Celebrating the Tarzan Film Centennial #44
Nigel de Brulier appeared as the priest in "The Romance
of Tarzan." Slim and gaunt with piercing eyes, he was typecast as a religious
figures or ascetics; he played Cardinal Richelieu four times, in “The Three
Musketeers” (1921), “The Iron Mask” (1929), “The Three Musketeers” (1935)
and “The Man in the Iron Mask" (1939).
Born Francis George Packer in Bristol, England on July
8, 1877, de Brulier attended public schools as a boy and sang tenor in
church choirs. He immigrated to Canada and then to Chicago in 1898, where,
like “Tarzan of the Apes” author Edgar Rice Burroughs, de Brulier tried
unsuccessfully to enlist in the Spanish American War.
After losing his singing voice, De Brulier moved on
to California in 1899, working in a Borax mine in Borate, in hopes that
the desert climate would rejuvenate him. Other jobs included rowing a glass-bottomed
boat in Catalina, and picking oranges. De Brulier launched his stage career,
with the Carla Rosa Opera Company taking his stage name from his French
wife’s lineage. His film debut was in the original “Robin Hood” (1909)
at the Selig Company’s Edendale Studios.
De Brulier successfully transitioned to sound films,
accruing more than 100 credits in his five-decade career. Other notable
credits include “Ben Hur” (1925), “The Gaucho,” “Salome” (as Jochanan),
“The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” “Viva Villa,” and “Charlie Chan
in Egypt.” He was the model for the sorcerer in the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”
sequence of Walt Disney’s “Fantasia.”
De Brulier resided in the Los Angeles suburb of Eagle
Rock, where he directed a theater group in his spare time and served as
the vice president of the Adventurers Club, after a spate of overseas travels.
Favorite plays included “Mary Queen of Scotland,” “The Merchant of Venice,”
and “Salome.” He died January 30, 1948 in Los Angeles.