Paul Muni

Birthday: Sep 22, 1895
Birthplace: Lemberg, Austria-Hungary
Born in 1895 in what was then Austria and what is now Russia, Paul Muni was brought to the U.S. in 1902 by his parents, who were both touring Yiddish-language actors. Muni made his stage debut in 1907, and before reaching his teen years was recruited by Maurice Schwartz's Yiddish Art Theatre, where Muni specialized in playing very old men. He did not perform in English until he was 29; his first Broadway appearance was in 1926's We Americans. Minus the character makeup which distinguished most of his earlier stage appearances, Muni scored a hit as a gangster in the Broadway production Four Walls. He was signed by Fox Studios in 1929, but he was so displeased by his first two films (The Valiant and Seven Faces) that he hurried back to Broadway. In 1931, Muni starred in the original stage production of Counsellor at Law, and also resumed his film career, playing a sister-obsessed Al Capone-type in Scarface. With his still-powerful portrayal of a hunted (and haunted) convict in I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang (1932), Muni launched his long association with Warner Bros. Insisting upon being permitted the broadest range of characterizations possible, Muni alternated between "entertainments" like Dr. Socrates and prestige pictures which allowed him to don makeup and experiment with accents. He is most fondly remembered for his trio of biographies: 1936's The Story of Louis Pasteur (which won Muni his Oscar), 1937's The Life of Emile Zola, and 1939's Juarez. On the set, Muni was almost completely reliant upon the advice and counsel of his wife; if she didn't like a "take," the scene would have to be reshot. Like many highly individual talents, Muni gained a reputation as an eccentric, his character quirks ranging from relaxing between takes by playing his violin to (reportedly) going into a panic whenever he saw someone wearing the color red. Extremely self-involved, Muni often came to the set with his performance totally developed in advance, and did not alter his interpretation no matter what nuances or surprises his fellow actors might throw at him. After a long period of professional disappointments, Muni made a triumphant comeback in the role of the Clarence Darrow-like Henry Drummond in the 1955 Broadway production Inherit the Wind, for which he won the Tony award. After his final film, The Last Angry Man, Paul Muni was forced to curtail his appearances due to encroaching physical infirmities; one of his last performances was in the TV play The Last Clear Chance, wherein Muni was seen sporting a hearing aid through which he was "fed" his dialogue. In addition to his Best Actor win for Pasteur and his four Best Actor nominations for The Valiant, Chain Gang, Zola and The Last Angry Man, Muni received an "unofficial" Best Supporting Actor nomination, as a write-in candidate, for Casablanca helmer Michael Curtiz's 1935 Black Fury; he came in second. Hampered by increasing blindness that kept him out of work, Paul Muni died on August 25, 1967 of a heart ailment, one month shy of his 72nd birthday.

Highest Rated Movies



No Score Yet The Golden Age of 2nd Avenue Actor 1969
No Score Yet The Last Angry Man Dr. Sam Abelman 1959
No Score Yet Stranger on the Prowl (Imbarco a mezzanotte) The Stranger with a Gun 1952
No Score Yet Angel on My Shoulder Eddie Kagle/Judge Frederick Parker 1946
No Score Yet Counter-Attack (One Against Seven) Alexei Kulkov 1945
No Score Yet A Song to Remember Józef Elsner 1945
No Score Yet Stage Door Canteen Stage Door Canteen Star 1943
No Score Yet Commandos Strike at Dawn Eric Toresen 1942
No Score Yet Hudson's Bay Pierre Esprit Radisson 1941
No Score Yet We Are Not Alone Dr. David Newcome 1939
No Score Yet Juarez Benito Pablo Juarez 1939
76% The Life of Emile Zola Emile Zola 1937
No Score Yet The Woman I Love Lt. Claude Maury 1937
94% The Good Earth Wang Lung 1937
100% The Story of Louis Pasteur Louis Pasteur 1936
No Score Yet Dr. Socrates Lee 1935
No Score Yet Black Fury Joe Radek 1935
No Score Yet Bordertown Johnny Ramierez 1935
No Score Yet Hi, Nellie! Brad Bradshaw 1934
No Score Yet The World Changes Orin 1933
95% I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang James Allen 1932
100% Scarface Tony Camonte 1932
No Score Yet Seven Faces Willie Smith 1929
No Score Yet The Valiant James Dyke 1929