Jean Hersholt; date uniknown.
 
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Jean Hersholt
Forecourt Ceremony held on Thursday, October 20, 1949
 
Born: July 12, 1886, in Copenhagen, Denmark
Age at the time of the ceremony: 63
Died: June 2, 1956, in Hollywood, California, age 69
 
Jean Hersholt was a star of the silent screen, eventually becoming a beloved character actor in sound films. He is best known for inspiring the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, bestowed occassionally on film industry philanthropists by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Hersholt's parents were both actors employed by the Danish Folk Theatre, so it was only natural that young Jean would join the troup and tour Europe. Graduating from the Copenhagen Art School, Hersholt made his first film in Germany in 1906.

Emmigrating to America in 1913, Hersholt traveled to Hollywood, where he began appearing in a large number of films. He played a bartender in the William S. Hart Western Hell's Hinges (released in March, 1916), and played a professor in the Rudolph Valentino hit The Four Horsemen of the Apocalyse (released in March, 1921).

After playing ministers, princes, mayors, counts, parsons, and jurors, Hersholt gain cinema immortality by playing the heavy, Marcus, in Erich von Stroheim's epic Greed (released reluctantly by the newly-formed M-G-M in December, 1924). He got to play Aug Hempel in the first film of Edna Ferber's So Big with Colleen Moore (released in December, 1924), and was in the first film of Stella Dallas (released in November, 1925). By the end of the silent era Hersholt actually headlined in a part-talking film at Universal: The Girl on the Barge (released in February, 1929).

During the sound era, Hersholt's calm presence and soft danish-accented voice made him a natural supporting performer. His most famous roles were in Grand Hotel (which had its premiere at the Chinese in April, 1932), The Mask of Fu Manchu (released in November, 1932) and Dinner at Eight (which premiered at the Chinese in August, 1933). Hersholt continued to play quasi-European characters of all kinds, fathers, professors and most importantly, doctors.

When 20th Century-Fox wanted to make films starring the famous Dionne Quintuplets, the children were not allowed to leave their nursery outside of Toronto, Canada, so Hersholt went to them to play their doctor in The Country Doctor (which played the Chinese in March, 1936). He would make two more films with the Quints: Reunion (played the Chinese in November, 1936), and Five of a Kind (played the Chinese in November, 1938). Hersholt imprinted his own footprints as well as those of the Dionne Quits in absensia at the Chinese in October, 1938, but the cement began to crack, causing them to be removed.

Hersholt's interest in medicine afforded him the opportunity to play Dr. Christian on the radio, over CBS beginning in November, 1937. Hersholt was able to bring Dr. Christian to the screen in a series of films, beginning with Meet Dr. Christian (released in November, 1939).

Also in 1939, Hersholt became involved in helping to form the Motion Picture Relief Fund to help look out for movie people who had fallen on hard times. Eventually becoming the Fund president, Helsholt oversaw the fundraising, construction, and opening of the Motion Picture (and Television Country House and) Hospital in Woodland Hills, California in 1948.

Hersholt became the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1945, and left the office in 1949. As president of the Academy, Hersolt conferred an honorary Oscar on his good friend Sid Grauman during the 21st Awards of Merit Ceremony at the Academy Theatre in Los Angeles, on Thursday, March 24, 1949. The Academy has posted a clip of Hersholt and Grauman during this ceremony on YouTube.

Hersholt's Dr. Christian character became such a staple for him that, for the remainer of his career, he did nothing else but play the kindly doctor in five more films, and then brought the show to television, where it aired in syndication. When Hersholt died in 1956 after doing only two episodes, his character was filled in by actor MacDonald Carey, who did 39 episodes before the series was discontinued in 1957.

Jean Hersholt was an avid collector of the work of Danish writer Hans Christian Anderson; not only did he name his doctor character after the writer, but Hersholt became well-known in publishing circles for translating all of Andersen's works into English. He was a big fan of Hugh Walpole and Sinclair Lewis. His entire collection was donated to the Library of Congress. He died of cancer in 1956 at the age of 69.
 
 
Caption TK
Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood, California. Jean Hersholt Forecourt ceremony, thursday, October 20, 1949. Sid Grauman and Jean Hersholt share a smoky embrace while cement artist Jean Klossner attempts a foot imprint.
 
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