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Richard Barthelmess Is Dead

Aug. 17, 1963 - Richard Barthelmess (right with Carole Lombard, Cary Grant, and Marlene Dietrich in 1935), the boyish matinee idol of the silent-film era, died of cancer today in Southampton, L.I. He was 68 years old. For more than 25 years, the appearance of Mr. Barthelmess on the screen brought great sighs from women in movie houses throughout the country. He was the clean-cut American hero; not strikingly handsome, but good-looking; masculine, but gentle, modest, and unassuming. His shy smile and sleek black hair brought him an average of 6,000 fan letters a month at the height of his career. In 1926, he began making three films a year for National Films at a reported $375,000 a year. His first film for the company, “Patent Leather Kid,” in which he played a prizefighter, was one of his finest roles. In 1928, the first year the Academy Awards were presented, he won a special award for distinguished achievement in that film and in “The Noose.” During the 1930s, he traveled a great deal. He returned to Hollywood in 1939 to appear in Howard Hawks’ “Only Angels Have Wings” with Cary Grant. That film and his 1930 hit, “Dawn Patrol” — also directed by Hawks — were probably his finest talking pictures. During World War II, he served as a lieutenant commander in the Navy. Five years ago, he developed throat cancer and underwent several operations, eventually losing his voice. At his bedside when he died was his wife, Jessica.


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