Norman Kerry

Norman Kerry

Norman Kerry around 1929 in a publicity photograph.
Born Arnold Kaiser
(1894-06-16)June 16, 1894
Rochester, New York, U.S.
Died January 12, 1956(1956-01-12) (aged 61)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1916–1941

Norman Kerry (June 16, 1894 – January 12, 1956) was an American actor whose career spanned over twenty-five years in the motion picture industry beginning in the silent era at the end of World War I.[1]


Born Arnold Kaiser in Rochester, New York of German parentage, he changed his unmistakably German name to 'Norman Kerry' at the onset of World War I.

Around 1916 he befriended Rudolph Valentino, then an exhibition dancer of some renown, in New York City. He is said to have introduced Valentino to dancer Bonnie Glass who became Valentino's partner. Valentino in turn encouraged Kerry to try making a name for himself in film. Later, Kerry would help Valentino financially when the two met again in California.

Kerry made his first film appearance in the 1916 Allan Dwan directed comedy Manhattan Madness, starring Douglas Fairbanks. He would rise to leading actor status the following year in the Marshall Neilan directed A Little Princess, playing opposite actress Mary Pickford. In 1918, Kerry followed his success with A Little Princess in the William Desmond Taylor-directed Up the Road with Sallie, opposite Constance Talmadge.

Kerry's career flourished during the silent film era of the late 1910s and throughout the 1920s and he quickly became a matinee idol who was extremely popular with female fans. With his slicked back hair and thin, waxed moustache, he was often cast in the role of the heroic dashing swashbuckler or the exotic, seductive lothario. By 1923, Kerry was a very well-respected leading man and box-office draw. That year he starred in two much talked-about films: the enormous box-office hit The Hunchback of Notre Dame, opposite Lon Chaney and Patsy Ruth Miller and the controversial Merry-Go-Round opposite the newcomer Mary Philbin. Kerry was cast in Merry-Go-Round by the famous Austrian director Erich von Stroheim to play von Stroheim's alter-ego 'Count Franz Maximilian Von Hohenegg', but studio executive Irving Thalberg fired von Stroheim during filming and had him replaced by director Rupert Julian. Although the film was controversial at the time, it is now considered a classic.

Kerry would again be paired with Lon Chaney and Mary Philbin in the 1925 horror classic The Phantom of the Opera, playing Philbin's love-interest, the Vicomte Raoul de Chagny. The film was an enormous financial and critical success and solidified Kerry's position as a leading actor during the 1920s. That same year Kerry would star opposite Patsy Ruth Miller in the adventure film Lorraine of the Lions, although the film didn't achieve nearly the degree of success as The Phantom of the Opera. In 1927 Kerry would again share the screen with Lon Chaney, Sr. in the Tod Browning directed horror film The Unknown with Joan Crawford. Kerry was cast as a circus strongman, despite his evident lack of a muscular physique. He would spend the decade appearing in high-profile roles opposite such famous actresses of the era as: Anna Q. Nilsson, Marion Davies, Bebe Daniels, Mildred Harris, ZaSu Pitts, Joan Crawford, Lillian Gish, and Claire Windsor.

At the beginning of the talkie era he and Mary Philbin reunited to film talking scenes for the 1930 sound reissue of Phantom of the Opera. On the surviving soundtrack both stars are stiff and awkward, speaking with exaggerated diction. This was Philbin's only sound film, and the beginning of Kerry's decline. He was cast in the 1931 film Bachelor Apartment, opposite silent film star Mae Murray. The film was critically panned at the time of release and both Murray and Kerry's careers in the new medium of sound quickly waned. Kerry would only make three more film appearances before retiring from acting.

At the start of World War II Kerry joined the French Foreign Legion, returning to the U.S. only when France capitulated to Nazi Germany.

Norman Kerry died in Los Angeles, California from a liver ailment at the age of 61 in 1956 and was interred at Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, Los Angeles County, California.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Norman Kerry was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6724 Hollywood Blvd., in Hollywood, California.



  1. NORMAN KERRY, AN EX-FILM STAR: Romantic Hero of the Silent Screen Dies--Figured in Real-Life Escapades Wore Waxed Mustache Real-Life Escapades Special to The New York Times.The New York Times, 1941. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 13 Jan 1956: 23.
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