Holbrook Blinn (1872-1928) was a major star of stage and screen who had the grave misfortune of dying just as talkies were coming in, thus muting his memory.
Originally from San Francisco, he began acting upon the stage as a child. He did take a break from his professional career in order to attend Stanford, but for years before and afterward he toured the nation (and later the U.K.) with stock companies. The Cat and the Cherub (1897) was the first of 40 Broadway productions he appeared in. In 1900 he appeared in Hans Christian Anderson’s Ib and Little Christina in both New York and London. In 1906 he appeared in a stage adaptation of Thomas Dixon’s The Clansman (the same source material for D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation). He was also in Salomy Jane (1907), Candida (1907), Salvation Nell (1908), Pillars of Society (1910), A Woman of No Importance (1916), The Lady of the Camellias (1917), and The Dove (1925) among dozens of other plays. He is notable (along with George M. Cohan) for being one of the few actors who sided with the producers in the 1919 actor’s strike, helping to form something called the Actors’ Fidelity League. Blinn was also a stage director, we should note, overseeing several plays that were presented at the Princess Theatre.
Staring in 1914 he was also in a couple of dozen movies, including a screen version of his Broadway success The Boss (1915), Life’s Whirlpool (1916, based, like Stroheim’s Greed, on the novel McTeague), The Bad Man (1923), Rosita (1923, with Mary Pickford), and several with Marion Davies, including Yolanda (1924), Janice Meredith (1924), and Zander the Great (1925). His last film was The Telephone Girl (1927) with Madge Bellamy.
In 1928 Blinn was thrown from his horse while relaxing in Croton-on-Hudson. His arm was broken and became infected. He died of pneumonia within a few days. Yes, friends, as recently as that. Thank the doctors and scientists who work hard every day making sure something like that doesn’t happen to YOU.
Blinn was buried in Sleep Hollow Cemetery, which we visited a few years back. He was the uncle of comedienne Beatrice Blinn.
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For more on silent and classic film please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.