Cullen Landis

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Cullen Landis
Cullen Landis, silent film actor (SAYRE 5548).jpg
Landis in 1924
James Cullen Landis

(1896-07-09)July 9, 1896
DiedAugust 26, 1975(1975-08-26) (aged 79)
Resting place Maple Grove Cemetery, Mason, Michigan, U.S.
Other namesJ. Cullen Landis
  • Actor
  • Director
Years active1916–1939
Mignon Le Brun
(m. 1918;div. 1921)

Jane Grenier
(m. 1931;died 1975)
Relatives Margaret Landis (sister)

James Cullen Landis (July 9, 1896 – August 26, 1975) was an American motion picture actor and director whose career began in the early years of the silent film era.



James Cullen Landis was the middle of three siblings (two sons and a daughter) raised by Lulan and Margaret (née Cullen) Landis in Nashville, Tennessee, [1] where his father supported his family as a stock broker. [2] As a boy, James was a train enthusiast and dreamed to be a railroad engineer. Though the ambition eventually faded, his interest in railroads did not, and some years later he helped design for himself a model train set powered by steam (left). [3]

Landis with Clara Horton in It's a Great Life (1920) It's a Great Life (1920) 1.jpg
Landis with Clara Horton in It's a Great Life (1920)

Cullen began working in the fledgling film industry at age 18 around the time his older sister, Margaret Landis, appeared in her first film. [4]

Landis began as a movie director, only turning to acting after his lead player broke a leg and it was discovered that the actor’s costumes fit him. [5]

He went on to become one of the more popular lead actors of the silent era, appearing in some one hundred films over 14 years. [6]

Landis with his model train locomotive, ca. 1920 Cullen Landis 1.jpg
Landis with his model train locomotive, ca. 1920

In 1928 Cullen Landis starred in the first ‘all talking’ motion picture, Lights of New York. He confided in a friend that talkies were perfect for musicals and that he was no "song and dance man". He left Hollywood for Detroit in 1930 to produce and direct industrial films for automobile companies; joining the directorial staff of the Jam Handy Picture Service in 1937, where he would finish his professional career. [7]

World War II

During World War II, he served as a captain with US Army Signal Corps producing training films in the South Pacific. By war’s end he was twice decorated and promoted to major. In the post war years he made documentaries for the US State Department that took him to the far corners of the world. [5]


James Cullen Landis died on August 28, 1975, aged 79, at a nursing home in Bloomfield, Michigan, three months after the death of his wife, Jane (née Greiner). [5]

Selected filmography

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  1. US World War One Draft Registration
  2. 1900-1910 US Census Records
  3. The Santa Fe Magazine, Volume 15 (1920), p. 48
  4. Margaret Landis profile at
  5. 1 2 3 "Silent Screen Star Dies", Ironwood Daily Globe, August 28, 1975, p. 6
  6. Cullen Landis profile at
  7. "Director Appointed", Detroit Free Press, February 14, 1937, p. 6