George Arliss Overview:

Legendary actor, George Arliss, was born George Augustus Andrews on Apr 10, 1868 in London, UK. Arliss died at the age of 77 on Feb 5, 1946 in London, UK and was laid to rest in All Saints Churchyard Cemetery in Harrow Weald, Greater London, England.

Early Life and Career

George Arliss was born George Augustus Andrews on April 10th, 1868 in the very fashionable Bloomsbury district of London, England. He was the youngest of four children born to William and Rebecca Arliss-Andrews. His siblings were Fred, Daisy and Charley. His father, who worked in printing and publishing, was known in his area as "The Duke of Bloomsbury," due to elegant manner of dress. Arliss made his first amateur performance at the age of seven at one of the local theaters. Despite his natural talent for performance, Arliss received his formal education at the elite Harrow school in north-west London and was expected to follow in the family tradition of working in the Publishing industry. After graduating he began to work for his father but the work quickly grew monotonous for young 18 year-old boy. He later left his cushy desk job at the publishing house and chanced it in the risky world of theatre. He began his career like any other dreamer with limited experience: traveling with second-rate theatre groups, performing for English provinces. He worked feverishly for the next decade, developing his craft and distinctive performance style. By the turn of the century Arliss was playing supporting roles at London's West End.


At the behest of his wife, Arliss joined the famed Mrs. Patrick Campbell's acting troupe in 1901 and accompanied them on a tour across the United States. He made his American debut in The Second Mrs. Tanqueray opposite Mrs. Patrick Campbell herself.  Although his original plan was to stay in America only for the duration of the tour, Arliss remained in the States even after the rest of the troupe returned to England. He quickly found work on the Broadway stage, making his debut in the 1902 revival of Magda. Arliss was then cast in his next play, portraying the villainous Zakkuri in the David Belasco produced The Darling of the Gods. Theatre going audiences took note of the server looking actor and soon Arliss was under the management of Harrison Grey Fiske. He was immediately cast opposite Mrs. Fiske in her production of Langdon Michelle's Becky Sharp. He remained under Harrison's management for the next decade, acting exclusively in their Broadway productions for nearly almost 10 years. He excelled at playing supporting characters for the remained for the decade, lending support in Hedda Gabler in 1904, The Rose in 1905, They Eyes of the Heart in 1906, and The New York Idea in 1908.


Although a respected name on the American stage, Arliss did not become a star until 1908. Once again cast in Harrison Grey Fiske Production, Arliss starred in the original Broadway run of The Devil playing the devil himself: The Devil. The play was a massive success and ran for over 100 shows. The next year he starred in yet another Fiske play, this time in the Philip Littell penned Septimus. In 1911 starred in the Play Disraeli as the 19th century British Prime Minster. The play was commissioned by and co-written Arliss himself and went on to be one of the biggest Broadway hits of the year. Arliss subsequently went on tour with the play, effectively playing the role for five years. He finally returned to Broadway in 1916 as the title role in Paganini. He remained primarily on the Great White Way for the next five years, starring in Broadway shows such as The Professor's Love Story, Hamilton, Out There and even a revival of Disraeli in 1917. By 1920 the over 50 year-old Arliss was already a widely accomplished star of the stage. While most stage stars of his age and caliber might have happy to remain in New York, Arliss had other plans and headed west for Hollywood.

After almost four decades on the stage, in 1921 Arliss began his film career with the big screen adaption of his first Broadway hit The Devil. The film was a hit and thus Warner Brothers studios capitalized on the formula and cast Arliss in another adaptation of his Broadway triumphs, Disraeli. He remained in Hollywood for three years, acting in four more films, The Ruling Passion, The Man Who Played God, The Green Goddess, and Twenty Dollars a Week. He returned to Broadway in 1924 to play the part of Sylvanus Heythorp in Old English. In 1928 he gave his final Broadway bow as Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice.  Arliss returned to Hollywood in 1929 once again playing British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli in the sound film adaption of Disraeli. The film was complete success and at age 61, Arliss would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Warner Brothers

Arliss remained at Warner Brother's for the next decade. He worked on paper merely as an actor but in reality was given an extremely unusual and gracious amount of creative control over his films. Not only was given the power to rewrite any script he found unsatisfactory, but he also was granted the power to choose his own co-stars and director. One such occasion was his insistence on casting the then-unknown Bette Davis over the studio picked Grace Blair as his co-star The Man Who Played God. The film was Davis's first leading role. Arliss's eye for finding talent did only extend to actor, but he also helped those behind the scene get their chance to shine as well. He brought his stage manager, Maude Howell, with him to Hollywood, as his assistant producer and thus making her one of the new woman with executive power in Hollywood. He also aided the career of director John Adolfi, who was little know before directing the majority of Arliss's  films at Warner Brothers.  Of the films he made at Warner Brother's his most successful included Alexander Hamilton, The Man Who Played God, The King's Vacation and The Working Man.

Arliss followed producer Darryl, F. Zanuck, to 20th Century Pictures in 1933, where he continued to work as both in front and behind the camera. His first film for his new company was the 1934 historical drama The House of Rothschild starring Arliss, Loretta Young, and Boris Karloff.  That same year the stern looking veteran actor showed he could loosen his stiff-manner and make people laugh, co-starring with Edna May Oliver in the Sidney Lanfield comedy The Last Gentleman. He finished the year by starring in another historical drama, this time the biographical picture The Iron Duke directed by Victor Saville. In 1934 British film audiences voted the 66-year-old actor as their favorite male star.

Later Career and Life

Arliss remained at 20th Century for one picture, Cardinal Richelieu, before returning to England in 1935. He continued to work in the film industry, producing under Gaumont British Picture Corporation. His first film back in the UK was the Milton Rosmer comedy Mister Hobo. That same year he played a supporting role in the science fiction picture The Tunnel. He returned to his trusted genre of historical fiction for the 1936 pictures East Meets West and Man of Affairs. The next year, Arliss made his final silver screen appearance as the titular character of Doctor Syn. Soon after, Arliss retired to his home in London. Despite living under heavy fire during the German Blitz of London through out World War II, Arliss remained in his hometown. George Arliss died on February 5th, 1946 of a bronchial ailment in London. He was 77 years old. 

(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).



George Arliss was nominated for one Academy Award, winning for Best Actor for Disraeli (as Benjamin Disraeli) in 1929/30.

Academy Awards

YearAwardFilm nameRoleResult
1929/30Best ActorDisraeli (1929)Benjamin DisraeliWon

He was honored with one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Motion Pictures.

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George Arliss Quotes:

Benjamin Disraeli: I cannot break faith with the nation.

The Raja of Rukh: [Last line] Well, well, she probably of been a damn nuisance.

Benjamin Disraeli: Behold! Winter hand in hand with spring. Innocence with...
Lord Charles Deeford: [interrupts] Guile?
Benjamin Disraeli: Experience. Same thing.

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Best Actor Oscar 1929/30

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George Arliss on the
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George Arliss Facts
Was the first British actor to win an Academy Award.

Once, during a court appearance, Arliss described himself as The world's greatest living actor. "You see, I am on oath", he explained.

Often erroneously listed as father of Leslie Arliss. In truth he had no children.

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