Oscar Actors: Baxter, Warner–In Old Arizona

Warner Baxter was the second Best Actor winner, in 1930, for the Western “In Old Arizona.”

Baxter is one of the few Best Actors to have received only one nomination.

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Baxter was born in Columbus, Ohio on March 29, 1889; he died in 1951 at the age of 62.

Raised in San Francisco by his widowed mother, Baxter dropped out of high school to work as an office boy and later a salesman. Drawn to acting, he joined a stock company and quickly advanced from juvenile to leading man. He broke into films during WWI and played a variety of routine leads for the remainder of the silent era.

Baxter’s big break came with his very first sound film, “In Old Arizona” (1929), in which he portrayed the happy-go-lucky Mexican bandit Cisco Kid, a role for which he won the Best Actor Oscar and which he was to repeat twice in subsequent films.

Ironically, he had been assigned to the role by default, following a car accident in which the intended star, actordirector Raoul Walsh, had lost an eye. Dashingly handsome and competent actor with a resonant voice, Baxter was a popular romantic leading man throughout the 1930s.

Early in the 1940s, Baxter suffered a nervous breakdown but continued playing leads in low-budget films, including the “Crime Doctor” detective series.

Baxter died of pneumonia following a lobotomy performed to relieve him of an arthritic condition.

His second wife was screen actress Winifred Bryson.

Oscar Alert

In 1929, Warner Baxter competed for the Best Actor Oscar with George Bancroft in “Thunderbolt,” Chester Morris in “Alibi,” Paul Muni in “The Valiant,” and Lewis Stone in “The Patriot.”