Wallace Beery was an Academy Award-winning American actor of more than 200 other movie roles over a 36-year span.
Wallace Fitzgerald Beery joined the Ringling Brothers circus at the age of sixteen as an assistant elephant trainer. He left two years later after being clawed by a leopard. He found work in New York City in musical variety and began to appear on Broadway. In 1913, he moved to Chicago to work for Essanay Studios, cast as "Sweedie, The Swedish Maid," a manly character in drag. Later he would move to California, to the Essanay Studios location in Niles, CA. In 1915, Beery starred with his wife Gloria Swanson in Sweedie Goes to College.
His notable silent films include Arthur Conan Doyle's dinosaur epic The Lost World (1925; as Professor Challenger), Robin Hood with Douglas Fairbanks (1922; Beery played King Richard the Lionheart in this film and a sequel the following year called Richard the Lion-Hearted), Last of the Mohicans (1920), The Round-Up (1920; with Roscoe Arbuckle), Old Ironsides (1926), Now We're in the Air (1927), The Usual Way (1913), and Beggars of Life (1928; with Louise Brooks).
With the transition to sound film Beery appeared in the highly-successful 1930 prison film The Big House (for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor). He followed that up with The Champ in 1931, this time winning the Best Actor Oscar, and the role of Long John Silver in Treasure Island (1934). He received a gold medal from the Venice Film Festival for his performance as Pancho Villa in Viva Villa! (1934) with Fay Wray. Other notable Beery films include Min and Bill (1930) with Marie Dressler, Billy the Kid (1930) with Johnny Mack Brown, The Secret Six (1931) with Jean Harlow and Clark Gable, Hell Divers (1931) with Gable, Grand Hotel (1932) with Joan Crawford, Tugboat Annie (1933) with Dressler, Dinner at Eight (1933) opposite Jean Harlow, The Bowery with George Raft and Pert Kelton that same year, China Seas (1935) with Gable and Harlow, and Eugene O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness! (1935) in the role of a drunken uncle later played on Broadway by Jackie Gleason in a musical comedy version. During the 1930s Beery was regularly one of Hollywood's Top 10 box office stars, and at one point his contract with MGM stipulated that he be paid $1 more than any other contract player at the studio, making him the highest paid actor in the world.
He made several comedies with Marie Dressler (Min and Bill and Tugboat Annie, both wildly successful) and Marjorie Main, but his career began to slow down in his last decade.