Hobart Bosworth

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Hobart Bosworth
Bosworth in 1916
Hobart Van Zandt Bosworth

(1867-08-11)August 11, 1867
DiedDecember 30, 1943(1943-12-30) (aged 76)
Film director
Years active1908–1942
Spouse(s)Adele Farrington (?–1919) (divorced)
Cecile Kibre (1920–1943) (his death)

Hobart Van Zandt Bosworth (August 11, 1867 December 30, 1943) was an American film actor, director, writer, and producer.


Early life

Bosworth was born on August 11, 1867, in Marietta, Ohio. His father was a sea captain in the Civil War. [1]

When Bosworth was 12 years old, he ran away to sea. In June 1885, he was on shore leave in San Francisco when an opportunity arose for him to join McKee Rankin's stage company. That led to a theatrical career for him. [1]


Thinking he would like to become a landscape painter, a friend suggested that he work as a stage manager to raise the money to study art. Acting on his friend's advice, Bosworth obtained a job with McKee Rankin as a stage manager at the California Theatre in San Francisco. Earning some money, he undertook the study of painting. Eventually, he was pressed into duty as an actor in a small part with three lines. Though he botched the lines, he was given other small roles. Bosworth was eighteen years old, and on the cusp of a life in the theater.

Publicity still of (from left) Monte Blue, Miriam Cooper, and Bosworth in costumes for the silent drama Betrayed (1917) Betrayed 1917.jpg
Publicity still of (from left) Monte Blue, Miriam Cooper, and Bosworth in costumes for the silent drama Betrayed (1917)

Hobart signed on with Lewis Morrison to be part of a road company for a season as both an actor and as Morrison's dresser, playing Shakespeare's Cymbeline and Measure for Measure . During his time with the company, Hobart and another writer wrote a version of Faust that Morrison used for twenty years in repertory. By 1887, he was acting at the Alcazar Theatre in San Francisco. He became proficient enough on stage to give Shakespearean canon by the time he was twenty-one years old, though he admitted that he was the worst Macbeth ever.

Bosworth eventually wound up in Park City, Utah, where he worked in a mine, pushing an ore wagon in order to raise money. He escaped the pits to tour with the magician Hermann the Great as the conjurer's assistant for a tour through Mexico.

For the first time in eleven years, the 21-year-old Bosworth met his father. Hobart recalled, "He looked at me and said, "Hum! I couldn't lick you now, son." They never met again.

He arrived back in New York in December 1888, and was hired by Augustin Daly to play "Charles the Wrestler" in As You Like It . He did so well in the role, Daly kept him on. Bosworth remained with Daly's company for ten years, in which he played mostly minor parts. Seven times while he was with the company they made foreign tours, playing in Berlin, Cologne, London, Paris and other European cities. Playing exclusively small parts eroded his confidence,[ citation needed ] and Bosworth left Daly to sign on with Julia Marlowe, who cast him in leads in Shakespearean plays.

Just as Bosworth began to taste stage stardom in New York, he was stricken with tuberculosis, a disease often fatal in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Bosworth was forced to give up the stage, and he was not allowed to exert himself indoors. Though he made a rapid recovery, he returned to the stage too quickly and suffered a relapse. For the rest of his working life, he balanced his acting with periods of rest so as to keep his tuberculosis in remission.

Bosworth re-established himself as a lead actor on the New York stage, appearing in the 1903 Broadway revival of Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler . He also appeared that year on the Great White Way as the lead in Marta of the Lowlands. This role propelled him to Broadway stardom. However, he was forced again to give up the stage when he lost seventy pounds in ten weeks due to his illness.[ citation needed ]

Bosworth moved to Tempe, Arizona, to partake of the climate to improve his health. Eventually, he got the disease under control again. While not severely handicapped, he was forced to remain in a warm climate lest he suffer a relapse. The disease robbed him of his voice as well, but there was a new medium for actors: silent films.

Betty Harte and Bosworth in The Roman (1910) Betty Harte and Hobart Bosworth in The roman 1910.jpg
Betty Harte and Bosworth in The Roman (1910)

Bosworth moved to San Diego, and in 1908 he was contracted to make a motion picture by the Selig Polyscope Company. Shooting was to be done in the outdoors, and he did not have to use his voice, which was in poor condition. Bosworth once said, "I believe, after all, that it is the motion pictures that have saved my life. How could I have lived on and on, without being able to carry out any of my cherished ambitions? What would my life have meant? Here, in pictures, I am realizing my biggest hopes." Signing with the Selig Polyscope Co., Hobart eventually convinced the movie company to move to Los Angeles. Bosworth is widely credited with being the star of the first movie made on the West Coast. [2]

Due to his role in pioneering the film industry in California, Bosworth often was referred to as the "Dean of Hollywood". He wrote the scenarios for the second and third pictures he acted in, and directed the third. According to his own count, he eventually wrote 112 scenarios and produced eighty-four pictures with Selig. Bosworth was attracted to Jack London's work due to his out-of-doors filming experience and the requirements of his health, which precluded acting in studios.

Hobart Bosworth Productions Company

In 1913, he started his own company, Hobart Bosworth Productions Company, to produce a series of Jack London melodramas. He produced and directed the company's first picture, playing Wolf Larsen in The Sea Wolf . London himself appeared as a sailor.[ citation needed ] The movie was released in the U.S. by The W. W. Hodkinson Corp. and States Right Independent Exchanges.

D. W. Griffith also released a Jack London picture that year, Two Men of the Desert . Hobart followed up The Sea Wolf with The Chechako . The Chechako and some other Bosworth-London pictures were distributed through Paramount Pictures. Bosworth also directed the follow-up, The Valley of the Moon , in which had a supporting actor role. He also appeared as an actor in John Barleycorn , which he co-directed with J. Charles Haydon. He produced, directed, wrote, and acted in Martin Eden and An Odyssey of the North , playing the lead in the latter, which was released by Paramount. He finished up the series by producing, directing, and playing the lead in the two-part "Burning Daylight" series, The Adventures of Burning Daylight. Both were released by Paramount.

Soon Bosworth joined the Oliver Photography Company. Subsequently, Bosworth Inc. and Oliver Morosco Productions released a total of thirty-one pictures, most which starred Bosworth. The company ceased operations after producing The Sea Lion .

Still portraying German U-boat commander Brandt (left, Wallace Beery) being throttled by American merchant captain Krug (Bosworth) in Behind the Door (1919) Behind the Door 1919.jpg
Still portraying German U-boat commander Brandt (left, Wallace Beery) being throttled by American merchant captain Krug (Bosworth) in Behind the Door (1919)

The merger with Paramount ended the period in Bosworth's creative life where he was a major force in the motion picture industry, which was undergoing changes as the industry matured and solidified. He directed one other picture before the merger, The White Scar, which he also wrote and starred in for the Universal Film Manufacturing Company. After his own production company closed, Hobart wound up playing supporting roles as an actor.

He divorced his first wife, Adele Farrington, in 1919. On 22 December 1920 he married Cecile Kibre, widow of G. Harold Percival, who had been art director at Ince Studio and who had died of influenza in 1918. Cecile Kibre had a son by Percival, named George, whom Hobart Bosworth later adopted as his son.

Bosworth survived motion pictures' transition to sound, or "talkies". Aside from appearing in Warner Brothers' showcase, The Show of Shows (1929), his talking debut proper was in the film short A Man in Peace, for Vitaphone, while his first sound feature was Vitaphone's Ruritanian romance General Crack , starring John Barrymore. Although he appeared in small roles in A-list films, Bosworth primarily made his living as a prominently billed character actor in B-Westerns and serials churned out by Poverty Row studios. In all his roles in A and B pictures, he usually was typecast in a fatherly role, as a clergyman, judge, grandparent, etc.

In 1931, Hobart was cast in principle role of fictional famed explorer in the Antarctic, in Frank Capra's "Dirigible" (1931). As the Hollywood production began, an old airfield in nearby Arcadia, California was converted into a set, complete with "artificial snow, fake ice mounds and painted backdrop attached to the back side of the dilapidated Army barracks." With principal photography slated for September, dry ice in metal containers stuffed in actor's mouths sufficed for the usual Arctic breath. In a 1972 interview director Frank Capra, on TV's "Dick Cavett Show", Capra recalled a horrible accident on set. Capra asked actors to used dry ice encased in small cages in the mouth, to simulate foggy breath in the scene. Because the small cages were cumbersome in the mouth, a frustrated Hobart Bosworth removed the ice and popped it directly into his mouth for the scene. Soon, Bosworth was rushed to hospital with ice burns in his mouth, resulting in removal of some teeth, jaw bone, and tissue. Though recovery was intensive, Hobart resumed his screen career, continuing on to three dozen more films, through the 1930s, into the 1940s, until his death in 1943.

Death and legacy

On December 30, 1943, Bosworth died of pneumonia in Glendale, California, aged 76. [2] He was entombed in Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Grand Mausoleum's Utility Columbarium, niche 4616.[ citation needed ]

For his contributions to the film industry, Bosworth received a motion pictures star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960. The star is located at 6522 Hollywood Boulevard. [3]

Selected filmography

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  1. 1 2 Slide, Anthony (September 12, 2010). Silent Players: A Biographical and Autobiographical Study of 100 Silent Film Actors and Actresses. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN   978-0-8131-2708-8 . Retrieved September 14, 2021.
  2. 1 2 "Hobart Bosorth, Film Pioneer, Dies. Played Lead in First Movie Made in Los Angeles. Star of Many Screen Epics". New York Times . December 31, 1943. Retrieved December 23, 2013.
  3. "Hollywood Walk of Fame - Hobart Bosworth". walkoffame.com. Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved November 29, 2017.