• 11 August 1867
  •  Marietta, Ohio, USA

Hobart Bosworth


Hobart Bosworth--pioneering movie director, writer, producer and actor--was born Hobart Van Zandt Bosworth on August 11, 1867, in Marietta, OH. He was a direct descendant of Miles Standish and John and Priscilla Alden on his father's side and of New York's Van Zandt family, the first Dutch settlers to land in the New World, on his mother's side. Bosworth was always proud of his lineage. After his mother died his father remarried and the young Hobart took a dislike to his stepmother. Convinced that he was "ill used and cruelly treated," as he told an interviewer in 1914, he ran away from home for to New York City. He signed on as a cabin boy on the clipper ship "Sovereign of the Seas" and was soon out at sea. After his first voyage, a five-month affair that took him from New York to San Francisco, he spent his wages on candy. Sleeping it off on a bench in the park in back of Trinity Church, the young boy did not know that the organ music he was listening to as he dozed was being played by his very own uncle. A Captain Roberts, who found stevedore work for the lad, told him of his uncle's presence in San Francisco. He continued as a sailor, as the sea was in his family's blood, eventually spending three years at sea. "All my people were of the sea and my father was a naval officer," he told an interviewer. He spent 11 months on an old-fashioned whaler plying the Arctic region, then was employed doing odd jobs in San Francisco. After turns as a semi-professional boxer and wrestler, Bosworth tried ranching in Southern California and Mexico, where he learned to become an expert horseman. Finally, his interest in art led him to the stage. Thinking he'd like to become a landscape painter, a friend suggested that Bosworth 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. With the money he made, he undertook the study of painting. Eventually he was pressed into duty as an actor with a small part with three lines. Though he botched the lines, he was given other small roles. Bosworth was 18 years old and on the cusp of a life in the theater. He signed on with Louis Morrison to be part of a road company for a season as both an actor and as Morrison's dresser, playing William Shakespeare's "Cymbeline" and "Measure for Measure" (during his time with the company, Hobarth and another writer wrote a version of "Faust" that Morrison used for 20 years in repertory). By 1887 he was acting at the Alcazar Theatre in San Francisco, and became proficient enough on stage to give Shakespearean recitals in costume the following year. He had acted almost all of the famous characters in the Shakespearean canon by the time he was 21 years old, though he admitted that he was the worst Macbeth ever. Bosworth eventually wound up in Park City, UT, where he was forced to work in a mine, pushing an ore wagon in order to raise money. He escaped the pits to tour with 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. Hobarth recalled, "[H]e looked at me and said 'Hum! I couldn't lick you now, son.'" They never met again. Bosworth 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 that Daly kept him on. Bosworth remained with Daly's company for 10 years, in which he played mostly minor parts. Seven times while he was with the company it made foreign tours, playing in Berlin, Cologne, London, Paris and other European cities. Eventually, being kept in small parts eroded his confidence, 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 struck down with tuberculosis, a very serious ailment in the 19th century. Bosworth was forced to give up the stage, as he was not allowed to toil 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 had to balance his acting with periods of rest so as to keep his T.B. under control. Bosworth re-established himself as a lead actor on the New York stage, appearing opposite the famous actress Minnie Maddern Fiske (Mary Augusta Davey) in the 1903 Boradway 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," which was produced by Harrison Grey Fiske, Mrs. Fiske's husband. The role propelled him to Broadway stardom. However, he was forced again to give up the stage when he lost 70 pounds in ten weeks. Moving to Tempe, AZ, to partake of the salubrious climate improved his chances of battling T.B., and eventually he got the disease under control. While he was not actually an invalid, he was forced to live like one and remain in a warm climate lest he suffer a relapse. The T.B. robbed him of his voice, but since he was no longer on stage, it didn't matter. There was a new medium for actors: motion pictures. Bosworth moved to San Diego, which had a reputation of having the most perfect climate in the continental United States, and in 1908 was contracted to make a film by the Selig Polyscope Co. Shooting was to be down in the outdoors, and he did not have to use his voice, which was in a poor condition. The arrangement was perfect for him. "I believe, after all, that it is the motion pictures that have saved my life," he recounted less than a decade later. "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 Selig, Bosworth eventually spearheaded the movie company's move to Los Angeles. He is widely credited with being the star of the first movie made on the West Coast. Due to his role in pioneering California for the film industry, 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 84 pictures for Selig. Bosworth was attracted to Jack London's work due to his out-of-doors filming experience and the requirements of his health, which obviated acting in studios. "In all my reading I have never come across better material for motion picture plays than Jack London's stories, and I hope to go right through the whole lot." In 1913 he formed his own company, Hobart Bosworth Productions Co., to produce a series of Jack London melodramas. He produced, directed and starred in the company's first picture, playing Wolf Larsen in The Sea Wolf (1913), with London himself appearing as a sailor. The movie was released in the U.S. by W.W. Hodkinson Corp. D.W. Griffith also released a Jack London picture earlier that year, Two Men of the Desert (1913), but Bosworth followed up "The Sea Wolf" with The Chechako (1914), with Jack Conway playing the lead as Smoke Bellew, the title character of the eponymous London novel the movie is based on. "The Chechako" and some of the subsequent Boswoth-London pictures were distributed through Paramount, the releasing arm of Famous Players-Lasky. Conway also starred in the Bosworth-directed follow-up The Valley of the Moon (1914), in which Bosworth had a supporting role. He also appeared as an actor in John Barleycorn (1914), which he co-directed with J. Charles Haydon. He produced, directed, wrote and acted in Martin Eden (1914) and An Odyssey of the North (1914), 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: Burning Daylight: The Adventures of 'Burning Daylight' in Alaska (1914) and Burning Daylight: The Adventures of 'Burning Daylight' in Civilization (1914), both of which were released by Paramount. Bosworth hooked up with the Oliver Morosco Photoplay Co., making its Los Angeles facility on North Occidental Boulevard his headquarters. Subsequently Bosworth Inc. and Oliver Morosco Photoplay were absorbed by Paramount in 1916. Between 1913 and 1921 Hobart Bosworth Productions produced a total of 31 pictures, most of which starred Bosworth. The company ceased operations after producing The Sea Lion (1921). 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 his last picture even before the merger, The White Scar (1915), which he also wrote and starred in for Universal Film Manufacturing Co. After his own production company wound up, Hobart Bosworth began playing supporting roles as an actor. He divorced his first wife, Adele Farrington, in 1919, the year after their son George was born. He survived the transition to sound. Aside from appearing in Warner Bros.' showcase film The Show of Shows (1929), his talking picture debut proper was in the short subject A Man of Peace (1928) for Vitaphone, while his first sound feature was Vitaphone's Ruritania drama General Crack (1929), starring John Barrymore. Though he appeared in small roles in A-list films, including some classics, Bosworth primarily made his living as a prominently billed character actor in "B" westerns and serials churned out by Poverty Row studios. In his roles in A and B pictures, he typically was typecast as a fatherly type, such as dads, clergymen, judges, governors and the like, though occasionally he got to play a heavy. His most memorable roles included playing John Gilbert's father in both King Vidor's classic The Big Parade (1925) and Clarence Brown's A Woman of Affairs (1928), and Conrad Nagel's father in Du Barry, Woman of Passion (1930). He also appeared in the Al Jolson vehicle Mammy (1930), directed by Michael Curtiz, and in the Little Rascals' only feature film, General Spanky (1936) (a flop). In addition to Vidor, Brown and Curtiz, Bosworth worked with other great directors, including Ernst Lubitsch (in support of John Barrymore in Eternal Love (1929)), D.W. Griffith (playing Gen. Robert E. Lee in Abraham Lincoln (1930)), 'Frank Capra' (in Dirigible (1931)) and Lady for a Day (1933)) and John Ford (headlining Hearts of Oak (1924), starring in Hangman's House (1928) and playing the Chaplain in support of Will Rogers in Steamboat Round the Bend (1935)). Bosworth had a featured role in the early science-fiction movie Just Imagine (1930) and played Chingachgook in support of star Harry Carey's Hawkeye in Mascot Pictures' serial The Last of the Mohicans (1932). As the sound era wore on, he was reduced to bit parts, frequently uncredited, in such A-pictures as the W.C. Fields comedy Million Dollar Legs (1932) and the Errol Flynn western They Died with Their Boots On (1941). He kept working until the year before his death, appearing in six films in 1942, including an uncredited bit role as a clergyman in support of Barbara Stanwyck in The Gay Sisters (1942), his penultimate picture. His last film was Universal Pictures' western Sin Town (1942), starring Constance Bennett and Broderick Crawford, which was advertised with the intriguing tagline "The Glory Hole of the Booming Oil Towns!" Altogether, Hobarth Bosworth acted in over 250 movies from 1908 to 1942, directed 44 known pictures from 1911 to 1915, and wrote 27 & produced 11 known pictures from 1911 to 1921. His actual count might be hundreds more. Hobart Bosworth, the "Dean of Hollywood," died on December 30, 1943 of pneumonia in Glendale, CA. He was 76 years old. He was survived by his second wife, Cecile, and his son George.


Movie Name Release Date
Η μεγάλη παρέλαση – The Big Parade (1925) December 3, 1926