Edwin Milton Royle and His Royle Relations

The name Edwin Milton Royle (1862-1942) is important in show business annals for at least a couple of different reasons.

One is that he wrote The Squaw Man, which had five Broadway productions between 1905 and 1922, was made adapted into Cecil B. DeMille’s first cinematic feature in 1914, followed by two other screen versions in 1918 and 1931, and was novelized in 1906 by Julie Opp Faversham, wife of the original star of the play William Faversham. (Dustin Farnum starred in the DeMille film and Warner Baxter in the talkie).

The other reason readers of this blog might be especially interested in Royle is that, like George Kelly and a few others, he was a major contributor of one act playlets to vaudeville, and he wrote one of the best essays we have about the vaudeville experience. It was original published in Scribner’s magazine in 1899, but many of us first encountered it in the useful 1984 book American Vaudeville As Seen By Its Contemporaries, edited by Charles Stein. It is mandatory reading for the vaudeville student.

Originally from Lexington Missouri, Royle was educated at Princeton. In addition to The Squaw Man, he also wrote the book Edwin Booth As I Knew Him (1899), and a dozen other Broadway plays that were produced between 1892 and 1930. His wife Selena Fetter Royle was in several of his plays. His daughters Josephine and Selena Royle were both in his 1921 play Launcelot and Elaine.

Selena the Younger (1904-1983) proved a successful actress in her own right, appearing in over two dozen Broadway plays (many with the Theater Guild), and numerous radio programs. In 1932 she married actor Earl Larrimore, a cousin of Laura Hope Crews. Larrimore’s Broadway credits included the original productions of Jaurez and Maximillian (1926), Ned McCobb’s Daughter (1926), The Silver Cord (1926), Strange Interlude (1928) Mourning Becomes Electra (1932), and Dark Victory (1934). In 1942 the pair divorced. The same year, she became one of the organizers of the original Broadway Stage Door Canteen, which entertained servicemen and women as a wartime morale booster. She then appeared in the Hollywood film version, which then led to her playing supporting roles in over 40 more movies, including The Fighting Sullivans (1944), Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944), The Harvey Girls (1946), Night and Day (1946), Joan of Arc (1948), The Heiress (1949), and …..wait for it…yes…The Robot Monster (1953, a classic of its kind among lovers of Grade Z horror films). The change in Royle’s status had to do the fact that in 1951 she refused to testify before HUAC and had been blacklisted. She and her second husband, stage and screen actor George Revenant, whom she’d married in 1948, subsequently moved to Mexico, where they lived out their remaining years. Revenant is a fascinating figure whom I’ll be posting about in his own right in a few weeks, for he once tried to start an American version of the Grand Guignol and he can be seen in such films as Rio Rita (1929) and The Invisble Ray (1936).

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