Tall, distinguished, aristocratic Louis Calhern seemed to be the poster boy for old-money, upper-crust urban society, but he was actually born Carl Vogt, to middle-class parents in New York City. His family moved to St. Louis when he was a child, and it was while playing football in high school there that he was spotted by a representative of a touring acting troupe and hired as an actor. He returned to New York to work in the theater, but his career was interrupted by military service in France in World War I. He returned to the stage after the war, and eventually broke into films. Although his regal bearing would seem to pigeonhole him in aristocratic parts in serious drama, he proved to be a very versatile actor, as much at home playing a comic foil.