Back to Silent Stars Who Transitioned to Talkies
Muni (born Meshilem Meier Weisenfreund) first showed his chameleonic gifts in New York's Yiddish theater scene, where at age 12, he played an octogenarian. He made his film debut in the part-silent/part-talkie 'The Valiant' (1929) and earned an Oscar nomination for his role as a death-row convict. He followed that with 'Seven Faces,' in which he played seven different roles and earned comparisons to Lon Chaney Sr. for his make-up skills and transformative abilities. His transition to full-sound pictures included lead roles in such landmarks as 'I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang' and the original 'Scarface.' In 1936, he began a series of biographical roles with 'The Story of Louis Pasteur,' which won him an Oscar. He eventually grew disenchanted with Hollywood and returned to the stage, where he was a success once more, culminating with his Tony-winning performance in 1955's 'Inherit the Wind.'