Sydney Deane: Test Matches and Tinseltown

Sydney Deane (1863-1934) was both one of the first Australian stars in Hollywood as well as one of the first athletes-turned-stars. A rugby and cricket champ in his youth, the Sydney native began touring with Gilbert and Sullivan companies in the 1890s. He was co-founder and manager of the Elite Vaudeville Company, whose many productions included a burlesque of Trilby, in which he played the character of Svengarlic. By the end of the decade (and century) he was touring American vaudeville. On Broadway, he was part of the cast of the legendary Floradora (1890-02) as well the shows The Mockingbird (1902), The Knickerbocker Girl (1903), and My Lady Molly (1904). He was also in L. Frank Baum’s 1905 The Wogglebug, which opened in Chicago, but did not move to New York.

Nearly a decade later, as a mature actor in his 50s, he was hired by Jesse Lasky for his new film company. His first movie was Cecil B. DeMille’s landmark 1914 production of The Squaw Man (as the Dean of Trenton), followed by numerous well-remembered films such as the original Brewster’s Millions (1914), the original The Virginian (1914), Rose of the Rancho (1914), The Girl of the Golden West (1915), The Warrens of Virginia (1915), A Doll’s House (1917), Male and Female (1919), Treasure Island (1920), and The Last of the Mohicans (1920). His last film (of 44) was D.W. Griffith’s America (1924).

To learn more about vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on silent film please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.