hearts of Humanity Sol Bloom
1932 Skyscraper Souls Jake Sorenson
1932 Unashamed Heinrich Schmidt
1932 New Morals for Old James Hallett
1932 Night Court Herman - the Janitor
1932 Grand Hotel Senf
1932 Are You Listening? George Wagner
1932 The Beast of the City Sam Belmonte
1932 Emma Frederick Smith
1931 Private Lives Oscar
1931 The Sin of Madelon Claudet Dr. Dulac
1931 Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise) Karl Ohlin
1931 The Phantom of Paris Herman
1931 Transatlantic Rudolph aka Jed Kramer
1931 Daybreak Herr Schnabel
1931 The Voice of Hollywood No. 7 (Second Series) (Short) Unknown
1930 Viennese Nights Herr Hofner - Elsa's Father
1930 The Third Alarm Frank 'Dad' Morton
1930 The Cat Creeps Dr. Patterson
1930 A Soldier's Plaything Grandfather Rittner
1930 East Is West Man
1930 Hell Harbor Joseph Horngold
1930 Mamba August Bolte (Mamba)
1930 The Case of Sergeant Grischa Posnanski
1930 The Climax Luigi Golfanti
1929 Modern Love François Renault
1929 The Younger Generation Julius Goldfish - Pa
1929 The Girl on the Barge McCadden
1928 Give and Take John Bauer - Factory Owner
1928 The Battle of the Sexes William Judson
1928 Jazz Mad Franz Hausmann
1928 Abie's Irish Rose Solomon Levy
1928 The Secret Hour Tony
1928 13 Washington Square 'Deacon' Pyecroft
1927 The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg Dr. Jüttner
1927 Alias the Deacon George Caswell aka The Deacon
1927 The Wrong Mr. Wright Seymour White
1926 The Old Soak Clement Hawley, Sr.
1926 Flames Ole Bergson
1926 It Must Be Love Pop Schmidt
1926 My Old Dutch 'Erb 'Uggins
1926 The Greater Glory Gustav Schmidt
1925 Stella Dallas Ed Munn
1925 A Woman's Faith Jules Cluny
1925 Don Q Son of Zorro Don Fabrique
1925 If Marriage Fails Dr. Mallini
1925 Fifth Avenue Models Mr. Jones - A Crook
1925 Dangerous Innocence Gilchrist
1924 So Big Aug Hempel
1924 Cheap Kisses Gustaf Borgstrom
1924 Greed Marcus
1924 Her Night of Romance Joe Diamond
1924 Sinners in Silk Dr. Eustace
1924 The Woman on the Jury Jury Foreman
1924 The Goldfish Herman Krauss
1924 Torment Boris
1923 Red Lights Ezra Carson
1923 Souls for Sale Jean Hersholt
1923 Quicksands Ring Member
1923 Jazzmania Prince Otto of Como
1922 The Strangers' Banquet Fiend
1922 Tess of the Storm Country Ben Letts
1922 Heart's Haven Henry Bird
1922 When Romance Rides Joel Creech
1921 Man of the Forest Lem Beasley
1921 A Certain Rich Man Adrian Brownwell
1921 The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Professor von Hartrott (uncredited)
1921 The Servant in the House Manson, The Servant in the House
1920 The Deceiver Unknown
1920 The Golden Trail Harry Teal
1920 Merely Mary Ann Stranger
1920 The Red Lane Vetal Beaulieu
1919 In the Land of the Setting Sun (Short) Unknown
1919 Love's Prisoner Party Guest (uncredited)
1919 Whom the Gods Would Destroy Unknown
1918 The Answer Shepard
1918 Little Red Decides Sour Milk
1918 Madame Spy Count Von Ornstorff
1917 Princess Virtue Emile Carre
1917 '49-'17 'Gentleman Jim' Raynor
1917 A Stormy Knight Dr. Fraser
1917 The Show Down Parkes
1917 The Soul Herder (Short) The Parson
1917 The Greater Law Basil Pelly
1917 The Gunman's Gospel (Short) The Mayor
1917 Southern Justice Caleb Talbot
1917 The Townsend Divorce Case (Short) Mr. Townsend
1917 Her Primitive Man (Short) Rance
1917 The Clash of Steel (Short) Prince Feodor
1917 Perils of the Secret Service Unknown
1917 The Saintly Sinner Undetermined Role
1917 The Terror Jimm, the Dope
1917 Love Aflame Reginald
1917 Fighting for Love Ferdinand
1917 Black Orchids Unknown
1916 The Desert Unknown
1916 Scratched (Short) Paul Brant
1916 Kinkaid, Gambler Undetermined Role
1916 It's All Wrong (Short) The Minister
1916 As the Candle Burned (Short) John Ayres
1916 Some Medicine Man (Short) Grouch
1916 The Aryan Minor Role (uncredited)
1916 Hell's Hinges Bartender (uncredited)
1916 Bullets and Brown Eyes Unknown
1915 The Disciple Mob Member (uncredited)
1915 Never Again (Short) (unconfirmed)
1906 En ny hat til Madammen (Short) Unknown
1906 Konfirmanden (Short) Unknown
1906 Professorens Morgenavis (Short) Unknown


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