Norman Kerry was an American actor whose career spanned over twenty-five years in the motion picture industry beginning in the silent era at the end of World War I.
Born Arnold Kaiser in Rochester, New York of German parentage, he changed his decidedly German name to ‘Norman Kerry’ at the onset of World War I.
Around 1916 he befriended Rudolph Valentino, then an exhibition dancer of some renown, in New York City. He is said to have introduced Valentino to dancer Bonnie Glass who became Valentino’s partner; Valentino in turn encouraged Kerry to try making a name for himself in film. Kerry made his first film appearance in the 1916 Allan Dwan directed comedy Manhattan Madness, starring Douglas Fairbanks. He would rise to leading actor status the following year in the Marshall Neilan directed A Little Princess, playing opposite actress Mary Pickford. In 1918, Kerry followed his success with A Little Princess in the William Desmond Taylor directed Up the Road with Sallie, opposite Constance Talmadge.
Kerry’s career flourished during the silent film era of the late 1910s and throughout the 1920s and he quickly became a matinee idol who was extremely popular with female fans. With his slicked back hair and thin, waxed moustache, he was often cast in the role of the heroic dashing swashbuckler or the exotic, seductive lothario. By 1923, Kerry was a very well respected leading man and box-office draw. That year he starred in two much talked about films: the enormous box-office hit The Hunchback of Notre Dame, opposite Lon Chaney and Patsy Ruth Miller and the controversial Merry-Go-Round opposite newcomer Mary Philbin. Kerry was cast in Merry-Go-Round by the famous Austrian director Erich von Stroheim to play von Stroheim’s alter-ego ‘Count Franz Maximilian Von Hohenegg’, but studio executive Irving Thalberg fired von Stroheim during filming and had to be replaced by director Rupert Julian. Although controversial at the time, the film is now considered a classic.