The Prolific Bryant Washburn

We have had occasion to mention Bryant Washburn (Franklin Bryant Washburn III, 1889-1963) several times in the past, for he starred in such silent fare as Twenty One (1918) with Gertrude Selby, and Venus in the East (1919) with Anna Q, NIlsson, and had a prominent role in Larry Semon’s notorious 1925 version of The Wizard of Oz. He also starred in the 1919 version of William Gilette’s Too Much Johnson, famous remade by Orson Welles (Now lost). Washburn was both a star and supporting player during the silent days. Following four years (1907-1910) in stock theatre in Chicago and New York, he got his cinematic start at Chicago’s Essanay Studios in 1911 as the title character in The New Manager with Francis X. Bushman. This was years before features were the standard, and movies were cranked out by the week. Consequently, Washburn’s list of credits contains nearly 400 movies.

Washburn was still getting starring roles at the end of the silent era, in things like Jazzland (1928) with Vera Reynolds. When talkies came in, he enjoyed some moderate initial success such as a decent role the ensemble thriller Mystery Train (1931) with Hedda Hopper, Marceline Day, and Al Cooke. But he quickly settled into a not uncommon dual status consisting of decent supporting parts in B movies and serials, combined with bit parts in major features. In B pictures in the ’30s and ’40s he was usually one of those shady-looking dudes in a mustache. Fans of old time B pictures and seials can see him in the Tailspin Tommy series, The Clutching Hand, Jungle Jim, and similar fare. His last screen role was a low budget comedy called Sweet Genevieve (1947) starring Jean Porter, in which he was 8th in the billing.

Washburn’s first wife was actress Mabel Forrest (1894-1967), mother of bit player Bryant Washburn Jr (1915-1960); his second wife was silent movie comedienne Virginia Vance (1902-1942).

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