Paul Muni (born Frederich Meshilem Meier Weisenfreund; September 22, 1895 – August 25, 1967) was an American stage and film actor who was born in Lemberg (Austro-Hungarian Empire) and grew up in Chicago. He started his acting career in the Yiddish theatre. During the 1930s, he was considered one of the most prestigious actors at Warner Brothers studios, 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 25 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.
In his private life, Muni was considered "exceedingly shy," and was discomforted to be recognized while out shopping or dining. He enjoyed reading and going for walks with his wife in secluded sections of Central Park. He always arrived at the theater by 7:30pm to prepare for that night's performance. After retiring from acting, he lived in California, in what was considered an "austere" setting, where he and his wife enjoyed their privacy. In his den, which he called his "Shangri-La," he spent time reading books and listening to the radio.
Muni died of a heart disorder in Montecito in 1967, aged 71. He is interred in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood, CA.