Oscar Roles: Baxter, Warner–In Old Arizona

 In 1929, Warner Baxter won the Best Actor Oscar for In Old Arizona.
He competed in the same category with George Bancroft in “Thunderbolt,” Chester Morris in “Alibi,” Paul Muni in “The Valiant,” and Lewis Stone in “The Patriot.”Baxter’s big break came with his very first sound film, In Old Arizona, in which he portrayed the happy-go-lucky Mexican bandit Cisco Kid, a role for which he won the Academy Award 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, actor-director Raoul Walsh, had lost an eye.

Based on a character created by O. Henry, “In Old Arizona” was nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director (Irving Cummings).

Fox made a series of B-Westerns revolving around the Cisco Kid, played by Baxter and then by Cesar Romero, Gilbert Roland and Duncan Renaldo. In the 1950s, a TV series starred Renaldo, with Leo Carillo as the sidekick Pancho.


Born in Columbus, Ohio on March 29, 1891, Baxter died in 1951. Raised in San Francisco by his widowed mother, Warner 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.

A dashingly handsome, competent actor with a resonant voice, Baxter was a popular romantic leading man throughout the 1930s.

Audiences remember his performance as the desperate, ailing director in the 1933 musical movie 42nd Street, uttering a memorable line when he sends Ruby Keeler out there to perform: “Sawyer, you’re going out a youngster, but you’ve got to come back a star!”

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 in 1951, following a lobotomy performed to relieve him of an arthritic condition.

His second wife was screen actress Winifred Bryson.