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1930s & Earlier / Wallace Reid Tragedy
One of Hollywood's first truly tragic stories centered on the handsome and likable Wallace Ried. Reid was one of the silents screen's biggest stars from 1919 to 1922. Hailing from a showbiz family, he initially hoped to be a film director. At age 19 Reid took a script his father had written to Vitagraph Studios. The studio recognized Reid's potential as a sex symbol and cast him as an actor. The versatile Reid often worked as a director, writer, and even as a cameraman. He was featured in two of D.W. Griffith's epics: Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916). Reid also appeared as a dashing race car driver in several Famous Player films, becoming a major cinema heartthrob. While making The Valley of the Giants (1919), Reid was injured in a train wreck. The studio gave Reid morphine injections for the pain so he could continue working. Because Reid was so valuable, his studio kept providing him with more and more morphine so he could keep making movies. Reid quickly became deeply addicted but there was virtually no drug-addiction help in those days. By 1922, Reid's health was in tatters. He died on January 18, 1923 at age 31. His widow, Dorothy Davenport, made a film about drug addiction titled Human Wreckage and toured with it to raise national awareness of the dangers of morphine.