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John Conrad Nagel (March 16, 1897 – February 24, 1970) was an American film, stage, television and radio actor. He was considered a famous matinée idol and leading man of the 1920s and 1930s. He was given an Academy Honorary Award in 1940 and three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.
John Conrad Nagel
March 16, 1897
Keokuk, Iowa, U.S.
|Died||February 24, 1970 (aged 72)|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Resting place||Garden State Crematory|
|Education||Des Moines College |
Highland Park College
(m. 1924; div. 1934)
(m. 1945; div. 1948)
Michael Coulson Smith
(m. 1955; div. 1956)
Born in Keokuk, Iowa, into an upper-middle-class family, he was the son of a musician father, Dr. Frank L. Nagel, who was of German descent, and a mother, Frances (née Murphy), who was a locally praised singer. Nagel's mother died early in his life, and he always attributed his artistic inclination to growing up in a family environment that encouraged self-expression. His father, Frank, became dean of the music conservatory at Highland Park College and when Nagel was three, the family moved to Des Moines.
After graduating from Highland Park College in Des Moines, Iowa, Nagel left for California to pursue a career in the relatively new medium of motion pictures where he garnered instant attention from the Hollywood studio executives. With his 6-foot-tall (1.8 m) frame, blue eyes, and wavy blond hair; the young, Midwestern Nagel was seen by studio executives as a potentially wholesome matinee idol whose unpretentious all-American charm would appeal to the nation's nascent film-goers.
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Nagel was immediately cast in film roles that cemented his unspoiled lover image. His first film was the 1918 retelling of Little Women, which quickly captured the public's attention and set Nagel on a path to silent film stardom. His breakout role came in the 1920 film, The Fighting Chance, opposite Swedish starlet Anna Q. Nilsson. In 1918, Nagel joined The Lambs, the historical theater club.
In 1927, Nagel starred alongside Lon Chaney Sr., Marceline Day, Henry B. Walthall and Polly Moran in the now lost Tod Browning directed horror film, London After Midnight. Unlike many other silent films stars, Nagel had little difficulty transitioning to sound films. His baritone voice was judged to be perfect for sound, so he appeared in about thirty films in only two years. He described the time as a "great adventure." He was working so steadily that one night when he and his wife planned to go to the movies, he was in the movie playing at Grauman's, Loew's, and Paramount's theaters. "We couldn't find a theater where I wasn't playing. So we'd go back home. I was an epidemic." He spent the next several decades being very well received in high-profile films as a character actor. He was also frequently heard on radio and made many notable appearances on television.
AMPAS & SAGEdit
On May 11, 1927, Nagel was among 35 other film industry insiders to found the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS); a professional honorary organization dedicated to the advancement of the arts and sciences of motion pictures. Fellow actors involved in the founding included: Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Richard Barthelmess, Jack Holt, Milton Sills, and Harold Lloyd. He served as president of the organization from 1932 to 1933. He was also a founding member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). Nagel was elected to The Lambs, the New York-based theater organization, in 1918.
Nagel was the host of the 3rd Academy Awards ceremony held on November 5, 1930, the 5th Academy Awards on November 18, 1932, and a co-host with Bob Hope at the 25th Academy Awards ceremony on March 19, 1953. The 21-year gap between his appearances in 1932 and 1953 is a record for an Oscar ceremonies host.
Radio and televisionEdit
Nagel was the announcer for Alec Templeton Time, a musical variety program on NBC Radio in the summer of 1939. He was the host on Silver Theatre, a summer replacement program that began June 8, 1937.
From 1937 to 1947, he hosted and directed the radio program Silver Theater. He then hosted the popular TV game show Celebrity Time from 1948 to 1952 and the DuMont Television Network program Broadway to Hollywood from 1953 to 1954.
Templeton later hosted his own TV show It's Alec Templeton Time on the DuMont Television Network from June 1955 to August 1955. From September 14, 1955 to June 1, 1956, Nagel hosted Hollywood Preview, a 30-minute show on the DuMont Television Network which featured Hollywood stars with clips of upcoming films.
In 1961, again on television but in an acting role, he made a guest appearance on the popular courtroom drama Perry Mason, portraying the character Nathan Claver, an art collector and murderer, in the episode "The Case of the Torrid Tapestry".
In 1962 he guest starred on the TV Western Gunsmoke as the vengeful Major Emerson Owen in S7E33’s “The Prisoner”.
Nagel married and divorced three times. His first wife, actress Ruth Helms, gave birth to a daughter, Ruth Margaret. His second wife was actress Lynn Merrick. His third wife was Michael Coulson Smith, who gave birth to a son Michael.
Nagel died in 1970 in New York City at the age of 72. A spokesman for the office of the Chief Medical Examiner said that Nagel's death was "due to natural causes", more specifically, a heart attack and emphysema. He added that no autopsy was planned. Nagel was cremated at Garden State Crematory in North Bergen, New Jersey. His remains are interred at the Lutheran Cemetery in Warsaw, Illinois.
Awards and honorsEdit
In 1940, Nagel was given an Honorary Academy Award for his work with the Motion Picture Relief Fund. For his contributions to film, radio, and television, Nagel was given three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1719 Vine Street (motion pictures), 1752 Vine Street (radio), and 1752 Vine Street (television).
- Little Women (1918) as Laurie Laurence
- The Lion and the Mouse (1919) as Jefferson Ryder
- Redhead (1919) as Matthew Thurlow
- Romeo's Dad (1919, Short)
- The Fighting Chance (1920) as Stephen Siward
- Unseen Forces (1920) as Clyde Brunton
- Midsummer Madness (1921) as Julian Osborne
- Forbidden Fruit (1921) as Actor in play 'Forbidden Fruit' (uncredited)
- What Every Woman Knows (1921) as John Shand
- The Lost Romance (1921) as Allen Erskine, M.D
- Sacred and Profane Love (1921) as Emilie Diaz, a pianist
- Fool's Paradise (1921) as Arthur Phelps
- Saturday Night (1922) as Richard Prentiss
- Hate (1922) as Dick Talbot
- The Ordeal (1922) as Dr. Robert Acton
- Nice People (1922) as Scotty White
- The Impossible Mrs. Bellew (1922) as John Helstan
- Singed Wings (1922) as Peter Gordon
- Grumpy (1923) as Ernest Heron
- Bella Donna (1923) as Nigel Armine
- Lawful Larceny (1923) as Andrew Dorsey
- The Rendezvous (1923) as Walter Stanford
- Name the Man (1924) as Victor Stowell
- Three Weeks (1924) as Paul Verdayne
- The Rejected Woman (1924) as John Leslie
- Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1924) as Angel Clare
- Sinners in Silk (1924) as Brock Farley
- Married Flirts (1924) as Perley Rex
- The Snob (1924) as Herrick Appleton
- So This Is Marriage (1924) as Peter Marsh
- Excuse Me (1925) as Harry Mallory
- Cheaper to Marry (1925) as Dick Tyler
- Pretty Ladies (1925) as Maggie's Dream Lover
- Sun-Up (1925) as Rufe
- Lights of Old Broadway (1925) as Dirk de Rhonde
- The Only Thing (1925) as Harry Vane - the Duke of Chevenix
- Dance Madness (1926) as Roger Halladay
- Memory Lane (1926) as Jimmy Holt
- The Exquisite Sinner (1926) as Dominique Prad
- The Waning Sex (1926) as Philip Barry
- There You Are! (1926) as George Fenwick
- Tin Hats (1926) as Jack Benson
- Heaven on Earth (1927) as Edmond Durand
- Slightly Used (1927) as Major John Smith
- Quality Street (1927) as Dr. Valentine Brown
- The Girl from Chicago (1927) as Handsome Joe
- London After Midnight (1927) as Arthur Hibbs
- If I Were Single (1927) as Ted Howard
- Tenderloin (1928) as Chuck White
- The Crimson City (1928) as Ralph Blake
- Glorious Betsy (1928) as Jérôme Bonaparte
- Diamond Handcuffs (1928) as John
- The Michigan Kid (1928) as Michigan Kid / Jim Rowen
- The Mysterious Lady (1928) as Karl von Raden
- The Kiss (1929) as André
- Caught in the Fog (1928) as Bob Vickers
- State Street Sadie (1928) as Ralph Blake
- The Terror (1928) as Narrator of Spoken Credit Titles (uncredited)
- Red Wine (1928) as Charles H. Cook
- The Redeeming Sin (1929) as Dr. Raoul de Boise
- Kid Gloves (1929) as Kid Gloves
- The Idle Rich (1929) as William van Luyn
- The Thirteenth Chair (1929) as Richard Crosby
- The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (1929) as Himself - Master of Ceremonies
- The Sacred Flame (1929) as Col. Maurice Taylor
- Dynamite (1929) as Roger Towne
- The Ship from Shanghai (1930) as Howard Vazey
- Second Wife (1930) as Walter Fairchild
- Redemption (1930) as Victor Karenin
- The Divorcee (1930) as Paul
- One Romantic Night (1930) as Dr. Nicholas Haller
- Numbered Men (1930) as 26521
- A Lady Surrenders (1930) as Winthrop Beauvel
- Du Barry, Woman of Passion (1930) as Cosse de Brissac
- Today (1930) as Fred Warner
- Free Love (1930) as Stephen Ferrier
- The Right of Way (1931) as Charley 'Beauty' Steele
- East Lynne (1931) as Robert Carlyle
- Bad Sister (1931) as Dr. Dick Lindley
- Three Who Loved (1931) as John Hanson
- Son of India (1931) as William Darsay
- The Reckless Hour (1931) as Edward 'Eddie' Adams
- The Pagan Lady (1931) as Ernest Todd
- Hell Divers (1931) as Lieutenant D.W. "Duke" Johnson
- The Man Called Back (1932) as Dr. David Yorke
- Divorce in the Family (1932) as Dr. Shumaker
- Kongo (1932) as Kingsland
- Fast Life (1932) as Burton
- The Constant Woman (1933) as Walt Underwood
- Ann Vickers (1933) as Lindsey Atwell
- Dangerous Corner (1934) as Robert Chatfield
- The Marines Are Coming (1934) as Capt. Edward 'Ned' Benton
- One Hour Late (1934) as Stephen Barclay
- Death Flies East (1935) as John Robinson Gordon
- One New York Night (1935) as Kent
- Ball at Savoy (1936) as John Egan, posing as Baron Dupont
- The Girl from Mandalay (1936) as John Foster
- Wedding Present (1936) as Roger Dodacker
- Yellow Cargo (1936) as Alan O'Connor
- Navy Spy (1937) as Alan O'Connor
- The Gold Racket (1937) as Alan O'Connor
- Bank Alarm (1937) as Alan O'Connor
- The Mad Empress (1939) as Maximilian
- One Million B.C. (1940) as Narrator
- I Want a Divorce (1940) as David Holland, Sr.
- Forever Yours (1945) as Dr. Randall
- The Adventures of Rusty (1945) as Hugh Mitchell
- Stage Struck (1948) as Police Lt. Williams
- The Vicious Circle (1948) as Karl Nemesch
- All That Heaven Allows (1955) as Harvey
- Hidden Fear (1957) as Arthur Miller
- A Stranger in My Arms (1959) as Harley Beasley
- The Man Who Understood Women (1959) as G.K. Brody
In the M*A*S*H episode "Abyssinia, Henry" (which featured McLean Stevenson's final appearance on the show), Lt. Col. Blake finds out that his mother-in-law used his brown double-breasted suit to attend a costume party dressed as Conrad Nagel.
|1953||Theater of Life||Three Miracles|
- Slide, Anthony (February 1, 2010). Silent Players: A Biographical and Autobiographical Study of 100 Silent Film Actors and Actresses. University Press of Kentucky. p. 263. ISBN 978-0813137452.
- "Old-Time Star Conrad Nagel Found Dead". The Dispatch. Lexington, North Carolina. February 25, 1970. p. 13. Retrieved April 23, 2014.
- "History of The Lambs". The Lambs, Inc. Retrieved August 18, 2019.
- Eyman, Scott (March 13, 1997). The Speed of Sound: Hollywood and the Talkie Revolution 1926-1930. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1439104286. Retrieved August 18, 2019.
- Dunning, John (May 7, 1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio (Revised ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. pp. 22-23. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3. Retrieved 2019-09-26.
Alec Templeton Time, musical variety.
- "Radio Headliners In Star Roles on "Silver Theatre"". Harrisburg Telegraph. May 31, 1947. p. 17. Retrieved May 28, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.
- "The Case of the Torrid Tapestry", S04E23, Perry Mason series, originally broadcast in the United States on the CBS television network, April 22, 1961. IMDb. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
- "Conrad Nagel, Actor, Dies at 72; Star of Stage and Silent Pictures". The New York Times. 25 February 1970.
- Kirby, Walter (July 5, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 40. Retrieved July 5, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
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