Erwin Crane Wilbur's first appearance in a movie was in 1910 in The Girl From Arizona. In seventeen films made between 1910 and 1913, Crane established himself as a realistic performer who brought youth, good looks, and strength to his characterizations.
In April 1910, the American Pathé studio formed and began producing films in a remodeled cash register factory at Bound Brook, New Jersey. Paul Panzer was one of its first players. Pearl White, a performer from vaudeville who had some movie experience with the Powers Picture Play Company, joined the fledgling studio. Crane connected up with these players and became one of their stock company. When the company planned to make a serial, The Perils of Pauline, in 1914, Crane wanted the lead male role that would pair him with Pearl White. He tested for and won the coveted role of Harry in the proposed serial.
In 1916, Crane scored a personal hit with a five-
Vitagraph then hired him for his next assignment, The Heart of Maryland (1921), and on completion of the film, Crane broke from film work altogether. For several years, he dropped out of Hollywood, and returned to the stage, his first love. He wrote a modernization of The Bat, a play by Mary Roberts Rinehart and Avery Hopwood. There just was no work for him as an actor in films, so he took to the road. In 1924, Crane was touring in his own play, The Monster, a mystery story that made The Bat look like a bedtime story. He was notably for his 1926 success in New York on Broadway in The Bride of the Lamb with Alice Brady, and later in 1930 in On the Spot with Anna May Wong.
Crane returned to Hollywood in 1929 to resume his acting, writing, and directing career with many fictional and documentary films. In 1934, He appeared as an actor in three films: Name the Woman, High School Girl, and Tomorrow’s Children, and also directed the last two.
As an actor, he played his last on-
Crane’s modernization of the play by Mary Roberts Rinehart and Avery Hopwood had been an enormous success for many years, grossing upwards of $9,000,000. The story of eerie happenings in a creepy mansion rented for the summer by a writer of mystery novels had been perennially exciting for audiences, and kept him comfortably funded with royalties for years. His 1951 Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison, seen by aspiring songwriter Johnny Cash, became an inspiration for the song "Folsom Prison Blues." And his 1959 version of The Bat, starring Vincent Price, was the best of numerous versions of the story.
Other films followed, including Solomon and Sheba (1959) and Mysterious Island (1961).
In his career he wrote 75 screen plays, appeared in 69 films, and directed 35 films between 1916 to 1962.