Born John Sidney Alcott, he became one of the first great directors of the motion picture business. With a desire to be an actor, a young Sidney Olcott went to New York City where he worked in the theater until 1904 when he performed as a film actor with the Biograph Studios. Within a short time he was directing films and became a general manager at Biograph.
In 1907, Frank Marion and Samuel Long, with financial backing from George Kleine, formed a new motion picture company called the Kalem Company and were able to lure the increasingly successful Sidney Olcott away from Biograph. Olcott was offered the sum of ten dollars per picture and under the terms of his contract, Olcott was required to direct a minimum of one, one-
In 1910 Sidney Olcott demonstrated his creative thinking when he made Kalem Studios the first ever to travel outside the United States to film on location.
Of Irish ancestry, and knowing that in America there was a huge built-
The film concept was at first the subject of much skepticism but when it appeared on screen, it was lauded by the public and the critics. Costing $35,000 to produce, "From the Manger to the Cross" earned the Kalem Company profits of almost $1 million, a staggering amount in 1912. The motion picture industry acclaimed him as it greatest director and the film influenced the direction many great filmmakers would take such as D.W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille. "From the Manger to the Cross" is still shown today to film societies and students studying early film making techniques. In 1998 the film was selected for the National Film Registry of the United States Library of Congress.
He directed 198 films from 1907 until 1927. He appeared in 20 films 1907 until 1915 as an actor.