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Ernest Torrence, Actor

A Star Is Born

He was born Ernest Torrance – Thompson on June 6, 1878, in Edinburgh Scotland, and as a child was an exceptional pianist and operatic baritone and graduated from the Stuttgart Conservatory, Edinburgh Academy before earning a scholarship at London's Royal Academy of music.

Some time prior to 1900, he changed the spelling of torrents to torrents and dropped the name Thompson. Both Ernest and his brother David Torrance went to America in March 1911, directly from Scotland prior to World War I.  Shortly after arriving in the United States, he decided to change his name to Ernest Torrence.


Making Movies

Ernest Torrance was one of the screens noted character actors. The giant Scott was known to his millions around the world for both his comedy and drama: as a villainous mountaineer in Tolable David, a scout in the Covered Wagon and many other movies including the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mantrap, and the King of Kings.

He was the man you loved to hiss. The towering 6'4", highly imposing character with cold, hollow, beady eyes and a huge, protruding snout would go on to become one of the silent screens finest arch villains. While in London, prior to going to the United States, he toured with the delay the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, in such productions as the Emerald Isle and the talk of the town.



Upon arriving in America Ernest and his brother David embarked on a purely acting career in New York and became seasoned players on the New York stage. Later he moved to Hollywood to embark on a career in the movie business. He earned superb marks playing the despicable character, Luke Hatburn in the 1921 film called tolerable David Barthelmess. Adept at both comedy and drama Ernest avoided what could have been a damaging stereotype with his sympathetic for trail of a grizzly old college or in the classic Western, the covered wagon. He further bolstered his celebrity with plum, lip-smacking roles alongside Lon Chaney in the Hunchback of Notre Dame as Clopin, King of the beggars. He also played the dastardly Capt. Hook in the silent version of Peter Pan. One of his most rewarding and treasured roles was that of Peter and Cecil B DeMille's 1927 epic, the King of Kings. During the course of his illustrious career, he made more than forty popular films.  Originally, he made films for Famous Players Lasky which, later, became Paramount Studios. He, also, made movies at MGM.


Last Films

Despite his celluloid villainy, Ernest was known as a courtly and cultivated gentleman in private. He made the transition into talking films intact and was able to play a marvelous nemesis, Dr. Moriarty, to Clive Brooks Sherlock Holmes in 1932. Shortly after completing the filming of the 1933 film, I cover the waterfront, he went to New York so he and his wife Elsie could go to England on the Queen Mary. Shortly after getting on the boat he was stricken with excessive pain and was taken off board to go to the hospital. A couple of weeks after arriving at the hospital, Ernest passed away on May 15, 1933, of liver cancer. Both, his wife, Elsie, and his son, Ernest Junior were at his bedside when he passed away.

The world mourned the passing of this extremely talented actor and paid tribute to him at his funeral in New York City.

His wife Elsie never remarried. Her son, Ernest, married Catherine Toberman in 1936 and the two of them had a son named Bruce and a daughter named Linda. All of Ernest's collection of photographs and memorabilia were given to his grandchildren so they could be passed down to their children.

Hollywood Collection

His grandson, Bruce Torrence started collecting vintage photographs of Hollywood in 1970.  After forty years of collecting, he started a website called which is the largest collection of historical photos of Hollywood.

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