When I visited Warren William’s home town of Aitkin, Minnesota a few years ago, I spoke with one of the archivists at the Aitkin County Historical Society. He mentioned that he was in touch with the man who was responsible for choosing people to be enshrined in the Minnesota Walk of Fame, and that Warren William was not being considered for the honor. As is quite common, the committee insisted that Warren William was not well known, when of course, what they meant was that THEY did not know him. I decided that I should make the effort to advocate on Warren’s behalf, and to that end, I sent the committee this letter:
It is true, Warren William is not as famous as some other Minnesota natives. Bob Dylan, Winona Ryder and Prince (Rogers Nelson) spring to mind. But the job of the historian and record keeper is not to celebrate only those we know today, but to educate the public about why we should remember those long gone. If we left it up to the public to keep the record, how long would it be before Sauk Center’s Sinclair Lewis was consigned to oblivion? Or F. Scott Fitzgerald? Or God forbid, Walter Mondale?
Warren William Krech was born in 1894 in Aitkin to a lineage – the Krechs and the Potters – who helped found and build the town. He served in France during the Great War, then moved to New York where for 10 years he starred on the Manhattan stage during the Golden Age of Broadway – the era that brought us Eugene Oneill, Rodgers and Hart, and Cole Porter – before Warner Brothers signed him to a movie contract in 1931.
Within a year of his arrival at Warner Brothers he was a star. Not a second lead or character player, but a genuine STAR – a leading man for a who’s who of classic Hollywood: Bette Davis, Rita Hayworth, Mae West, Mary Astor, Barbara Stanwyck and many others. During his five years with Warner Brothers he headlined over 30 movies, including three that were nominated for Best Picture Oscars. His career took him to virtually every studio: Columbia, Paramount, 20th Century Fox and the gold standard of film making in the 1930’s, MGM. He was Ceasar in Cecil B. DeMille’s Cleopatra, played Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon before Humphrey Bogart adopted the role, was the first man to play Perry Mason in any media, and starred in the film where Errol Flynn made his debut. By the time he passed away in 1948, he had made almost 70 movies, including some true classics.
When the Screen Actor’s Guild started in 1933, Warren William was one of a small handful of people at the meeting. He was the 61st member of the guild which now boasts 120,000 members, and served on the Board multiple times. His charity work is legendary, and (a rarity) one would be hard pressed to find a member of the Hollywood community who had something bad to say about him.
Shortly after Warren’s death, the Hollywood Walk of Fame was established, and he was one of the ORIGINAL stars in the very first installation made in 1960. His star resides at 1559 Vine Street.
Please consider that it is a great responsibility to be the arbiter of remembrance and forgetting. The public may not know about the past, and be uncaring – but if they are educated, you might just discover how important they think some things are. Warren William is a Minnesotan and a star. It stands to reason then, that his star should shine brightest in Minnesota.
Warren William still does not have a star on the Minnesota Walk of Fame. In the near future, I’m going to be researching what it will take to get our favorite scoundrel his recognition in Minneapolis. More to come…
If Warren William can make it on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he certainly should be honored by his home state of Minnesota.