Moroni Olsen

Birth name:
Date of Birth:
22 November 1889 Ogden, Utah, USA
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Even his more courteous, somewhat friendlier types gave one pause for concern. Character actor Moroni Olsen was one of Hollywood's more imposing performers of film during the 30s, 40s and early 50s. Born and raised in Utah to Mormon parents, this tall, beefy, balding, icy-eyed player began in tent shows and by age 30 had formed the Moroni Olsen Players, one of the better known touring stage companies at the time. Following several years under the Broadway lights, he made a rather tepid film debut as Porthos in The Three Musketeers (1935), a rather dull version of the classic Dumas story and starring a weak Walter Abel as D'Artagnan, but his strong, regal bearing and classically trained voice was obviously suitable for movies and he stayed in Hollywood. He was a formidable Buffalo Bill to Barbara Stanwyck's Annie Oakley (1935), and, in other key historical supports, was quite good in the Katherine Hepburn vehicle Mary of Scotland (1936) (as John Knox, a role he played on Broadway), The Plough and the Stars (1936) (as General Connolly), Santa Fe Trail (1940) (as Robert E. Lee), and Lone Star (1952) as Sam Houston. He played a much older Porthos (at age 63) in At Sword's Point (1952) opposite Cornel Wilde as D'Artagnan and Alan Hale, Jr. as the younger, more limber Porthos. His intimating, unsympathetic features were very much at home portraying corrupt villains, dogged inspectors, no-nonsense doctors, barnstorming preachers, powerful attorneys and men of importance. In between film assignments, Olsen was active with the Pasadena Playhouse as both a director and performer. One of his last film assignments was as Pope Leo I in Sign of the Pagan (1954) before he died of a heart attack.
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