Irving Pichel (Irving Pichel)

Irving Pichel

A native of Pittsburgh, Irving Pichel graduated from Harvard University in 1914 and went immediately into the theater. Pichel’s first work in musical theatre was as a technical director for the theater of the San Francisco Bohemian Club; he also helped with the annual summer pageant, held at the elite Bohemian Grove, in which up to 300 of its wealthy, influential members from finance and government participate. With this expertise, he was also hired by Wallace Rice as the main narrator in Rice’s ambitious pageant play, Primavera, the Masque of Santa Barbara in 1920. He founded the Berkeley Playhouse in 1923 and served as its director until 1926. Pichel moved to Los Angeles where he studied acting at the Pasadena Playhouse. It was there that Pichel achieved considerable acclaim as the title character in the landmark Pasadena Playhouse production of Eugene O’Neill’s play Lazarus Laughed in 1927. Two years later, when the studios were hiring any theater-trained actors suitable for talkies, he was signed to a contract with Paramount. Irving Pichel worked steadily as a character actor throughout the 1930s, including the early version of the Theodore Dreiser novel, An American Tragedy (1931), Madame Butterfly (1932), in a low budget version of Oliver Twist (1933) as Fagin, in Cleopatra (1934), alongside Leslie Howard in Michael Curtiz’s British Agent (1934), as the servant Sandor in Dracula‚Äôs Daughter (1936), in the Bette Davis film Jezebel (1938), as the proprietor of a seedy roadhouse in the once scandalous The Story of Temple Drake (1933) and as a Mexican general in Juarez (1939). Pichel also performed on radio, played small parts in several of the films that he later directed, often without credit, and was the narrator in the John Ford films How Green Was My Valley(1941) and the Western, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949). Irving Pichel married Violette Wilson, daughter of Jackson Stitt Wilson, a Methodist minister and Socialist mayor of Berkeley, California. Her sister was actress Viola Barry. The couple had three sons.

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  • June, 24, 1891
  • USA
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


  • July, 13, 1954
  • USA
  • Hollywood, California


  • Mountain View Cemetery
  • Oakland, California
  • USA

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