Biography

Actor Richard Dix originally intended to be a surgeon, but dropped out of the University of Minnesota to take a job at a bank. He then accepted an office job in an architecture firm, attending a dramatics course at a local high school in his spare time. Deciding to become a professional performer, Dix secured work with a stock company, eventually graduating to leading-man parts with the celebrated Morosco stock troupe. Following World War I service and a brief stint on Broadway, Dix made his first film, 1920's Not Guilty. This led to a long-term contract with Paramount Pictures, where Dix starred in a string of rugged adventure films which defined his standard screen characterization: the modest, dependable, strong and silent man of action who was moved to violence only when there was no other recourse. Switching from Paramount to RKO Radio in the early talkie period, Dix starred as empire-building Yancey Cravat in RKO's only Oscar-winning film, Cimarron (1931). This film, for which Dix was himself Oscar-nominated, would remain the high water mark of his talkie career, which gradually diminished into inexpensive programmers and westerns. During the 1940s, Dix altered his long-established screen image, allowing himself to play neurotics and psychopaths. He was particularly effective as the obsessive-compulsive captain in Val Lewton's The Ghost Ship (1943) and was equally convincing in "not what he seems" leading roles in Columbia's Whistler "B"-picture series. Illness forced Richard Dix to retire after his last Whistler effort, 1947's The Thirteenth Hour; two years later, he died of heart failure. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi