Gordon Griffith

Last updated
Gordon Griffith
Image Tarzan of the Apes poster 1918.jpg
As Tarzan in 1918
Gordon S. Griffith

July 4, 1907
Chicago, Illinois
DiedOctober 12, 1958 (aged 51)
Los Angeles, California

Gordon S. Griffith (July 4, 1907 October 12, 1958) was an American assistant director, film producer, and one of the first child actors in the American movie industry. Griffith worked in the film industry for five decades, acting in over 60 films, and surviving the transition from silent films to talkies films with sound. During his acting career, he worked with Charlie Chaplin, and was the first actor to portray Tarzan on film. [1] [2]


Gordon Griffith (bottom) and Florence Morrison (top) in a detail from a still for Penrod (1922). Penrod publicity pic (detail).jpg
Gordon Griffith (bottom) and Florence Morrison (top) in a detail from a still for Penrod (1922).

Silent film

As Tom Sawyer in Huckleberry Finn (1920), with Lewis Sargent as Huck Huckleberry Finn (1920) 1.jpg
As Tom Sawyer in Huckleberry Finn (1920), with Lewis Sargent as Huck

Griffith was born on July 4, 1907 in Chicago, Illinois, to actors Harry Sutherland Griffith [3] and Katherine Kiernan Griffith. [4] He had two siblings, an older sister Gertrude, and a younger brother Grahamalso an actor. [5] Griffith was already an experienced actor when, at age seven, he got his first acting role as a regular character in the Little Billy series of films. Mack Sennett of Keystone Studios cast Griffith in many of his slapstick features, where he eventually earned supporting roles in Charlie Chaplin films, including Tillie's Punctured Romance , in which he portrayed a paperboy, a role that Milton Berle frequently claimed to have played.

His big break came with the role of young Tarzan, in the 1918 film Tarzan of the Apes . He was required to do his own stunts, such as climbing trees, swinging from vines, and interacting closely with a chimpanzee. Griffith also has several nude scenes in the first half of the film. Griffith appears before the actor portraying the adult Tarzan Elmo Lincoln making him the first actor to portray Tarzan in film. After seeing the movie, a critic described Griffith as "a youthful actor of uncommon gifts." [2]

Griffith received the role of Tom Sawyer in Huckleberry Finn . Later he was again cast in the first Tarzan serial as Tarzan's son, Korak, a role that has been described as "anticipating John Sheffield's 'Boy' roles [in later Tarzan films]." [1] He continued to act in silent films well into his teen years, including a role as Mary Pickford's older brother in Little Annie Rooney (1925).

Both of Griffth's parents died in the 1920shis mother in 1921 [4] and his father in 1926. [3] At the time of the 1930 census, he and his brother were living with his sister and her family in Pasadena, California. [6]

Sound era

Although his career survived the transition from silent films to sound, Griffith received smaller and smaller rolesoccasionally not even being credited for his performances. As his acting career cooled, Griffith moved into other areas of the film industry. At the age of twenty-three he got his first job as an assistant director. [7] His final acting credit came six years later in 1936's Outlaws of the Range . [7] Griffith continued to work in the film industry until his death. Between 1931 and 1940, he worked as an assistant director in over 20 films, including those at Monogram Pictures.

Between 1941 and 1953 he was an associate producer or producer on four films. [7] He was an associate producer under Robert E. Sherwood, and for Gregory Ratoff Productions. In 1941, Griffith became a production manager at Columbia Pictures, and later served as an associate producer for RKO.

In 1958, Griffith died of a heart attack in Hollywood at the age of 51. He was survived by his sister. [1]

Selected filmography as actor

Related Research Articles

<i>Tillies Punctured Romance</i> (1914 film) 1914 film by Mack Sennett

Tillie's Punctured Romance is a 1914 American silent comedy film directed by Mack Sennett and starring Marie Dressler, Mabel Normand, Charlie Chaplin, and the Keystone Kops. The picture was the first feature-length motion picture produced by the Keystone Film Company, and is the only one featuring Chaplin.

Donald Crisp English actor

Donald William Crisp was an English film actor as well as an early producer, director and screenwriter. His career lasted from the early silent film era into the 1960s. He won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1942 for his performance in How Green Was My Valley.

Neil Hamilton (actor) American actor

James Neil Hamilton was an American stage, film and television actor, best known for his role as Commissioner Gordon on the Batman TV series of the 1960s.

Edgar Kennedy American actor

Edgar Livingston Kennedy was an American comedic character actor who appeared in at least 500 films during the silent and sound eras. Professionally, he was known as "Slow Burn", owing to his ability to portray characters whose anger slowly rose in frustrating situations. In many of his roles, he used exasperated facial expressions and performed very deliberately to convey his rising anger or "burn", often rubbing his hand over his bald head and across his face in an effort to control his temper. One memorable example of his comedy technique can be seen in the 1933 Marx Brothers' film Duck Soup, where he plays a sidewalk lemonade vendor who is harassed and increasingly provoked by Harpo and Chico.

Elmo Lincoln American actor

Elmo Lincoln was an American film actor, the first to play Tarzan.

<i>Tarzan of the Apes</i> (1918 film) 1918 film directed by Scott Sidney

Tarzan of the Apes is a 1918 American action/adventure silent film directed by Scott Sidney starring Elmo Lincoln, Enid Markey, George B. French and Gordon Griffith.

William Farnum American actor

William Farnum was an American stage and film actor. He was a star of American silent film cinema and became one of the highest-paid actors during that time.

Carl Stockdale American actor

Carl Stockdale also known as Carlton Stockdale was one of the longest-working Hollywood veteran actors, with a career dating from the early 1910s. He also made the difficult transition from silent films to talkies.

Enid Markey American actress

Enid Markey was an American actress of theater, film, and television. She originated the role of Jane in films, playing the character twice in 1918. Her career extended into the 1960s.

Wallace MacDonald Canadian actor

Wallace Archibald MacDonald was a Canadian silent film actor and film producer.

<i>Tillies Punctured Romance</i> (1928 film) 1928 film by A. Edward Sutherland

Tillie's Punctured Romance is a lost 1928 American silent circus comedy film starring W. C. Fields as a ringmaster and Louise Fazenda as a runaway. Written by Monte Brice and Keene Thompson and directed by A. Edward Sutherland, this movie has nothing to do with the 1914 Charlie Chaplin film aside from sharing the same title. However, Chester Conklin and Mack Swain appear in both films.

Glen Cavender American actor

Glen Cavender was an American film actor. He appeared in 259 films between 1914 and 1949.

Harry McCoy American actor

Harry McCoy was an American film actor and screenwriter. He appeared in 155 films between 1912 and 1935.

Nick Cogley American actor

Nickolas P. J. Cogley was an American actor, director and writer of the silent films. He appeared in more than 170 films between 1909 and 1934.

Tarzan in film, television and other non-print media Wikimedia list article

Tarzan, a fictional character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, first appeared in the 1912 novel Tarzan of the Apes, and then in twenty-four sequels by Burroughs and numerous more by other authors. The character proved immensely popular and quickly made the jump to other media, first and most notably to comics and film. This article concerns Tarzan's appearance in film and other non-print media.

Alfred Abel German actor

Alfred Peter Abel was a German film actor, director, and producer. He appeared in more than 140 silent and sound films between 1913 and 1938. His best-known performance was as Joh Fredersen in Fritz Lang's 1927 film, Metropolis.

Lewis Sargent American actor

Lewis Sargent was an American film actor. He appeared in 80 films between 1917 and 1949.

Al St. John filmography

Al St. John (1893–1963) was an American comic actor who appeared in 394 films between 1913 and 1952. Starting at Mack Sennett's Keystone Film Company, St. John rose through the ranks to become one of the major comedy stars of the 1920s, though less than half of his starring roles still survive today. With the advent of sound drastically changing and curtailing the two-reel comedy format, St. John diversified, creating a second career for himself as a comic sidekick in Western films and ultimately developing the character of "Fuzzy Q. Jones", for which he is best known in posterity.

Billy Gilbert was involved in more 150 American films between 1913 and 1936, working as either an actor, extra, or director.

Frank Opperman (1861–1922) was an actor in American silent films. In 1916 he was reported to have had a 29 year career on stage and a 7 year film career. Between 1903 and 1907 he appeared three times on Broadway, in Little Lord Fauntleroy, Cashel Byron, and an adaptation of Uncle Tom's Cabin.


  1. 1 2 3 IMDb Gordon Griffith mini-biography by Ed Stephan
  2. 1 2 New York Times citing Hans J. Wollstein, Allmovie
  3. 1 2 Harry Griffith at IMDb
  4. 1 2 Katherine Griffith at IMDb
  5. ancestry.com citing the 1920 United States Federal Census, Los Angeles Assembly District 63, Los Angeles California; Roll: T625_106; Page: 18B; Enumeration District: 169; Image: 1019.
  6. ancestry.com citing the 1930 United States Federal Census, Pasadena Los Angeles California; Roll: 169; Page: 14B; Enumeration District: 1246; Image: 241.0.
  7. 1 2 3 Gordon Griffith at IMDb