Richard Arlen (September 1, 1899 – March 28, 1976) was an American actor of film and television.
Born Sylvanus Richard Van Mattimore in St. Paul, Minnesota, he attended the University of Pennsylvania. He served in Canada as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps during World War I. His first job after the war was with St. Paul's Athletic Club. Then he went to the oilfields of Texas and Oklahoma and found work as a tool boy. He was thereafter a messenger and sporting editor of a newspaper before going to Los Angeles to star in films, but no producer wanted him. He was a delivery boy for a film laboratory when the motorcycle which he was riding landed him a broken leg outside the Paramount Pictures lot. A sympathetic film director gave him his start as an extra. He appeared at first in silent films before making the transition to talkies. His first important film role was in Vengeance of the Deep (1923).
He took time out from his Hollywood career to teach as a United States Army Air Forces flight instructor in World War II.
Arlen is best known for his role as a pilot in the Academy Award-winning Wings (1927) with Clara Bow, Charles 'Buddy' Rogers, Gary Cooper, El Brendel, and his first wife, Jobyna Ralston, whom he married in 1927. He was among the more famous residents of the celebrity enclave, Toluca Lake, California.
In the 1950s and early 1960s, Arlen was active in television, having guest starred in several anthology series, including Playhouse 90, The Loretta Young Show, The 20th Century Fox Hour, and in three episodes of the series about clergymen, Crossroads.
In 1968, he appeared on Petticoat Junction...playing himself. The episode was called "Wings" and it was in direct reference to the 1927 silent movie Wings.
Arlen appeared in westerns, such as Lawman, Branded, Bat Masterson, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Wagon Train, and Yancy Derringer, and in such drama/adventure programs like Ripcord, Whirlybirds, Perry Mason, The New Breed, Coronado 9, and Michael Shayne.
For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Richard Arlen has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6753 Hollywood Blvd.
On his death from emphysema in 1976, Arlen was interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.
1. Although Arlen's birthplace is often listed as Charlottesville, Virginia and his birth name as Cornelius Richard Van Mattimore, other non-Hollywood information is different. The "Van" is likely a shorten version of Sylvanus, not an additional name. The 1 June 1900 census data says Arlen's father, James Mattimore lived in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1900 with five children, the youngest of whom is Sylvanus, who was born in Minnesota (city unspecified) in September 1899 and was also listed as 8/12 years of age. Sylvanus was also listed in the 1 April 1910 census as being 10 years old. On Arlen's 12 September 1918 draft card, his name given as Van Mattimore, a member of the Royal Flying Corps of the British Army, based in Toronto, his nearest relative is listed as his father James Mattimore. The 1918 draft card's date of birth is given as 1 Sept 1900, and it would appear that the writer started to put the year of birth as 18 and then wrote over the 8 with a 9, so it appears as 1900. The Social Security Administration notes Richard Arlen was born on 1 Sept 1899 and died in March 1976. The census of 1930 lists Van Mattimore, Richard age 29. It says that he and both parents were born in Minnesota. According to the 1900 and 1910 census, his father was born in Ireland.
2. History of Toluca Lake from TolucaLakeChamber.com
3. "Richard Arlen". Internet Movie Data Base.