Ernest Torrence

D.O.B: Jun 26, 1878 | Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

11Credit Score

He was the man you loved to hiss. This towering (6 4), highly imposing character star with cold, hollow, beady eyes and a huge, protruding snout would go on to become one of the silent screens finest arch villains.

Biography

He was the man you loved to hiss. This towering (6 4), highly imposing character star with cold, hollow, beady eyes and a huge, protruding snout would go on to become one of the silent screens finest arch villains. Born Ernest Thayson Torrence-Thompson on June 26, 1878, in Edinburgh, Scotland, he was, unlikely enough, an exceptional pianist and operatic baritone. A graduate of the Stuttgart Conservatory, Edinburgh Academy before earning a scholarship at Londons Royal Academy of Music, he toured with the DOyly Carte Opera Company in such productions as The Emerald Isle (1901) and The Talk of the Town (1905) before serious vocal problems set in. Both Ernest and his actor brother David Torrence came to America directly from Scotland prior to WWI. Focusing instead on a purely acting career, both brothers developed into seasoned players on the New York stage. Ernest made his Broadway bow with Modest Suzanne in 1912 and a standout role in The Night Boat in 1920 brought him to the attention of Hollywood filmmakers. He earned superb marks playing the despicable adversary Luke Hatburn in Tolable David (1921) opposite Richard Barthelmess, and immediately settled into films for the rest of his career. Adept at both comedy and drama, Ernest avoided what could have been a damaging stereotype with his sympathetic portrayal of a grizzled old codger in the classic western The Covered Wagon (1923). He further bolstered his celebrity with plum, lip-smacking roles alongside Lon Chaney 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. In an offbeat bit of casting he paired up with Clara Bow in Mantrap (1926) as a gentle, bear-like backwoodsman in search of a wife, and participated in other silent classics such as The King of Kings (1927) (as Peter) and Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) as Buster Keatons steamboat captain Dad.