Today is the birthday of the mighty thespian Hobart Bosworth (1867-1943).
Bosworth ran away from his Ohio home when he was about age ten and became a cabin boy on a clipper ship. After several voyages (and eight years) he broke into the theatre as a stage manager and supernumerary with McKee Rankin’s company in San Francisco. He then toured the country with various companies for the next couple of years and wound being a part of Augustin Daly’s company in New York, where he remained for a decade.
Around the turn of the century he was felled by tuberculosis, and though he recovered, he decided to remain in arid, Southwestern climes. Fortunately, there was still a way for him to continue acting although his voice was shot from the TB: silent movies. He began starring with the Selig Polyscope Company in San Diego in 1908 (the company later moved to to Los Angeles). Having written an adaptation of Faust early in his stage career, he became a scenario writer and director of films, in addition to acting in them, with adaptations of Jack London his specialty (not surprising given his own nautical background). He starred in dozens of films during the silent era, including the original 1910 version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and King Vidor’s The Big Parade (1925). Notable films from the sound era included The Show of Shows (1929), Griffith’s Abraham Lincoln (1930), Frank Capra’s Dirigible (1931), and the Our Gang feature General Spanky (1936).
He made it onto our radar recently because we learned that he played vaudeville in 1918, stepping onto the stage of the Palace in his own adaptation of Jack London’s The Sea Wolf.
Here’s his 1921 film The Sea Lion:
To learn out more about show business history consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc