Muni, Paul(myo͞o`nē), 1895–1967, American actor, b. Austria, whose original name was Muni Weisenfreund. His parents brought him to the United States in 1902 and from 1903 to 1913 toured with him in vaudeville. Turning to the legitimate theater, he toured (1914–17) the Midwest and acted (1918–25) with the Yiddish Art Theatre in New York City. He began working in films in 1928 and won an Academy Award in 1936 for his performance in The Life of Louis Pasteur. An outstanding character actor, Muni's films include The Life of Émile Zola (1937), The Good Earth (1937), Juarez (1939), and The Last Angry Man (1959). In 1955 he appeared on Broadway in Inherit the Wind.
See biography by M. B. Druxman (1974).
(stage name of Frederich Mayer Weisenfreund). Born Sept. 22, 1895, in Lemberg, Austria, present-day L’vov, Ukrainian SSR; died Aug. 26, 1967, in Santa Barbara, Calif. American actor.
From the age of eight, Muni performed in various theaters in West European cities with his parents, who were actors. In 1926 he made his debut on Broadway in New York City and thereafter periodically performed with many of the city’s companies.
In 1929, Muni made his debut in films. He was one of the best American actors of the 1930’s. His best roles included a prisoner in I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang (1932), a gangster in Scarface (1932), Pasteur in The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936), Zola in The Life of Emile Zola (1937), and Benito Juárez in Juárez (1939). Most of these films are protests against the forces of reaction and fanaticism. After the mid-1940’s, Muni acted only in supporting roles.