Paul Muni (born Frederich Meshilem Meier Weisenfreund; September 22, 1895– August 25, 1967) was an Austro-Hungarian American stage and film actor who grew up in Chicago. Muni was a five-time Academy Award nominee, with one win. He started his acting career in the Yiddish theater. During the 1930s, he was considered one of the most prestigious actors at the Warner Bros. studio, and was given the rare privilege of choosing which parts he wanted.
His acting quality, usually playing a powerful character, such as the lead in Scarface (1932), was partly a result of his intense preparation for his parts, often immersing himself in study of the real character’s traits and mannerisms. He was also highly skilled in using makeup techniques, a talent he learned from his parents, who were also actors, and from his early years on stage with the Yiddish theater in Chicago. At the age of 12, he played the stage role of an 80-year-old man; in one of his films, Seven Faces, he played seven different characters.
He made 22 films and won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in the 1936 film The Story of Louis Pasteur. He also starred in numerous Broadway plays and won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his role in the 1955 production of Inherit the Wind.
Paul Muni died of a heart disorder in Montecito, California in 1967, aged 71. A star was installed in his honor on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6435 Hollywood Blvd.
Take a look at these vintage photos to see portrait of a young Paul Muni in the 1930s and 1940s.