Fred Windemere: From Snakeville to Oblivion

Publicity still ca. 1923. Windemere and Bennett, left. Creighton Hale is also in the photo

Actor and director Fred Windemere (Fritz Wintermeier, 1892-1970, sometimes rendered “Fred Windermere” or Fred C. Windermere”) was a minor figure of the silent era, but his life intersected with several better remembered characters and it seems worthwhile to give him a nod on his birthday.

Originally from Muscatine, Iowa, Windermere was 20 years old when he began to appear in Essanay “Snakeville” comedies with Broncho Billy Anderson and Alkali Ike in 1912, usually billed under his given name Fritz Wintermeier. He stuck with Essanay through 1916.

Then in 1919 he landed a part in the King Baggott film The Hawk’s Trail. At this point, he shifted gears and became a director. His first effort was a comedy short called Bear Skinned Beauties (1920). His third comedy The Blacksmith (1920) starred Hank Mann and Noah Young. In 1921 he wrote the scenario for a melodrama called Discontented Wives. Then a lull of four years.

In 1924 he married Belle Bennett, an up and coming actress who was about to become a pretty big star. Interestingly, the pair appears not to have worked together.

Windemere returns in 1925, directing features for independent companies through the end of the silent era, some of which had notable stars. His first from this period, The Verdict (1925) had Lou Tellegen, William Collier Jr. and Gertrude Astor. The comedy Romance Road (1925) had Raymond McKee and Billy Bletcher. Chaplin’s ex-wife Mildred Harris appeared in his 1925 film Soiled. Anita Stewart was in Morganson’s Finish (1926). Broadway After Midnight (1927) had Cullen Landis and Priscilla Bonner. He directed another half dozen films throughout this period, culminating with Devil Dogs (1928), his last.

What he does with himself after this is a mystery. Bennett continued working until her death in 1932. Windemere, whose last directing gig was at the age of 36, lived until 1970.