I’ve been asked how I first became interested in Warren Hymer so my story is as follows:
Around early 2015, my best friend Cassie and I were talking about old movie stars and she brought Eddie Cantor to my attention. I’d heard of Eddie, of course, but had never seen any of his films. I enjoyed the video clips she sent me of Eddie singing songs like “Making Whoopee” and “My Wife is On a Diet” so I decided to buy a few of his films on DVD, one of which was Kid Millions (1934). Cassie and I really enjoyed the film, particularly the actor who played Ethel Merman’s big dumb gangster accomplice, called “Uncle Louie” by Eddie’s character. The actor who played “Uncle Louie” just about stole the movie right from its star, giving a brilliantly flawless comedic performance.
A little bit of time passed and Cassie told me she was becoming a fan of Peter Lorre. Peter I definitely knew and had seen many times but I decided to revisit a good number of his films and check out ones I hadn’t seen before. I was already familiar, albeit peripherally, with the Mr. Moto series at 20th Century Fox, starring the Eastern European Lorre as the Japanese secret agent/detective/INTERPOL agent, etc. Making my way through these really fun, quick movies, I came to the second-to-last Moto to be released (but last to be filmed), Danger Island aka Mr. Moto in Danger Island (1939). By this point in the series, Mr. Moto became saddled with comedy relief sidekicks, perhaps in attempt to replicate the relationship between Fox’s #1 detective Charlie Chan and his Number 1/Number 2 sons. The comedy relief in the Moto films for the most part were neither funny nor very likable. However, for Danger Island Moto’s sidekick, the slow-witted but loyal and friendly “Twister McGurk” was genuinely funny and very likable. I thought he seemed familiar and then realized, he’s the same actor who played “Uncle Louie” in Kid Millions! What a pleasant revelation.
A short time after seeing him as Moto’s sidekick, some friends of mine were talking about watching some films he had appeared in at the yearly Cinecon in Los Angeles. I thought to myself, “I keep seeing and hearing about this guy…I think he’s stalking me” Not an uncommon occurrence if you have a classic movie marathon and keep seeing the same character actors pop up in each film. At this point, I decided to do some research and find out more about this extremely funny fellow who made his way into my consciousness.
Warren Hymer. Born February 25, 1906…Died March 25, 1948. He left the world exactly a month after he turned 42 years of age. For some reason I could not explain, this bothered me. I knew next to nothing about this guy but learning of his early death made me want to know more about him. Looking around on the internet, I only found little tidbits of information about him as a person: son of a popular playwright, went to Yale, played dumb guys, well known alcoholic, urinated on Harry Cohn’s desk, which got him blackballed from working for the major movie studios, two failed marriages and died at 42 from a “stomach ailment”. That was basically all I could find about his life, no in-depth biographies. Soon after, I became determined to find out more about his life, him as a person, and his films.
Cassie and I started a Facebook Group for him called “The Warren Hymer Fan Club” and we would post photos, articles, video clips and anything else about him we could find. I thought it would just be she and I talking about him but other people started to pour into the group talking about how much they enjoyed watching Warren’s performances in films.
I began collecting and amassing photos, films, memorabilia and information about Warren Hymer, all I could possibly find and received help from many beautiful people who have been generous with their time, resources and knowledge. Piecing the puzzle together that is Warren Hymer, I discovered a complex, intelligent, sensitive and very human individual who sadly could not see his own unique greatness and resorted to self-destruction which caused his early demise.
It’s my personal goal to publish a definitive biography of this talented and tragic actor who has spent the past seventy years in darkness and bring him back into the spotlight once more to get the credit he is due.