Paul Muni - Actors, Family and Personal Life

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Paul Muni's Personal Details

Paul Muni was an American stage and film actor known for playing the lead in ‘Scarface.’ This biography of Paul Muni provides detailed information about his childhood, life, achievements, works & timeline.

InformationDetail
BirthdaySeptember 22, 1895
Died onAugust 25, 1967
NationalityAmerican
FamousJewish Actors, Film & Theater Personalities, Actors
SpousesBella Finkel
Known asMeshilem Meier Weisenfreund, Moony Weisenfreund
Birth PlaceLviv
ReligionJudaism
GenderMale
FatherPhillip Weisenfreund
MotherSalli Weisenfreund
Sun SignVirgo
Born inLviv
Famous asActor
Died at Age71

// Famous Actors

Paul Muni's photo

Who is Paul Muni?

Paul Muni was an American stage and film actor best known for playing the lead in ‘Scarface.’ Famous for his deep commitment to work, he was known to prepare intensely for each one of his roles which gave his performances the credibility unmatched by any other actor of his era. The son of actor parents, he was introduced to the show business at an early age. He started his acting career in the Yiddish theatre in Chicago with his parents, and enthralled the audiences with his first ever performance on stage—aged 12 at the time of his stage debut, Muni played the role of an 80-year-old man. Naturally talented in acting, he wanted to become a professional actor but this was unacceptable to his father who wanted his son to become a musician. However, Muni was adamant and his father reluctantly agreed to let him pursue his passion. Muni’s stage career was a resounding success and before long he became a much loved Broadway star. In the 1920s Hollywood was looking for theatrical talent and Muni got noticed for his extraordinary acting skills. He appeared in much acclaimed films like ‘Scarface’ and ‘The Story of Louis Pasteur.’ He was, however, dissatisfied with Hollywood despite his successful career and returned to his true passion, the stage.

// Famous Jewish Actors

Childhood & Early Life

Paul Muni was born as Frederich Meshilem Meier Weisenfreund on September 22, 1895, in Lemberg, Austro-Hungarian Empire. His parents, Salli and Phillip Weisenfreund, were actors. He had two brothers.

The family immigrated to America when the children were still young. His parents joined the Yiddish Theater group located in New York where Frederich would soon make his debut.

He made his stage debut as a 12 year old playing the character of an 80-year-old man. His performance caught the attention of Maurice Schwartz, who signed him up with his Yiddish Art Theater.

Career

Over the ensuing years, Paul Muni worked as an actor in travelling shows and gained popularity for his stage performances. As a young man he mastered the art of make-up which allowed him to change his appearance drastically in accordance with the role requirements.

In 1926, he approached the Broadway theatre for the role of an old Jewish man. The producer tried to dismiss him as the actor was a young man of 31. But he persevered, and with the help of his make-up skills made himself look old for the role. Thus he made his Broadway debut in the play ‘We Americans.’

Before long he became a successful stage actor, and when Hollywood was scouting for new talents, he quickly gained attention. He was signed by Fox in 1929. At this point, he adopted the stage name of Paul Muni.

His film career started with an excellent performance in ‘The Valiant’ which earned him an Academy Award nomination. However, the film did poorly at the box office. His second film too was a financial failure.

Disappointed by the failures, he returned to Broadway but came back to Hollywood in 1932 to play the role of Antonio "Tony" Camonte in ‘Scarface’, loosely based on the rise and fall of Al Capone. The film became an overnight sensation and catapulted Muni to stardom.

Impressed by his success, Warner Bros signed a long-term contract with him. Paul Muni was more interested in playing character roles rather than leading roles. He persuaded Warner Bros. to produce the historical biography ‘The Story of Louis Pasteur’ (1936). The movie was a critical as well as commercial hit.

His streak of success continued throughout the 1930s and he appeared in films such as ‘The Life of Emile Zola’ (1937), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award and played the lead role in ‘Juarez’ (1939).

Muni gained much respect for his commitment to acting. He prepared intensely for his roles, especially the biographical ones. He spent several days working on his dialogues, and was very particular about giving each performance his best. It was his sincerity and determination that made his performances so powerful and earned him the reputation of being an actor par excellence.

Despite his highly successful Hollywood career he was not satisfied with acting in films. So he decided not to renew his contract with the Warner Bros. and returned to the stage as he enjoyed theatre more. However, he continued making sporadic film appearances.

In the 1940s and 1950s, he performed in several popular plays like ‘A Flag is Born’ (1946), ‘Death of a Salesman’ (1949), and ‘Inherit the Wind’ (1955-56). Muni also had prominent roles in several TV anthology series. He was forced to retire from the profession he loved so much in 1962 as his health began to fail.

Major Works

His portrayal of Antonio "Tony" Camonte in the gangster film ‘Scarface’ earned him a lot of praise. Even though Muni had initially refused to accept the role, the film helped him become one of the top most actors of his era.

He played the 19th century chemist Louis Pasteur in the biographical film ‘The Story of Louis Pasteur’ which was the first biographical role he played. He conducted in-depth research to portray Pasteur accurately and was also appreciated for his make-up skills.

Awards & Achievements

Paul Muni won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in the 1936 film ‘The Story of Louis Pasteur’. He also won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor from the Venice Film Festival for the same film.

A renowned Broadway actor, he won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his role in the production of ‘Inherit the Wind’ in 1955.

Personal Life & Legacy

Paul Muni was a very reserved and shy person in real life. In 1921, he married Bella Finkel, an actress. The couple remained married for 45 years until Muni’s death.

He suffered from various ailments during his later years including failing eyesight and rheumatic heart. He died of a heart ailment on August 25, 1967, aged 71.

// Famous Film & Theater Personalities

Paul Muni awards

YearNameAward

Academy Awards(Oscars)

1937Best Actor in a Leading RoleThe Story of Louis Pasteur (1936)

Paul Muni biography timelines

  • // 22nd Sep 1895
    Paul Muni was born as Frederich Meshilem Meier Weisenfreund on September 22, 1895, in Lemberg, Austro-Hungarian Empire. His parents, Salli and Phillip Weisenfreund, were actors. He had two brothers.
  • // 1921
    Paul Muni was a very reserved and shy person in real life. In 1921, he married Bella Finkel, an actress. The couple remained married for 45 years until Muni’s death.
  • // 1926
    In 1926, he approached the Broadway theatre for the role of an old Jewish man. The producer tried to dismiss him as the actor was a young man of 31. But he persevered, and with the help of his make-up skills made himself look old for the role. Thus he made his Broadway debut in the play ‘We Americans.’
  • // 1929
    Before long he became a successful stage actor, and when Hollywood was scouting for new talents, he quickly gained attention. He was signed by Fox in 1929. At this point, he adopted the stage name of Paul Muni.
  • // 1932
    Disappointed by the failures, he returned to Broadway but came back to Hollywood in 1932 to play the role of Antonio "Tony" Camonte in ‘Scarface’, loosely based on the rise and fall of Al Capone. The film became an overnight sensation and catapulted Muni to stardom.
  • // 1936
    Impressed by his success, Warner Bros signed a long-term contract with him. Paul Muni was more interested in playing character roles rather than leading roles. He persuaded Warner Bros. to produce the historical biography ‘The Story of Louis Pasteur’ (1936). The movie was a critical as well as commercial hit.
  • // 1936
    Paul Muni won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in the 1936 film ‘The Story of Louis Pasteur’. He also won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor from the Venice Film Festival for the same film.
  • // 1937 To 1939
    His streak of success continued throughout the 1930s and he appeared in films such as ‘The Life of Emile Zola’ (1937), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award and played the lead role in ‘Juarez’ (1939).
  • // 1955
    A renowned Broadway actor, he won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his role in the production of ‘Inherit the Wind’ in 1955.
  • // 25th Aug 1967
    He suffered from various ailments during his later years including failing eyesight and rheumatic heart. He died of a heart ailment on August 25, 1967, aged 71.

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Paul Muni's FAQ

  • What is Paul Muni birthday?

    Paul Muni was born at 1895-09-22

  • When was Paul Muni died?

    Paul Muni was died at 1967-08-25

  • Where was Paul Muni died?

    Paul Muni was died in Montecito

  • Which age was Paul Muni died?

    Paul Muni was died at age 71

  • Where is Paul Muni's birth place?

    Paul Muni was born in Lviv

  • What is Paul Muni nationalities?

    Paul Muni's nationalities is American

  • Who is Paul Muni spouses?

    Paul Muni's spouses is Bella Finkel

  • What is Paul Muni's religion?

    Paul Muni's religion is Judaism

  • Who is Paul Muni's father?

    Paul Muni's father is Phillip Weisenfreund

  • Who is Paul Muni's mother?

    Paul Muni's mother is Salli Weisenfreund

  • What is Paul Muni's sun sign?

    Paul Muni is Virgo

  • How famous is Paul Muni?

    Paul Muni is famouse as Actor