Burr McIntosh: Stage, Page and Screen

I first learned about the multi-faceted public figure Burr McIntosh (1862-1942) from Laurette Taylor’s 1918 book The Greatest of These, which I read when I participated in Necromancers of the Public Domain a few months ago.

McIntosh was the son of the President of the New York and Cleveland Gas Coal Company, who happened to be one of the most prominent members of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club. (The club owned the South Fork Dam, the failure of which caused the 1889 Johnstown Flood). Burr’s sister, opera singer Nancy McIntosh, was W.S. Gilbert’s last protege, eventually living with him and his wife, and inheriting his estate.

Burr’s first Broadway role was in the 1895 American premiere of the stage version of Trilby. He later appeared in revivals of the play in 1905 and 1915. Other notable Broadway plays he appeared in (out of a total of 14), were the original productions of The Cowboy and the Lady (1899) and Janice Meredith (1900), and a 1921 revival of The Squaw Man. All of these plays were made into movies. His last Broadway part was in Robert E. Lee (1923).

From 1903 through 1910 he published Burr McIntosh Monthly, one of the very first photo magazines, containing pictures of famous people and places.

Over a 20 year period (1914-1934) he appeared in 68 motion pictures. Nearly a quarter of these were part of a single series, The New Adventures of J. Rufus Wallingford (1915), in which he played the title character. He is perhaps best remembered as the cruel Squire Bartlett in D.W. Griffith’s Way Down East (1920), the guy who drives Lillian Gish to that memorable scene where she crosses a river on ice throes carrying a baby. He has a supporting role in the all star Hallelujah, I’m a Bum (1933). His last film was The Richest Girl in the World (1934) with Miriam Hopkins. McIntosh’s final eight years were devoted to various charitable causes.

For more on silent film please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.