About James Warren
James was born in Marietta, Ohio on February 24, 1913.
He was the son of Walter Jacob Wittlig and Florence Lone Pringle, all of Marietta, Ohio.
Jim was the middle of 3 brothers, Lawrence, who was the oldest and David, who was the youngest.
The Wittlig family originally came from Langenthal, Switzerland. Jim's grandfather, Jacob Wittlig, was a watchmaker and brought that talent to Marietta where he settled with his wife Caroline. They brought 3 children with them when they emigrated, the other 5 were born in Marietta. .... Theodore, Frieda, Albert, Freidrich, Mary, Henry, Matilde, Walter.
Jacob and Caroline opened a jewelry store, J Wittlig and Sons - a family owned business. Becoming very wealthy and respected members of the community.
Their hard work and ethics being a testament to the love and respect the citizens of Marietta gave them. All of their children worked in the store and yet continued to have other careers.
Son Freidrich developed and patented the locking mechanism for the bicycle. Two grandsons went on to excel in careers in CBS and Cinematography. Walter, Jim's father, later ran the store when his father passed on.
The store remained a viable and going concern, run by the various family members for 102 years. When the last of the family passed away the store was purchased by a prior employee.
It was a great loss when the last of the Marietta Wittlig's passed on as they were well respected and delightful people, missed by many, and loved by more.
But Walter and Florence's son James had other interests, his passion was art. He held various positions in clubs and organizations growing up, as art editor and designer. He was art editor for the school newsletter and for his graduation yearbook in 1931. President of his Sophomore Class, Vice President of his Senior Class, member of the Operetta, producing and performing in plays. His handsome good looks and terrific personality made him a favorite among the society crowd and he was invited to many social events, squiring more than one debutante. An active member of the community he entered and won boat races along the Ohio River.
Blessed with incredible talent and artistic fervor he went on to pursue studies at The Pratt Institute of New York, Brooklyn, New York ... beginning in 1932. His studies and talent took him to positions as a commercial artist for Saturday Evening Post, Collier's Magazine and Redbook. He illustrated a cover for Collier's in 1939 along with one man shows being featured in many New York exhibitions, such as Pedlar and Ryan on Park Avenue.
It was in 1938 that he decided to cruise to the Bahamas whereupon he met his future wife, Felice Pouch. It wasn't until 1940 that he and Felice married.
In 1942, while Jim was having lunch with his brother Lawrence, he was spotted by an MGM talent scout. He was asked to come to the Broadway offices of Louis B. Mayer for a screen test .... Jim agreed and Mayer personally called him and asked him to come to Hollywood, California to begin his movie career. Billed as 'America's Number One Leading Man'. He soon flew to Hollywood with his wife and son ... changing his name to James Warren and taking up residence in Los Angeles he began with MGM doing parts in many films with such greats as Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Ann Southern, Randolph Scott and many more. He was so well liked and talented that RKO signed him to replace Robert Mitchum, who had replaced Tim Holt in westerns, as Holt had been drafted into the Army.
Jim played many Western heroes, doing a series for the Zane Grey Classics. Around 1950 he and Felice moved to Balboa Island, in Newport Beach, California, a very artistic and Hollywood enclave. His on screen talent, good looks and personality brought him to the notice of agent and producer Milton Bren. Milton had written and would be directing a 1952 movie '3 for Bedroom C'. A romantic comedy originally written for his wife, Claire Trevor, to star in; however, she already had a prior movie commitment and the role of leading lady was given to Gloria Swanson.
Swanson personally requested James Warren to be her leading man in the movie and Jim showed the audience more of his talent and good looks. With that 'killer' smile, midnight blue eyes and slim 6'4" physic he was definitely leading man material and a heart-throb. In all, Jim played in over 30 films in Hollywood from 1945 to 1953. Including television and starring in an unsold TV pilot.
While Jim did have all that Hollywood wanted in a leading man, Jim's true passion was elsewhere ...his art. During those years in Hollywood Jim found a patron in Vincent Price who gave him his first one-man show in 1942, stating, "Warren's work has always seemed to me to have the spontaneity so essential to good watercolor painting. Added to that he has a freshness of vision and draughtmanship that makes for serious consideration of these pictures." Katherine Hepburn bought seven large watercolors at that show.
Jim was destined to have numerous one man shows throughout the United States. An entrepreneur at heart he branched out into ceramic sculptures of many of the Hollywood greats: Gaby Hayes, Victor Moore and Frank Morgan, to name a few ... featuring these and others under the Warren Ware label.
Jim went on to do Commercial Illustration for Disney, California Artists and many magazines. In 1968 Ford Motor Company, who had featured many of Jim's watercolors in their Ford Times Magazine, commissioned him for a large project in the Hawaiian Islands. Jim took the commission, by now having divorced Felice, and moved to Maui where he took up permanent residency. He maintained an art gallery in Oahu and Maui.
He was a revered and respected member of the La Hainai Art Society Association. It became an 'in thing' to acquire a James Warren painting of his whimsical Warren Kula [Maui] Onion ... along with his beautiful renditions of the Hawaiian Tutus [grandmothers] and Kikis [grandchildren]. He settled into Maui with great fervor and delight being able to create sculpture and watercolor paintings of the grandeur and beauty of Hawaii. He remained there, with his companion Sonja, for 33 years.
Then on March 28, 2001 at the age of 88 he bid goodbye to his beautiful Hawaii and quietly passed away into the Hawaiian sunset. But he will always be remembered and loved. He was a kind, loving and gentle man ... plus a gentleman. Full of fun and a great laugh.... a mischievous twinkle in his dark blue eyes and flashes of that beautiful smile.
He will be missed .... his work will live after him in the quiet and delicate loveliness of his watercolor paintings. His comment ringing across the universe "All the good paintings I paint belong to the world, all the bad ones belong to me"... always said with a twinkle in his eye and that smile that was so much a part of him.