Richard Dix (born Ernst Carlton Brimmer; July 18, 1893 – September 20, 1949) was an American motion picture actor who achieved popularity in both silent and sound film. His standard on-screen image was that of the rugged and stalwart hero. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his lead role in the Best Picture-winning epic, Cimarron (1931).
Dix was born on July 18, 1893, in St. Paul, Minnesota.
He was educated there, and, at the desire of his father, studied to be a surgeon. His obvious acting talent in his school dramatic club led him to leading roles in most of the school plays. At 6' and 180 pounds, Dix excelled in sports, especially football and baseball. After a year at the University of Minnesota, he took a position at a bank, spending his evenings training for the stage. His professional start was with a local stock company, and this led to similar work in New York City. The death of his father left him with a mother and sister to support. He went to Los Angeles and became leading man for the Morosco Stock Company. His success there earned him a contract with Paramount Pictures.
He then changed his name to Dix. After his move to Hollywood, he began a career in Western movies. One of the few actors to successfully bridge the transition from silent films to talkies, Dix's best-remembered early role was in Cecil B. Demille's silent version of The Ten Commandments (1923). He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1931 for his performance as Yancey Cravat in Cimarron, in which he was billed over Irene Dunne. Cimarron, based on the popular novel by Edna Ferber, took the Best Picture award. Dix starred in another RKO adventure, The Lost Squadron.
A memorable role for Dix was in the 1935 British futuristic film The Tunnel. Dix starred in The Great Jasper and Blind Alibi in the late 1930s. His popular RKO Radio Pictures co-star in Blind Alibi was Ace the Wonder Dog. Dix's human co-stars were Whitney Bourne and Eduardo Ciannelli; the film was directed by Lew Landers. Dix also starred as the homicidal Captain Stone in the Val Lewton production of The Ghost Ship, directed by Mark Robson.
In 1944, he starred in The Whistler, the first in a series of eight "Whistler" films made by Columbia Pictures. He also starred in the next six movies in the offbeat, crime-related series, playing a different character each time. (He did not play the "Whistler", who was an unseen narrator.) Dix retired from acting after the seventh of these films, The Thirteenth Hour. He died two years later, after suffering a heart attack at age 56.
According to the July 1934 Movies magazine, on his ranch near Hollywood, the location of which he kept a close secret, Dix raised thousands of chickens and turkeys each year. He also had a collection of thousands of pipes, and a "collection" of 36 dogs, "Scotties and English setters". He also read at least five books a week.
Richard Dix first married Winifred Coe on October 20, 1931. They had a daughter, Martha Mary Ellen, and divorced in 1933. He then married Virginia Webster on June 29, 1934. They had twin boys, Richard Jr. and Robert Dix, and an adopted daughter, Sara Sue.
He retired from films in 1947.
After years of fighting alcoholism, Dix suffered a serious heart attack on September 12, 1949, while on a train from New York to Los Angeles. Dix died at the age of 56 on September 20, 1949. He had four children from his two marriages. One of these was the actor Robert Dix (1935–2018). Richard Dix, Sr. was interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.
Dix has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the Motion Pictures section at 1610 Vine Street. It was dedicated February 8, 1960.