Hobart Bosworth
(08/11/1867 - 12/30/1943)

Hobart Bosworth was a movie actor, director, writer and producer. Born Hobart Van Zandt Bosworth, he was a direct descendant of Miles Standish and of 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.

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 McKnee Rankin as a stage manager at the California Theatre in San Francisco. 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.

Hobart 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 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.

He arrived in New York in December, 1888, and was hired by Augustine 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.

Eventually, playing exclusively 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 with tuberculosis.

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 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 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. The role propelled him to Broadway stardom. However, he was forced again to give up the stage when he lost seventy pounds in ten weeks.

Bosworth moved to Tempe, Arizona to partake of the salubrious climate to improve his chances battling T.B., and eventually, he got the disease under control. While not severely handicapped, he was forced to remain in a warm climate lest he suffer a relapse. The TB eventually robbed him of his voice, but since he was no longer on stage, it didn't matter. Also, there was a new medium for actors: Motion pictures. 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 out-doors, 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 of the United States.

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.

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. Jack London himself also appeared as a sailor. The movie was released in the U.S. by 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, but Hobart followed up "The Sea Wolf" with The Chechako the following year, with Jack Conway playing the lead as "Smoke Bellew", the title character of the eponymous London novel. "The Chechako" and some other Bosworth-London pictures were distributed through Paramount Pictures.

Conway also starred in the Bosworth-directed follow-up, The Valley of the Moon, in which Bosworth has a supporting role as an actor. 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 hooked up with the Oliver Photography Company, making its Los Angeles facility on North Occidental Boulevard his headquarters. 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.

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.

Bosworth then survived motion pictures transition to sound, or "talkies". Aside from appearing in Warner Brothers' showcase The Show of Shows in 1929, his talking debut proper was in the short subject, A Man in Peace for Vitaphone, while his first sound feature was Vitaphone's Ruritana drama General Crack, 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 all his roles in A and B pictures, he usually was typecast in a fatherly role, as a clergyman, judge, grandparent, etc.

All together, Bosworth is known to have acted in over 250 movies, directed forty-four movies, wrote twenty-seven and produced eleven of them. The actual count might be hundreds more.

Available Films

A Mormon Maid (1917)

Below the Surface (1920)

The Sea Lion (1921)

Little Church Around the Corner (1923)

Captain January (1924)

The Nervous Wreck (1926)

Last of the Mohicans (1932)