Ian Keith

1899 - 1960

Ian Keith became a well regarded fixture on the Broadway stage during the 1920s, but from 1924 through the remainder of the decade he expanded his acting into a string of silent movies as well. To begin the next decade, he appeared in the cast of Abraham Lincoln (1930), one of the later movies of D.W. Griffith. His forte was perhaps already becoming obvious -- his role was that of John Wilkes Booth. Keith had a sly look, and there was an irritated but deadpan demeanor and a side-of-the-mouth delivery to his speech that marked him as a great villain. And he played many -- including a surprising number in historic costume. There was never any emotional nuance, but his straight delivery was always completely effective. He figured prominently in some of the most ambitious of the early sound epics: The Sign of the Cross (1932), Cleopatra (1934), and The Crusades (1935) of Cecil B. DeMille, and in the latter Keith was -- a sort of good guy -- the great Sultan Saladin (surely a strange miscas

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