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Happy Birthday, Berry Kroeger!

Happy Birthday, Berry Kroeger!

Posted by Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. on Oct 16th 2020

Berry Kroeger’s initial show business ambition was to become a concert pianist. Kroeger didn’t lack for talent, you understand—but being painfully shy and terrified of performing threatened to sideline his promising career. To improve his stage presence, Barry’s music teacher suggested he take a dramatic lesson or two and what started out as the means to an end became the end itself. The man born Walker Berry Kroeger in San Antonio, Texas on this date in 1912 quickly traded that piano for a microphone.

For an actor who hailed from The Lone Star State, Berry Kroeger would eventually leave that patch of ground without a trace of a drawl. Instead, Kroeger mastered scores of dialects and accents, domestic and imported. Berry could play anything from a suave, cultured villain to a down-to-earth, Midwestern physician. Like most of his fellow radio thespians, Kroeger found steady work and paychecks on daytime dramas; he was “Sam Williams” on Young Doctor Malone, “Conrad Overton” on Road of Life, and “Dr. Reed Bannister” on Big Sister.

Berry Kroeger was well-known on radio for his narration skills. He served as a narrator on Calling All Cars and Salute to Youth. Before “radio’s outstanding theatre of thrills” hired The Man in Black, Berry narrated the early broadcasts of Suspense. Horror fans will recognize Kroeger’s sinister tones on The Haunting Hour and Murder at Midnight. Later in the decade, Berry was featured on the newspaper drama anthology The Big Story. The actor even got a shot at playing the lead when The Adventures of the Falcon premiered in 1943.

Shows like The Adventures of the Thin Man, The American School of the Air, Bulldog Drummond, The Columbia Workshop, The Cresta Blanca Carnival, Dr. Christian, The Eternal Light, Grand Central Station, Inner Sanctum Mysteries, The Molle Mystery Theatre, The Radio Hall of Fame, The Theatre Guild on the Air, and Words at War kept Berry Kroeger busy at this point in his career. The actor started making inroads on stage, too, beginning with his Broadway debut in The World’s Full of Girls. Berry would work alongside such notables as Dame May Whitty, Victor Jory, Eve LeGalliene, and Ingrid Bergman. Kroeger’s stage work also attracted the attention of director William Wellman, who cast Berry in his first credited motion picture, The Iron Curtain (1948).

Berry Kroeger’s penchant for slimy villainy really came to the fore with several noirs released at this time: Cry of the City (1948), The Dark Past (1948), Act of Violence (1949), Gun Crazy (1949), etc. (I just happened to catch Black Magic {1949] a week or so ago, and thoroughly enjoyed Berry as Alexander Dumas pere opposite Raymond Burr as Alexander Dumas fils.) In the meantime, Berry continued to beef up his radio resume: The Adventures of Phillip Marlowe, American Portrait, Barrie Craig, Confidential Investigator, The Cavalcade of America, The CBS Radio Workshop, Cloak and Dagger, The Clock, Dimension X, Escape, Family Theatre, Favorite Story, The House of Mystery, Jeff Regan, Investigator, The NBC University Theatre, The Railroad Hour, Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, True Detective Mysteries, Voyage of the Scarlet Queen, The Whistler, X-Minus One, Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, and You Are There.

There would be many a memorable Berry Kroeger movie appearance in later years (Seven Thieves, The Mephisto Waltz, Demon Seed) in addition to TV work (he did more than a few Perry Masons), but Barry Kroeger really pulled out all the stops in character acting in his twilight years. Once described as “a junior edition of Charles Laughton,” Kroeger turned in tongue-in-cheek homages to Sydney Greenstreet on episodes of The Thin Man (“Bookworms”) and Get Smart (“Maxwell Smart, Private Eye”). Berry Kroeger passed away in 1991 at the age of 78.

To celebrate Mr. Kroeger’s natal anniversary, we invite you to purchase collections from the actor’s signature shows: Dimension X (Adventures in Time and SpaceFuture Tense); Inner Sanctum Mysteries (Pattern for FearShadows of Death); and Suspense (Black CurtainFear and Trembling). Rounding out Berry’s catalog: The Adventures of Phillip Marlowe: Night TideBig Story: As It HappenedFamily Theatre: Every HomeGreat Radio Science FictionStop the Press!; and Words At War: World War II Radio Drama. Happy birthday, Berry!