From Stadium’s halls to the silver screen

September 9, 2006 

Tarzan graduated from Stadium. Ditto Daniel Boone, Cole Younger, Jim Younger, Mildred Pierce’s husband, Bert, and James Cody, that fellow who was always getting sideways of Humphrey Bogart in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.”

Herman Brix, class of 1924, played them all on the silver screen. Acting under his stage name, Bruce Bennett, Brix was a Hollywood regular for four decades. In the 1940s alone, he appeared in 63 films.

Brix turned to acting only after he’d won his silver medal in the shot put at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam. And that was only after he’d gone to the Rose Bowl with the University of Washington football team in 1926.

Brix is 100 and lives in his own home in Los Angeles. It’s unlikely he will be able to attend the centennial festivities, though his friend Marc Blau, class of 1969, would like to find him a seat on a private jet so he can make the trip.

Blau had never heard of Brix until he got into research for the Shanaman Sports Museum of Tacoma-Pierce County. The more he learned about Brix, the more he respected him. In 2004, he tracked down Brix and arranged for him to come to Tacoma and visit the home his family built in 1906 at 646 S. State St.

“I had a wonderful youth and a wonderful time at Stadium High School,” Brix said in a phone interview. “I used to sing. There was always a fight between the music director and the athletic coaches as to who was going to get my time after school. The athletic coaches won most of the time, but I enjoyed singing, too, and played the lead in ‘The Pirates of Penzance.’ I enjoyed it, though the athletic fraternity made a lot of fun of me.”

Concentrating on football and track at UW, he went to the Olympics after graduating in 1928. In the second-to-last throw of the Amsterdam games, he broke the world and Olympic shot put records. His teammate, John Kuck of Stanford, bested him in the last throw.

Brix moved to California and was competing for the Los Angeles Athletic Club and doing stunt work when director Sam Wood noticed him.

“He took me under his wing and gave me several parts that gave me a start,” Brix said. “And then Edgar Rice Burroughs came along and decided he wanted to make serial and motion pictures of ‘Tarzan.’ From that time on, I was in the so-called ‘star’ bracket.”

He had the happiest of marriages to his late wife, Jeanette, he said, and is proud of their two children, Christine and Christopher. He sends his best wishes to the alumni and students gathering at Stadium this month.

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