Wallace Reid's Struggle
Against Drug Addiction

Mrs. Wallace Reid, wife of the famous film star, told today for the first time her struggle to save her husband from the grip of the downward pull. Mrs. Reid, too, in an exclusive interview granted The Evening Herald and the Cosmopolitan News Service revealed her husband's plan to make public his battle against the modern dragons, dope and booze - that he might save others. She took the interviewer back behind the scenes of her life and related how Reid's personality won her love; how she had put aside her own screen career to make his home life happy; how, when she saw him going down toward the depths she stood by him as a wife and mother in his battle for self preservation.

"I am opening the book of Wallace Reid's life so that the public will read and know the truth," said Mrs. Reid. "My husband is battling as a man has never battled before. He has traversed the 'land of darkness and the shadow of death.' The horrors of the hell he has gone through would long ago have broken the heart of an ordinary man. But I know as surely as I know there is a God he will win out. How do I know? This is my answer: I did not care for Wallace Reid when I first knew him. He proposed marriage to me. I replied curtly, 'I am not going to marry you or anyone.'

"He went to my mother - he always called her affectionately, 'Mother.' He said to her, 'Mother, I'll make her care for me if it kills me. I've never been licked yet - and I'm not licked now.' He said the same thing just recently, this time under not romantic but dramatic circumstances. He fully realized, poignantly, desperately that he had come to the turn in the road in his life. He reiterated his determination in the sanitarium where he now lies critically ill.

"Some whisky was given him in medicine. Wan, weary and so weak he would faint from exertion when his pillow was turned under his head, he roused himself to protest. In almost a passion of rage he demanded to know what was in the medicine. Someone replied, 'Scotch whisky."

"'What are you trying to do?' he exclaimed. 'Do you want me to get started again?' Then, nerving himself for a final effort, he clenched his teeth and said grimly, 'I'll beat it. I've never been licked yet - and I'm not licked now.'

"No matter what the public hears, no matter what it reads I want it to keep before it the Wally Reid I know, a man of heroic determination, a man who one day suddenly recognized his foe, met it face to face, clenched his teeth and declared, 'We will fight it out now - till one of us is dead.'

"In telling you the story I am relating what he had hoped to do. He knew of the rumors which had spread like wildfire to all parts of the country. It was his plan, as soon as he gained strength, to invite a representative of every Los Angeles newspaper to come to him and hear the true story, the truth of his slavery. He recognized impersonally - as I do - that by reason of his prominence such a story from him would serve to bring forcibly before the people the dangers of the drug evil. He felt that through such a story he would be able to prompt his thousands of screen 'fans' to use their vote and moral and financial influence in behalf of any campaign being waged against the traffic in drugs and liquor. The premature publication of his condition forestalled his plan. Now it has fallen to me to tell the truth. And I want to tell it. I want to tell it more as a mother than as a wife. I want to tell it with all the compassion and tender affection for the one who has always been in my heart and thoughts, 'My boy.'

"Let me go back first to a brighter day than this. Gray clouds have been hanging over the Hollywood hills the past week and they have seemed to me symbolic of the same gray clouds which have been hanging over our lives. But there was a brighter day, a day when love was young in the springtime of our lives. And there must be a bright day ahead for us in our life tomorrow.

"The rise of Wally Reid from histrionic obscurity to the foremost place in film fame was associated with screen names which will come back to you when I mention them. It was back in 1911 I first met Wally Reid. I was then working for the Universal Film Co. While the pictures were restricted to one reel, 'Dorothy Davenport' was a star. I am, as many of the fans know, a niece of the famous Fanny Davenport.

"Wally Reid had come to the coast with the late Otis 'Daddy' Turner - 'The Governor' he was called. Wally as assistant director, scenario writer and general utility man. My director, Milton Fahrney, was ready to make a one-reel picture entitled 'His Son,' a western subject. We were without a leading man. Turner was not ready to start, and Wally, being on the company payroll at $40 a week, was assigned to us as leading man. At that time I was being paid $35 a week. When Wally came to us and said he was to play the leading male role, my impression of him was that he was all hands and feet - and very much embarrassed.

"My impression when the picture was completed was he was a very poor actor. When I came home I complained to mother because I had to play with, as I called him, 'this boy,' when I had been used to playing with such actors as Harold Lockwood, Henry Walthall, James Kirkwood and Arthur Johnson. After 'His Son,' Wally went back to Turner and did several pictures with Marguerita Fischer, Ella Hall and others.

"The members of our company dressed at what was then known as the 'Universal ranch,' now called the Lasky ranch. Wally did many Indian parts. He had previously played at the Vitagraph in 'Deer Slayer,' with Florence Turner, and 'The Indian Romeo,' in casts which included 'Larry' Trimble, Harry Morey and other people who are totally famous or forgotten. Those were the days when Norma Talmadge was an extra girl at the Vitagraph studio. Wally got his start in pictures when he was employed by the Selig company as 'stunt' man. Tom Mix was then in charge of the horses for Selig.

"As I was saying, the members of our company made up at the Universal ranch. Wally used to ride past my dressing room in his Indian regalia. Mother used to rave over his handsome appearance. It was my almost daily practice to slam the door when he would appear because I knew that he knew that he was good looking, and I was not going to let him think that I had succumbed to his good looks. It sounds somewhat childish for me to relate it, but I was only 16 years of age then - and very proud that I was a film star. Gradually, I don't know just how or why, we began going together. One night a week we went to a theater. Wally called this his 'Dorothy night.' It might appear that he had a girl for every night, but this was not true.

"As we became better acquainted Wally and Eugene Pallette prevailed upon mother to take them as boarders. Phyllis Gordon, who was playing leads with the Selig company, also asked to come with us because her health was not the best and she wanted to sleep on our sleeping porch. I had always wanted a pony. It had been the ambition of my life. When I came West mother bought three horses instead of a pony. Wally and 'Gene built a corral for the horses and the three of us rode daily to work - rode all day, working in pictures, and rode home again.

"Gradually I must have fallen in love with Wally, although it was a long time before I would admit it even to myself. He was so sweet, so thoughtful one could not help liking him. He proposed to me early in 1912 but at that time I did not want to marry anybody. I told him I cared for him but I did not love him. He had accepted a place offered him with the American Film company at Santa Barbara and wanted me to go along as his bride. He saw mother before he left. He said to her, 'I'll make her care for me. I've never been licked yet - and I'm not licked now.'

"Wally directed the second company at Santa Barbara, having such players as Vivian Rich, George Fields, Ed Coxen and others. Betty Schade, now a well known screen actress, got her start in pictures under the direction of Wally. She had come to Santa Barbara with a traveling theatrical company and had never done any picture work. In Santa Barbara Wally lived with Alan Dwan and Alan's mother. Alan was directing the first company for the 'Flying A.' Wally came to Los Angeles occasionally to see me. He wanted me to play leads and Santa Barbara, but I did not want to break up housekeeping and besides I was not particularly anxious to be with him. We had a quarrel one day. It must have been trivial, for I don't recall what caused it. Afterward we did not correspond for a long time, fully six months.

"In 1913 he came back to Los Angeles with Alan Dwan and went to the Universal company. Wally played leads, Pauline Bush the feminine leading roles and Marshall "Mickey" Neilan was the director with the company. Now here is an odd thing. Wally had returned with the determination to make me propose to him. It was a little drama in real life. Wally would come to our house for a social call. The telephone would ring. 'Is Wally Reid there?' a voice would ask. Wally would go to the 'phone and say importantly, 'All right, I'll be right over.' I learned later he was having people call him up just to make me jealous. Once he said to me, 'You are going to marry me this fall!'

"'Oh,' I replied, 'I suppose I have nothing to say about it?'

"'No, you haven't,' he said. 'Your mother and I have decided it.'

"A picture in which I was working called for location at Pine Crest, a scenic spot in California. Wally went to the railroad station with our company. He picked up a magazine on the cover of which was a picture of a girl wearing a bridal veil.

"'That's the way you are going to look this fall,' he declared. I said nothing. A fatal sign with any woman.

"At Pine Crest I began to develop symptoms of being in love, so mother has since told me. I would not dance when the others danced, and I spent much time alone, thinking, thinking. Following my return to Los Angeles, Wally said one evening, 'You are going to marry me Saturday.' This time I did not say I would not marry him. I was not through protesting, however.

"'If it is to be at all it must be on the thirteenth,' I said. Thirteen, I have always believed, is my lucky day, because of a series of three and thirteens in my life. I was born March 13, the third month of the year and the third day of the week. So I became the wife of Wally Reid, Oct. 13, 1913.

"We were married at 6:30 o'clock in the evening at the Church of the Holy Cross by the Rev. Baker P. Lee. The only persons present besides ourselves were Ed Brady, Phil Dunham, Ruth Roland, Isidore Bernstein, general manager for the Universal company, and my mother. After the ceremony we went to the home of Mr. Bernstein in Morgan place. Warren Kerrigan and Charles Worthington and Warren's mother dropped in. Mr. Bernstein proposed a toast to the newly married couple. It was drunk with lemonade, for that, and water, was the only liquid Mr. Bernstein ever had in his home. What a terribly place is Sinful Hollywood!

"But there was a more tragic chapter yet to come."

Wallace Reid, the famous motion picture actor, contracted the morphine habit in New York City. Mrs. Dorothy Davenport Reid, wife of the actor, revealed this as afact today in an extended and exclusive interview granted The Evening Herald and the Cosmopolitan News Service.Hitherto it had been the public belief, and a conviction which had spread nation-wide, that the handsome actor had become a narcotic addict in Hollywood. Each telling of the story had added to its exaggeration until there existed in the public mind an impression that Hollywood was nightly the scene of drug revelries and booze debauches, with Wally Reid a central figure. It was to correct these inflated statements that Mrs. Reid consented to make known to the public the details of her husband's struggle to overcome the drug habit.

"It was not in Hollywood he learned the use of morphine to quiet his nerves. The first morphine in which he indulged to any extent was given him in New York," said Mrs. Reid today. Wally had gone East to make a picture, 'Peter Ibbetson.' While in New York he became ill. An expensive cast of players had been employed to work in the film and he began to worry when it appeared that his illness was delaying production and adding to the expense.

"Wally has had one virtue which his real friends know has been his besetting sin - his good nature and his willingness to work. Had Wally remained in bed until he recovered from his illness, I felt he would not today be a narcotic addict.

"'Peter Ibbetson' has been classed by critics as perhaps one of the best acted pictures ever made in America. Fans everywhere have written and told Wally how excellent was his work. Here was an actor - a servant of his art - going through the most difficult role of his career in a physical condition which would have sent an ordinary man to the hospital. It was his grim determination and the good nature which prompted him on. To nerve him for his daily and arduous task a New York physician gave him morphine. There was laid the foundation for what the world now knows.

"'Peter Ibbetson' was made a year ago last summer. When Wally returned from the East he was not the same Wally Reid I had known when he left Hollywood. He seemed to possess a dual nature. To me he had been always the affectionate suitor. Now there was a change. For no apparently accountable reason he would become irritable, morose, strange. At first I was deeply puzzled. Before long rumors began to reach me. A wife, as every one knows, is oft times the last to hear the truth about her husband. I determined this should not be the case in the Wallace Reid family.

"I went to Wally, 'Tell me,' I said to him. 'Is it true you are using drugs?'

"He replied, 'Don't believe a word you hear. I am not.'

"Yet I was not convinced. I knew something was wrong and I was resolved to get at the bottom of it. It must be kept in mind by the public that the use of any narcotic is responsible for strange actions by the victim. Your closest friend may be in the grip of the insidious habit and all unknown to you. Thus I do not think Wally really meant to lie to me. I think it was more of an effort on his part to deny to himself the possibility of his ever allowing the drug to gain a definite foothold.

"I did not allow the matter to rest with his denial. As time wore on I asked him again. Still he denied the truth. All of his life Wally has been intensely restless. I don't believe he has ever had what would be termed a good night's rest. In reading he is constantly crossing one leg over the other and shifting about in his chair. This restless condition became accentuated. The realization must have dawned on him that he had fallen into the pit. He began to drink. He had never been a steady drinker, his drinking being confined to social occasions. Now, however, he seemed suddenly to have an appetite for whisky. What was really going on in his consciousness, no doubt, was the awakening to his danger from the drug. Eventually he confessed to me he was using morphine.

"Toward the last, just before he left the studio to recuperate, it would take only a few drinks to affect him. His breakdown came after he had reported back to the studio ready for work. A condition developed which baffled and is still puzzling doctors. It first manifested itself as an intestinal disturbance. When this became aggravated he consulted a physician. He was ordered to a hospital. Other physicians were called in. Every possible test which the doctors knew was given him. Needles half a dozen inches long were driven into his spine. The pain he endured was terrible. The Wasserman test was administered. Not a single test showed a positive result. In the midst of all this, influenza set in. His average weight: 200 pounds, Wally's weight now is about 122 pounds."

Mrs. Wallace Reid brands as gross exaggeration the reports whichemanated in Eastern Cities that her famous cinema actor-husband has hadany direct connection with a drug ring. It was the nation-wide dissemination of this rumor which led to the admission by Mrs. Reid that her husband had contracted the drug habit. There appeared in correspondence seized in a drug raid in New York City the initials "W. R."

"There are to my knowledge," said Mrs. Reid in a continuation of the exclusive interview granted The Evening Herald and the Cosmopolitan News Service, "two other Wallace Reids of prominence in the East. One is, I understand, a New York stock broker. the other lives in Chicago. Mail for the Chicago Wallace Reid has reached my husband, and his mail has been mixed at times with the Chicago Wallace Reid. Understand, of course, that I do not mean to intimate that either of these Wallace Reids might have been the 'W. R.' referred to in the correspondence found in New York. I am stating this merely to indicate how, when a man is on the defensive, he is made the target for unjustified attack where there might be a hundred other 'W. R.'s in the country.

"My husband, as I have stated to you, contracted the morphine habit in New York City. It was given to him by a physician so he could continue work in the film production of 'Peter Ibbetson.' When Wally returned to Hollywood I noted a change in his whole manner of life. While previously he had been of a jovial, affectionate nature, now he began to give way to spells of apparent despondency. Asense of irritability developed, a phase of character which was foreign to the real Wally Reid. It must have been that these were the times when he felt the craving for the drug and was trying to ignore its insistent demands.

"While he was very secretive about the habit - declining for a long time even to admit it to me - I learned that his supply of morphine was coming from New York by mail. On one occasion a supply was brought to him in Hollywood by a person who came from New York. I will not say whether it was a man or woman, or one in the theatrical profession. I don't feel that I should do anything to involve others in what is already a deplorable and unfortunate situation.

"I am being criticized severely by some of our acquaintances for having talked so much, but I feel that if the public knows the truth it will not condemn Wally any more than I have condemned him. His is not an individual case symptomatic of a community. The battle Wally is making is the battle that thousands - I might say a million - of men and women are making. My heart goes out to them in sympathy. I know the horrors of the hell they must be suffering because I saw this dread enemy attack my husband. If then through telling the truth I can do my part to arouse public sentiment against this nefarious traffic I am willing to suffer criticism. I look upon this whole affair as impersonal rather than personal. Friends, of course, insist on personalizing the misfortunes which sometimes enter our lives, overlooking in their kindness and sympathy the moral lesson involved.

"I want to go back several years in the history of picture making and explain an incident. It proves how easily one can turn to narcotics in moments of pain - and the tragic aftermath. Wally was playing the leading role in 'The Valley of the Giants,' an adaptation of the novel by Peter B. Kyne. The company was working in the logging district of northern California. Grace Darmond was cast as the ingenue. A scene in the script called for Wally and Miss Darmond to ride down an incline in a logging car. While this scene was being taken an accident occurred. An iron block swung toward Wally and Miss Darmond. It appeared inevitable that Miss Darmond would be injured. Seeing this, Wally threw himself directly in front of her. The iron block struck him on the head. Wally was painfully injured. To ease his pain morphine was prescribed by physicians. He was unable to sleep at night. On these occasions other sleep-producing potions of an apparently harmless nature were given to him. I know he did not at that time become addicted to the use of morphine, for I was with him hours and days at a time afterward and I would have known had he himself used a hypodermic needle to inject the drug.

"The pain he suffered in his head gave him almost continuous trouble. We had X-ray photographs made of his skull, hoping that if there was a fracture it could be located and set. The X-ray pictures indicated nothing wrong. All of this time he was working at the studio, unmindful of his suffering. Gradually his physical condition began to be affected by the injury. He planned to take a vacation and rest. His has been, as I have said, a too close application to work.

"When a vacation was granted him between pictures he went to a dentist to have work done, postponing till a later date the relaxation he promised himself. The dental work accentuated his physical suffering. Work was started on the picture production of....

"...fitted into Wally's mouth on the raw swollen gums. He worked this way a week while the company was in San Diego making scenes. When the dentist saw the condition of his mouth he could not understand how Wally had been able to do any work. The pain, the dentist said, was even greater than that which comes with an aggravated case of appendicitis.

"It was only a few months ago when my mother learned Wally was using a drug. She wanted to have him kidnapped and put in a sanitarium to be cured. Wally was almost heart-broken when mother suggested this to him.

"'My God, mother, don't do that. I've never been licked yet - and I'm not licked now. I'll fight this thing out myself.'

"The first reports of Wally being a drug addict followed the arrest of a young man who had been a friend of our chauffeur. The details of that case, and how it apparently involved Wally have never been published. I want to tell the incident so that the whole truth will be known."

"My first 'close up' view of the activity of drug peddlers was about two years ago, when there occurred an incident which was the means of starting unjustifiable rumors about my husband," said Mrs. Wallace Reid, wife of the famous picture star, in continuing her exclusive recital to the Cosmopolitan News Service of the events which culminated in her public statement that her actor-husband was a narcotic addict.

"For some time I had seen a young man coming to our home on Morgan Place, but paid no attention as he appeared to be a chum of our chauffeur. Since the unfortunate incident occurred I have heard it said that officers reported they had trailed this young man to our home, and that he was supplying Wally with drugs. This was when Wally was not - to my knowledge - using anything more than harmless sleep-producing remedies in order to rest at night.

"One day our chauffeur came to Wally and said this young friend of his had a number of Parisian magazines which he thought Wally might want to buy. Wally is, as his friends know, a collector of books. We told the chauffeur to have the young man bring the magazines sowe could look them over. He came the next day. Wally and I spread the magazines out on the table. Then, as Wally picked up one copy, a number of tinfoil packages fell to the floor. When the young man became evasive Wally demanded what the packages contained.

"'Morphine' was the reply.

"'It doesn't interest me,' declared Wally, and he swept the packages away from him.

"'The young man told us he found the packages of the drug hidden behind the moulding of a new apartment into which he had just moved.

"'But why did you bring it here?' asked Wally.

"'I didn't know the packages were in the magazines,' he replied.'I'm desperate for money; I am not working and my wife is going to have a baby.' Here was where, once more, Wally's sympathy got him into an embarrassing predicament.

"'If you will come to the studio in the morning I will see if I can get a job for you,' said Wally.

"My surprise came the next day. When the young man appeared at the studio he was placed under arrest by federal officers. The report gained circulation that this young man was arrested while trying to smuggle to Wally morphine concealed in rare books. Further, it was rumored that the arrest had been brought about at my instigation.

"The young man was placed in jail. Wally talked with me about it and wanted, out of sympathy, to put up the bail money necessary, to free him from jail so he could return to his wife. Friends, however, persuaded him not to as it might place him an a guilty light. The young man is now employed in a Los Angeles printing house. He was, I understand, a drug addict but was cured or is taking a cure."

- END -

- William Parker, Los Angeles Herald (18-21 December 1922)


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The Life Story of Wallace Reid: The Tragedy of an American Idol

Miscellaneous Press Coverage

Wallace Reid Photo Gallery