Warner Baxter publicity photo
|Born||March 29, 1889|
Columbus, Ohio, U.S.
|Died||May 7, 1951 (aged 62)|
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California|
|Viola Caldwell (m.1911–div.1913)|
Winifred Bryson (m.1918)
Warner Leroy Baxter (March 29, 1889 - May 7, 1951)[note 1] was an American film actor from the 1910s to the 1940s. Baxter became known for his role as the Cisco Kid in the 1928 film In Old Arizona, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor at the 2nd Academy Awards. He frequently played womanizing, charismatic Latin bandit types in Westerns, and played the Cisco Kid or a similar character throughout the 1930s, but had a range of other roles throughout his career.
Baxter began his movie career in silent films with his most notable roles being in The Great Gatsby (1926) and The Awful Truth (1925). Baxter's most notable talkies are In Old Arizona (1929), 42nd Street (1932), Slave Ship (1937) with Wallace Beery, Kidnapped (1938) with Freddie Bartholomew, and the 1931 ensemble short film, The Stolen Jools. In the 1940s, he was well known for his recurring role as Dr. Robert Ordway in the Crime Doctor series of 10 films.
Baxter was born on March 29, 1889. in Columbus, Franklin Co., Ohio, to Edwin F. Baxter, born October 1, 1867, Marysville, Union Co., Ohio and Jennie (Jane) B. Barrett, born December 30, 1869, Columbus, Franklin Co., Ohio. Jennie Barrett was the daughter of Leroy Barrett and Hattie Snider. (Note: Ohio Birth Index shows date as March 30, 1889. Baxter's parents were married May 10, 1888, Columbus, Franklin Co., Ohio. Edwin Baxter owned a cigar stand in Columbus, Ohio. Edwin F. Baxter, son of William E. Baxter and Mary C. Miller Baxter, died on September 16, 1889 at Columbus, Franklin Co., Ohio. Baxter was not quite 5 months old when his father died. Baxter's mother survived him by ten years. Jane/Jennie Barrett Baxter died on March 29, 1962 at her home in Beverly Hills, California. Her cremated remains were inurned at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Great Mausoleum, Glendale, California.
Baxter and his mother went to live with her brother in Columbus. They later moved to New York City, where he became active in dramatics, both participating in school productions and attending plays. In 1898, the two moved to San Francisco, where he graduated from Polytechnic High School. When the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck, Baxter and his mother lived in Golden Gate Park for eight days and then went to live with friends in Alameda for three months. In 1908, they returned to Columbus. After selling farm implements for a living, Baxter worked for four months as the partner of Dorothy Shoemaker in an act on the Keith Vaudeville Circuit.
Baxter began his film career as an extra in 1914 in a stock company. He had his first starring role in Sheltered Daughters (1921), and starred in 48 features during the 1920s. His most notable silent roles were in The Great Gatsby (1926), Aloma of the South Seas (1926) as an island love interest opposite dancer Gilda Gray, and an alcoholic doctor in West of Zanzibar (1928) with Lon Chaney.
Author David Shipman wrote in 1970, "'He is the beau ideal, a Valentino without a horse and the costume of a sheik. He is the fellow the girls meet around the corner, that is, if the fellow were Warner Baxter. He is the chap the lonely woman on the prairie sees when she looks at the men's ready-to-wear pages in the latest mail order catalogue'; this appraisal by Jim Tully appeared in Picturegoer in 1936. Baxter was certainly the inspiration for artwork in mail-order catalogues and adverts for pipes, the prototype for men modelling cardigans or pullovers or tweeds. During the early Sound period he was one of Hollywood's leading actors. There was no éclat with him no scandals, no Hollywood careering. Women liked him because he was mature and reliable. He was a good work-horse of an actor, often at the mercy of his material. When it was good, he gave positive, likeable performances. It was a long career but he is hardly remembered today."
Baxter's most notable starring role was as the Cisco Kid in In Old Arizona (1929), the first all-talking Western, for which he won the second Academy Award for Best Actor. He also starred in 42nd Street (1933), Grand Canary (1934), Broadway Bill (1934), and Kidnapped (1938).
By 1936, Baxter was the highest-paid actor in Hollywood, but by 1943, he had slipped to B movie roles, and he starred in a series of Crime Doctor films for Columbia Pictures. Baxter had roles in more than 100 films between 1914 and 1950. In 1936, Baxter had what Leonard Maltin considered his finest job of acting in John Ford's "The Prisoner of Shark Island."
Between 1935 and 1941, Internal Revenue Service published annually the individuals with the highest incomes. These amount may differ from other published sources that are usually higher. Baxter was under contract for a full years service to 20th Century Fox. Normally top talent contracts ran for seven years and allowed for six weeks off per year. The IRS stated in 1935, Baxter made $203,000 ($3,837,319.19 in 2019), 1936 reported $284,000 ($5,315,313.12 in 2019), and for 1937, $225,961 ($4,082,105.70 in 2019). As stated earlier, he was the highest paid contract actor in 1936.
Between 1930 and 1936, Myrna Loy was costarred with Baxter four times. Renegades, Penthouse, Broadway Bill, and To Mary-With Love. She wrote in her 1987 autobiography, "And I have fond memories of Warner, a good actor and a charming man, because we did several pictures together. Renegades was a happy film because of them (Baxter and director Victor Fleming). Only two other actors did she costar with more often, Clark Gable and William Powell."
Toward the end of Baxter's career and life he wrote a one time guest column published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1948, entitled "The Roll I Liked Best." He wrote in part, "I must admit that I rate the Kid's (Cisco Kid) first film, In Old Arizona, as my top favorite." He went on to write how as an early "talkie" and the first outdoor talking feature picture made they had to hide microphones in trees and behind rocks at that time. "In Old Arizona started as a two-reeler and we built it up to an eight-reeler. I thoroughly enjoyed the building-up part. It made me feel that I had helped create a new Cisco Kid for the pictures. Then, too, the fact that I got an Oscar for the job caused me no pain." He said this film allowed him to ultimately play the roll of Cisco five times. Arizona Kid in 1930 was the second of five. He liked the warmth and color of the character while modifying O. Henry's story with comedy and drama. In keeping his Oscar in proper perspective, around 1945, Life Magazine photographed him with the trophy but never published it. The photo shows Baxter in a club chair in his Beverly Hills home looking fondly at his dog, an American Cocker Spaniel on the floor. The dog's leash is anchored to his gold Oscar and sitting on the floor with the dog.
For a number of years stunt man and western actor Frank McGrath known best for his roll on the TV series Wagon Train was a stand-in and stunt double for Baxter. He so greatly resembled Baxter that they could have passed for brothers per Los Angeles Times reporter John Scott. The two men formed a friendship outside of the studios and McGrath worked in several capacities for him away from filming. Studio still photos exist today from 20th Century Fox film "Slave Ship" (1937) showing identically dressed Baxter and McGrath looking like brothers.
Married Viola Pauline Calwell, born September 2, 1888, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, in 1914 at Philadelphia, Philadelphia Co., Pennsylvania. NOTE: her surname was COLWELL on license and several census sheets.
Married Winifred M. Bryson on January 29, 1918, Bronx, New York City, New York.
Draft Registration for World War One, living at 333 S. Hope St., Los Angeles, CA. Gave date of birth of March 29, 1889. Stated sole support of mother.
Registered Republican 1924 though 1950.
Baxter had a personal listing submitted by him in Who's Who of California in 1928. He stated his address, listed his birth date correct but taking four years off his age, Mason, Republican, Protestant and was a member of the Maskers Club, Hollywood Athletic, and both the Edgewater Beach and Casa del Mar Clubs in Santa Monica.
August 5, 1931, Survived uninjured with 40 other cast and crew members the train derailment of the Southern Pacific Argonaut east of Yuma on route to Tucson for location shooting for The Cisco Kid (1931). Two trainmen were killed in the derailment. Baxter, Conchita Montenegro, and Edmund Lowe were among the passengers in cars at the end of the train.
Homeowner living at 688 Nimes Road, Bel Aire, Los Angeles, California with wife, Winifred, and four household servants on April 10, 1940. The house was razed in 1985. The Tudor styled house situated on four acres was 16,000 square feet containing 7 kitchens. The house, pool, garages, tennis court and outbuildings were designed in 1932 by architect Harry G. Werner. It was ready for occupancy in 1933. Among other unique features, the house had secret panels and passageways, due to low cost of electricity at the time it was constructed the house was entirely electric with a heating system for each room along with a communications system. It was obviously built on that scale for entertaining. After Baxter sold it the house underwent major modernization during the ownership of Barbie Doll creator Jack Ryan who owned it from 1963 until 1977.
Homeowner living at 911 North Roxbury Drive, Beverly Hills, CA from 1944 until his death. His widow continued to live in the house through the 1960s with her second husband. In the 1960s it was owned by actress Elizabeth Montgomery, daughter of actor Robert Montgomery. The house razed in 2019.
Beach house at 77 Malibu Beach, Malibu, California for many years. Was very active in Malibu civic affairs. Was named Honorary Mayor of Malibu from 1946, replacing Brian Donlevy, through 1949.
When not acting, Baxter was an inventor who co-created a searchlight for revolvers in 1935, which allowed a shooter to more clearly see a target at night. He also developed a radio device that allowed emergency crews to change traffic signals from two blocks away, providing them with safe passage through intersections. He financed the device's installation at a Beverly Hills intersection in 1940.
Baxter suffered from arthritis for several years, and in 1951, he underwent a lobotomy as a last resort to ease the chronic pain. On May 7, 1951, he died of pneumonia at age 62 and was interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. His grave is located in the private section, Garden of Memory. His bronze headstone has a reproduction of his signature. The inscription is in the handwriting of his wife, Winifred Bryson Baxter.
Warner Leroy Baxter's death certificate stated the following. He died at his residence on May 7, 1951 at 5:50 PM, 911 North Roxbury Drive, Beverly Hills, California. Informant Philip M. Schiefer (his manager). The death certificate further stated, "Cause of Death, Broncho-pneumonia, terminal 24 hrs. Carcinoma of prostate with generalized metastasis - 6 months. Treatment: 1/8/1943 to death; no operation; no autopsy."
His funeral was held at the Wee Kirk O' The Heather chapel at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California on May 11, 1951. The service was conducted by Dr. Franklin Kelly of Christ Church, Unity. The Los Angeles Times noted that the private funeral service was markedly reminiscent of the film capitol's earlier days. Among his pallbearers were long time close friends Ronald Colman, William Powell, and Tim McCoy. He was buried in a bronze casket with a portrait of his wife.
Prior to his death he was reported on February, 6, 1951, to being "seriously ill" with a "chronic illness" in hospital since January 18, 1951. It mentions he was much improved and celebrated his 33rd wedding anniversary on January 29. On April 8, 1951, the L A Times reported the actor being ill at home the last month. His doctors John Sharpe and Richard Barton reported his "condition is steadily becoming more critical. On April 21, 1951, the L A Times reported that Baxter was out of the hospital following "a cranial nerve operation described as a "complete success" by Phil Schaefer, Baxter's manager. He said Baxter "had suffered for years from a chronic illness which caused eating difficulties and induced malnutrition."
On June 13, 1951, his last will and testament dated April 10, 1946 was entered into probate at Los Angeles. He left all his property to his wife and no valuation was made in the documents other that stating it will exceed $10,000. His obituary stated in recent years he had long been interested in real estate and business projects.
|1914||Her Own Money||Lew Alden||uncredited|
|1921||First Love||Donald Halliday||Incomplete; Museum of Modern Art (New York)|
|Cheated Hearts||Tom Gordon|
|The Love Charm||Thomas Morgan|
|Sheltered Daughters||Pep Mullins|
|1922||If I Were Queen||Vladimir|
|A Girl's Desire||Jones/Lord Dysart|
|The Ninety and Nine||Tom Silverton/Phil Bradbury|
|The Girl in His Room||Kirk Waring|
|Her Own Money||Lew Alden|
|1923||St. Elmo||Murray Hammond||Lost|
|Blow Your Own Horn||Jack Dunbar|
|In Search of a Thrill||Adrian Torrens|
|Those Who Dance||Bob Kane||Extant; Library of Congress (per Tave/IMDb review)|
|1924||Christine of the Hungry Heart||Stuart Knight||Extant; Library of Congress (per Tave/IMDb review)|
|The Female||Col. Valentia|
|His Forgotten Wife||Donald Allen/John Rolfe||Extant; Library of Congress|
|The Garden of Weeds||Douglas Crawford|
|1925||The Best People||Henry Morgan||Lost|
|A Son of His Father||Big Boy Morgan|
|Rugged Water||Calvin Horner||Lost|
|Welcome Home||Fred Prouty||Extant|
|The Awful Truth||Norman Satterlee||print preserved at UCLA Film and Television (per IMDb)|
|The Air Mail||Russ Kane||Incomplete|
|The Golden Bed||Bunny O'Neill||Extant|
|1926||Aloma of the South Seas||Nuitane||Lost|
|The Runaway||Wade Murrell||Lost|
|The Great Gatsby||Jay Gatsby||Lost|
|Miss Brewster's Millions||Thomas B. Hancock Jr||Lost|
|1927||The Coward||Clinton Philbrook|
|Drums of the Desert||John Curry||Lost|
|The Telephone Girl||Matthew Standish|
|Craig's Wife||Walter Craig||Lost|
|1928||Danger Street||Rolly Sigsby|
|Three Sinners||James Harris||Lost|
|The Tragedy of Youth||Frank Gordon||Lost|
|West of Zanzibar||Doc||directed by Tod Browning; Extant|
|A Woman's Way||Tony||Lost|
|In Old Arizona||The Cisco Kid||Academy Award for Best Actor - Extant|
|1929||Romance of the Rio Grande||Pablo Wharton Cameron|
|Behind That Curtain||Col. John Beetham||Extant|
|The Far Call||?||Lost|
|Thru Different Eyes||Jack Winfield||Extant (special silent version only, incomplete)|
|Linda||Dr. Paul Randall||Extant|
|Such Men Are Dangerous||Ludwig Kranz||Extant; Library of Congress|
|The Arizona Kid||The Cisco Kid||Extant; Library of Congress|
|The Squaw Man||James 'Jim' Wingate, aka Jim Carston||Extant|
|1931||Their Mad Moment||Esteban Cristera|
|Doctors' Wives||Dr. Judson Penning|
|The Stolen Jools||The Cisco Kid|
|Daddy Long Legs||Jervis Pendleton|
|The Cisco Kid||The Cisco Kid|
|1932||Six Hours to Live||Capt. Paul Onslow|
|Man About Town||Stephen Morrow|
|Amateur Daddy||Jim Gladden|
|1933||Dangerously Yours||Andrew Burke|
|42nd Street||Julian Marsh|
|I Loved You Wednesday||Philip Fletcher|
|Paddy the Next Best Thing||Lawrence Blake|
|Penthouse||Jackson 'Jack' Durant|
|1934||Hell in the Heavens||Lt. Steve Warner|
|As Husbands Go||Charles Lingard|
|Grand Canary||Dr. Harvey Leith|
|Stand Up and Cheer!||Lawrence Cromwell|
|Such Women Are Dangerous||Michael Shawn|
|Broadway Bill||Dan Brooks|
|1935||Under the Pampas Moon||Cesar Campo|
|One More Spring||Jaret Otkar|
|La Fiesta de Santa Barbara||Himself||Short film|
|1936||White Hunter||Capt. Clark Rutledge|
|To Mary - with Love||Jack Wallace|
|The Road to Glory||Captain Paul La Roche|
|The Prisoner of Shark Island||Dr. Samuel Mudd|
|King of Burlesque||Kerry Bolton|
|The Robin Hood of El Dorado||Joaquin Murrieta|
|1937||Wife, Doctor and Nurse||Dr. Judd Lewis|
|Vogues of 1938||George Curson|
|Slave Ship||Jim Lovett|
|1938||I'll Give a Million||Tony Newlander|
|Wife, Husband and Friend||Leonard Borland aka Logan Bennett|
|The Return of the Cisco Kid||The Cisco Kid|
|1941||Adam Had Four Sons||Adam Stoddard|
|1943||Crime Doctor||Dr. Robert Ordway/Phil Morgan||first of 10 films in the Crime Doctor B-film series|
|Crime Doctor's Strangest Case||Dr. Robert Ordway|
|1944||Shadows in the Night||Dr. Robert Ordway|
|Lady in the Dark||Kendall Nesbitt|
|1945||Crime Doctor's Warning||Dr. Robert Ordway|
|The Crime Doctor's Courage||Dr. Robert Ordway|
|1946||Crime Doctor's Man Hunt||Dr. Robert Ordway|
|Just Before Dawn||Dr. Robert Ordway|
|1947||Crime Doctor's Gamble||Dr. Robert Ordway|
|The Millerson Case||Dr. Robert Ordway|
|1948||The Gentleman from Nowhere||Earl Donovan/Robert Ashton|
|1949||The Crime Doctor's Diary||Dr. Robert Ordway||last of the Crime Doctor series|
|The Devil's Henchman||Jess Arno|
|Prison Warden||Warden Victor Burnell|
|1950||State Penitentiary||Roger Manners|
|1952||O. Henry's Full House||clip of Baxter from The Cisco Kid|