People: Wallace Reid
Wallace Reid (1891-1923)
In the early days of Hollywood, movie studios expected their employees to do a little bit of everything. Wallace Reid, who spent his boyhood summers in Highlands, might have been the ultimate jack of all trades. The son of an accomplished stage actor (Hal Reid), he wrote, directed, handled the lighting and scenery, and even worked as a cameraman during the ’teens and early 1920s. Oh, and one other thing: As an actor, Reid was one of the film industry’s major heartthrobs.
The Reid family moved to Highlands in 1899, when “Wally” was a boy. They purchased a three-story home on Bay St. and named it Glory View (the home burned down in the 1920s). On the property were the remnants of the inn that inspired James Fenimore Cooper’s Rust-in-Lust in The Water Witch. Also within the bounds of Glory View was a natural spring purported to have been used by Henry Hudson’s Half Moon crew in 1609. Reid loved to explore Hartshorne Woods with his Llewellyn Setters. At age 12, he began driving the family car around the narrow roads in the hills above town.
Reid grew up to be a handsome, strapping young man. He began his career in front of the cameras with Vitagraph around the age of 20, and later starred in films made by noted producer-directors Allan Dwan and D.W. Griffith—including Birth of a Nation (portraying Jeff the Blacksmith). While shooting a picture for Universal in 1913, Reid met and later married the actress Dorothy Davenport. He also co-starred with Gloria Swanson, Lilian Gish and other top actresses of the day. Reid reached the apex of his career playing race car daredevils for Paramount Pictures.
In 1919, Reid was onboard a passenger train that derailed. He suffered a back injury that would leave him in chronic pain. The studio doctors prescribed morphine so he could continue working, and predictably he became addicted to the drug. Reid checked into a sanitarium in late 1922, where he contracted pneumonia and died on January 18, 1923 at the age of 31. After his death, Reid’s wife independently produced and starred in a film entitled Human Wreckage. It was the first feature-length anti-drug movie.