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Ernest Torrence

ernest torrence, ernest torrence at premiere of king of kings
Ernest Torrence 26 June 1878 – 15 May 1933 was a Scottish film character actor who appeared in many Hollywood films, including Broken Chains 1922 with Colleen Moore, Mantrap 1926 with Clara Bow and Fighting Caravans 1931 with Gary Cooper and Lili Damita A towering 6' 4" figure, Torrence frequently played cold-eyed and imposing villains


  • 1 Biography
    • 11 Education and early work
    • 12 Film career
    • 13 Death
  • 2 Selected filmography
  • 3 References
  • 4 External links


Education and early workedit

He was born Ernest Torrance-Thomson to Colonel Henry Torrence Thayson and Jessie née Bryce1 on 26 June 1878, in Edinburgh, Scotland, and as a child was an exceptional pianist and operatic baritone and graduated from the Stuttgart Conservatory, Edinburgh Academy before earning a scholarship at London's Royal Academy of Music He toured with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in such productions as The Emerald Isle 1901 and The Talk of the Town 1905 before disarming vocal problemscitation needed set in and he was forced to abandon this career path

Sometime prior to 1900, he changed the spelling of Torrance to Torrence and dropped the name Thomson Both Ernest and his actor brother David Torrence went to America, in March 1911, directly from Scotland prior to the First World War Focusing instead on a purely acting career, Ernest and his brother developed into experienced players on the Broadway New York stage Ernest received significant acclaim with Modest Suzanne in 1912, and a prominent role in The Night Boat in 1920 brought him to the attention of the early Hollywood filmmakers

Film careeredit

Torrence played the despicable adversary Luke Hatburn in Tol'able David 1921 opposite Richard Barthelmess and immediately settled into films for the rest of his career and life He played an old codger in the acclaimed classic western The Covered Wagon 1923 and gained attention from his roles in The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 as Clopin, king of the beggars, and Betty Bronson in Peter Pan 1924 as the dastardly Captain Hook He played an Army General who escapes into the circus world and becomes a clown in The Side Show of Life 1924

In an offbeat bit of casting he paired up with Clara Bow in Mantrap 1926, unusually as a gentle, giant type backwoodsman in search of a wife He appeared in other silent film classics such as The King of Kings 1927 as Peter and Steamboat Bill Jr 1928 as Buster Keaton's steamboat captain father During the course of his twelve-year film career, Ernest made 49 films, both silent and "talkies"


Torrence made the transition into talking films very well, starring in Fighting Caravans 1931 with Gary Cooper and Lili Damita He was able to play a notable nemesis, Dr Moriarty, to Clive Brook's Sherlock in Sherlock Holmes 1932 in one of his last roles

Filming for I Cover the Waterfront 1933, in which he starred as a smuggler opposite Claudette Colbert in New York, had just been completed when he died suddenly on 15 May 1933, at the relatively young age of 54 While en route to Europe by ship, Torrence suffered an acute attack of gall stones and was rushed back to a New York hospital He died of complications following surgery

Selected filmographyedit

  • Tol'able David 1921
  • Singed Wings 1922
  • The Brass Bottle 1923
  • The Covered Wagon 1923
  • The Trail of the Lonesome Pine 1923
  • Ruggles of Red Gap 1923
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923
  • West of the Water Tower 1923
  • Heritage of the Desert 1924
  • The Side Show of Life 1924
  • North of 36 1924
  • Peter Pan 1924
  • The Dressmaker from Paris 1925
  • The Wanderer 1925
  • Captain Salvation 1927
  • Steamboat Bill Jr 1928
  • Across to Singapore 1928
  • Speedway 1929
  • Sporting Blood 1931
  • Sherlock Holmes 1932
  • I Cover the Waterfront 1933


  1. ^ Who Was Who in the Theatre: 1912-1976 vol4 Q-Z p2381; compiled from editions originally published annually by John Parker, 1976 edition published by Gale ResearchRetrieved September 23, 2014

External linksedit

  • Biography portal
  • Ernest Torrence on Internet Movie Database
  • Ernest Torrence at the Internet Broadway Database
  • Photographs and literature on Ernest Torrence

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Ernest Torrence

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