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A blossoming student athlete in his home town of Dallas, James Hall left home at the age of 14 to join a theatrical company. Four years later he put his career on hold to serve as an artilleryman in World War I. Thriving as a musical performer in the 1920s, the boyish, ingratiating Hall was signed to a Paramount movie contract by studio executive Jesse Lasky. A moderate successful silent film leading man, Hall's greatest role came with the talkies, when he was co-starred with Ben Lyon and Jean Harlow in Howard Hughes' aviation epic Hell's Angels (1930). Within two years, however, James Hall was out of films completely; he died in 1940, three months shy of his 40th birthday.

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