[image courtesy eBay]
1. He was quite the Renaissance man: born Roy Giusti in San Francisco, he was educated abroad, studied art in Paris, worked odd jobs in South America, traveled Germany and Switzerland with a “gypsy” band, then hit vaudeville and toured Europe and Asia. He eventually returned to the US, where Erich von Stroheim took one look at him on stage and chose him for Prince Mirko in The Merry Widow (thus beginning his reign as a villain of the silent screen).
2. Was known for affecting a rather creepy rictus grin; Motion Picture described him as “leering”, the Milwaukee Sentinel labeled him “the erstwhile smiling heavy of the silver sheet”, and Eve Golden called it “death’s head grinning” in John Gilbert: The Last of the Silent Film Stars. My favorite is Louella Parsons, in a 1927 article entitled “Picture Stars Must Abandon Individuality”:
I have often wondered if Roy D’Arcy did not have his grin and forefinger how he could act. They are props for him in every screen drama. Mr D’Arcy made his success in The Merry Widow by affecting a leer…
[image courtesy Allposters]
3. After he and his wife divorced, he was romantically linked to Lita Grey Chaplin for a time:
Lita and Roy D’Arcy, the dental screen villain [there it is again! – JR] admit to a serious interest in each other...[o]ne report says they will co-star on a vaudeville tour this fall at a large joint salary, another that they will marry and go for a tour to the Orient. [“Gossip of All the Studios”, Photoplay, June 1928]
Lita Grey Chaplin and her stage-door Johnny, Mr Roy D’Arcy…Roy is waiting for one of those leisurely California divorce decrees, to ask Lita to become the second Mrs D’Arcy. [“Gossip of All the Studios”, Photoplay, January 1929]
It all appears to have been for naught, however:
Roy D’Arcy has remarried his former wife, Laura…[a]nd all along we, and lots of other people, were believing that he would soon be the husband of Lita Grey Chaplin. [“Hollywood High Lights”, Picture Play, December 1929] (Sadly, the marriage would again be over less than six months later.)
4. He possessed a lovely singing voice – he headlined as lead tenor in numerous theatre troupe productions, as well as in the stage show Oh Boy! He later created a vaudeville show called The Greatest Array of Talent Ever Assembled on Any Bill in This Country, but returned to his monologist roots instead of singing.
5. Although he did make some talkies – the most notable being the serials The Shadow of the Eagle (1932) and The Whispering Shadow (1933) for Mascot – his overwrought acting style was too old-fashioned for 30s audiences, and after a small part in 1939’s The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, he retired from the screen. At age 45, he reinvented himself again, starting a profitable real estate business. Roy D’Arcy died in 1969, at the age of 75.
[image courtesy www.celbcelb.com]