American actor (1899-1943). Real name: Dwight Iliff Fry (without the "e"). Born in Salina, Kansas, Frye had a notable career in the theatre, working first in juvenile roles and graduating to leads before he started working in film. In fact, he originated the role of "the Young Man" in the 1922 Broadway premiere of Luigi Pirandello's "Six Characters in Search of an Author."
Once Frye made it to Hollywood, he was quickly typecast as a villain, thanks to some of his first film roles: the sadistic hunchback Fritz in "Frankenstein," the bug-eating lunatic Renfield in "Dracula," and the demented murderer Karl in "The Bride of Frankenstein." He occasionally returned to the theatre for comedies, musicals, and thrillers, and in the early 1940s, he worked nights as a tool designer for Lockheed.
Frye was signed to portray Secretary of War Newton D. Baker (whom he was said to greatly resemble) in a film bio of President Woodrow Wilson, but he died of a heart attack before filming began.
Frye is probably still best remembered for playing Renfield in "Dracula." There is little disagreement that his performance of the character was the best ever filmed -- his influence on future portrayals of Renfield has been at least as important as Bela Lugosi's has been on our view of vampires -- and there has never been a laugh as creepy and unsettling as Frye's laugh in "Dracula."