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The Favorite Photograi)h of Earle Williams.

(By kini! pi'rmission of The Vitagrapli Company.)



The Life of

Earle Williams



By

Oren Clayton Reel



THE SHAKESPEARE PRESS

114-llC E. 28th St.
New York



Copyright, 1915,

by
OREN C. REEL



CHAPTERS

Youthful Ambitions.
Stage Work.
Film Work.
Personality.
Favorite Roles.
Thrilling Experiences.
Secrets of Success.
His Vacations.
Home Life.



Youthful Ambitions



IF one believes the life of an actor on the stage
or before the camera is one of ease, he
should not waste any more time in such idle
thoughts but proceed to investigate and find out
for himself if the road to real success is lined
with roses from beginning to end.

The first person he asks, who has gained a
reputation on the screen — if they have time to
answer his question — will say that success is at-
tained only after the hardest kind of work and
after much striving for the desired goal.

Of course there are some stars who are made
overnight, so to speak, but they are either en-
dowed with an unusual talent, or they have been
years in obscure parts and the fickle public has
noticed them for the first time in some particular
role that happened to fit their personality per-
fectly and raised them to fame, or they might
have visited the office of a manager just when he
wanted an actor for a certain part and were
engaged for it. Then they have gone away and



8 THE LIFE OF

studied it thoroughly, and, realizing the great
possibilities of the role, have been coached by
someone who understood the art and was able to
bring out the good points in the characterization
and subdue the faulty ones.

Earle Williams, one of the best actors before
the camera to-day, was a very long time in even
trying to find out what work or profession he
was best suited for, and then, after he had started
on a career before the footlights, he was not ac-
corded any real success or lasting fame until he
had adopted the sister profession of the moving
picture actor, in which work he rapidly arose to
the topmost pinnacle.

It is so hard for a young man to choose the
line of work he should take up. There are so
many people, who are only too anxious to dis-
courage him, that it makes quite a puzzling ques-
tion to answer, if the young man has any doubts
about his future, and there are many ambitious
youths who have such doubts. While it is well
that he should respect the wishes of his parents,
to whom he owes a debt that he can never repay,



EARLE WILLIAMS



yet it is often a waste of the better things of life
if one follows these commands and fails to strike
out for himself.

Earle Williams' uncle, James Paget, was on
the stage, and this was the main stumbling block
that young Earle had to overcome. His uncle
counseled against the young man adopting the
stage as a profession.

James Paget is remembered as the best char-
acter actor of his day, appearing for nearly ten
years with William H. Crane, in "The Senator,"
and later with John Drew and Maude Adams,
when they made such a pronounced success in
"The Bauble Shop." This play was one of the
series that followed their double success in "The
Masked Ball," when Miss Adams received the
greatest commendation for her work, making the
"hit" that landed her in the front rank in a single
night and opening the way for the honors she has
since attained.

Earle Williams was born in Sacramento, Cali-
fornia, February 28th, 1880. His correct name
is Earle Rafael Williams; his middle name was



10 THE LIFE OF

taken partly from the name of the town of San
Rafael, near Sacramento.

His mother was Eva M. Paget, of Cincinnati,
Ohio, and his father, Augustus P. Williams, was
born and raised in Booneville, Missouri.

The parents of his mother moved to Califor-
nia, from Cincinnati, shortly after 1850, and
settled in Marysville, afterward moving to Sacra-
mento.

His father fought all through the Civil War
and, at its close, went to California, where he
met Miss Paget, and they were married.

Earle Williams lived in Sacramento until he
was eight years old, when his parents moved to
Oakland, where he spent his early youth.

Nothing very exciting happened to him during
those days. He was educated in the grammar
grades, went through the high school and took a
course in the Polytechnic College in Oakland.

He worked at half a dozen different things
before he thought he would like to go on the
stage. Secretly he may have longed for the glare
of the footlights, but the influence of his uncle,



EARLE WILLIAMS 11

who knew the pitfalls of the life on the boards
and counseled against the adoption of this pro-
fession as a means of livelihood, made the young
man hold his ambition in check.

To-day Mr. Williams is silent on the part his
uncle's influence played in his early attempts to
adapt himself to his niche in the professional
world that was waiting for him.

After trying the photograph business, then
working as a salesman in a hardware store, go-
ing from there to the same capacity in a jewelry
store, he ended with two years traveling for a
portrait company of Chicago.

His going on the stage was all an accident. He
had been visiting his brother in southern Cali-
fornia, when he got the idea thoroughly into his
head. It was his uncle's success that made him
think of adopting the stage as a profession. Pre-
vious to this time his first connection with the
theater was as head-usher at the McDonough
Theater, in Oakland, when he was about four-
teen years old. While in this capacity, he played
a few small bits with different touring com-



12 THE LIFE OF

panics, which were playing for one night in Oak-
land. He appeared in a few amateur perform-
ances, but did not have any decided thoughts
about going on the regular stage until 1901.

While visiting his brother he got the idea into
his head that he would like to go to New Orleans.
He carried out the desire and arrived in that
strange city with only twenty dollars in his
pocket and immediately began looking for some
kind of a position.

He tried several stores, but was told they did
not need anybody at that time. He finally mus-
tered up enough courage to apply for a position,
as utility man, with the Baldwin-Melville Stock
Company, then playing in New Orleans.

He had a talk with Mr. Baldwin, one of the
proprietors of the company, and he sent him
back on the stage to see Mr. Percy Meldon, the
stage director. The latter seemed to like his
appearance and engaged him to play a couple of
small parts in a play called "Siberia."'



Stage Work



MR. WILLIAMS stayed with the Baldwin-
Melville Stock Company only a few
weeks and was then engaged, as utility
man, with the Audubon Stock Company, at the
Academy of Music.

He stayed with the company for a couple of
months and then went back to California.

His first engagement, after his return to hi5
home, was with Melbourne McDowell and Flor-
ence Stone in the Sardou repertoire, in which
these stars made their greatest success, appear-
ing in "Cleopatra," "Gismonda," "Fedora," "La
Tosca," and "Theodora," and playing in San
Francisco and Los Angeles.

His next engagement was with the James Neil
Stock Company, on tour, after which he ap-
peared with the People's Stock Company, in
Vancouver, British Columbia.

He divided his work on the road, throughout
his stage career, with appearances with three
stock companies. He was with the Coronado



16 THE LIFE OF

Stock Company, in San Diego, California, -and
then went to the Belasco Stock Company, in
Portland, Oregon, and finished up with the Or-
pheum Stock Company, in Salt Lake City, Utah.
While with these stock companies he played
such parts as Faust, in the famous play of that
name; Colonel Miles Anstruther, in 'The Second
in Command;" Sir Geoflfrey Comfret, in
"Heartsease;" Captain Stuart, in "Soldiers of
Fortune;" Lloyd Calvert, in "The Heart of Mary-
land;" Black Michael, in "The Prisoner of
Zenda;" Charles Le Martine, in "Captain Jinks
of the Horse Marines;" Beauseant, in "The Lady
of Lyons;" Kenelin Paulton, in "The Road to
Yesterday;" Steve Townley, in "The Three of
Us;" Fred Ossian, in "The Butterflies;" Prince
Karl, in the play of the same name; Oliver P.
Sturgis, in "Hon. John Grigsby;" Carribert, in
"Theodora;" Lieut. Rudolf Heiberg, in "The
Conquerors;" Ebenezer Lebanon, in "Nathan
Hale," by Clyde Fitch; Hamilton Travers, in
"Are You a Mason?"; Sir Richard Philliter, in
"Lady Bountiful;" Earl of Asgarby, in "Judah;"



EARLE WILLIAMS 17

and Horace Colt, in "On the Quiet," the great
success in which William Collier made his biggest
hit.

His first engagement on tour was with 'The
Dairy Farm," and this was followed by another
4our of the west with White Whittlesey, in a
o^series of high-class plays.

On these tours, principally of the one-night
stands, Mr. Williams got his first taste of the bit-
ter dregs of the cup of the average actor and
experienced the set-backs that his uncle had
warned him against; but this only served to
strengthen his determination to succeed. His
following work was one step higher up the rungs
of the ladder and showed the progress he had
made in his profession since the beginning with
the stock companies in New Orleans.

His next appearance was in San Francisco with
the famous Ben Greet company, in Shake-
spearian plays, and with Henry Miller, in one of
his successes at that time.

Mr. Williams came to New York the following
summer and began a search for an engagement.



18 THE LIFE OF

His previous experience on the stage enabled him
to secure the role of the Dauphin of France, in
Paul Kester's dramatization of Charles Major's
novel, ''When Knighthood Was in Flower." He
did remarkably well in this role, which led to his
next engagement to play the part of Count Kar-
loflf, with Henry E. Dixey, in a play by Grace
Livingston Furniss, entitled, 'The Man on the
Box,"' dramatized from the novel of the same
name by Harold MacGrath.

His next appearance was with Mary Manner-
ing, in "Glorious Betsy," by Rida Johnson
Young. This play failed to appeal to New York
audiences, but made a good showing throughout
the other parts of the country. Mr. Williams
played the part of Henry Clay in the piece.

Like "Uncle Tom's Cabin," the play of "Way
Down East," with its New England locale, has
become a classic similar to that of the slavery
play, and many are the actors whose names, at
some point in their careers, have appeared on
the program for this beloved play by Lottie Blair
Parker. Mr. Williams appeared as Lennox San-



EARLE WILLIAMS 19

derson, in support of Phoebe Davis, who, for
many years, has starred in the leading role of
Kate.

Earle Williams' star was rising in the theatrical
sky and his next engagement gave sincere
evidence of it. He played the role of Dick Craw-
ford, with Rose Stahl, in 'The Chorus Lady,"
one of the greatest hits on the stage, making a
fortune for the star, author and producer, and
providing lucrative employment for many of the
player-folk.

Following this engagement, he was seen in the
cast of "The Third Degree,"' with Helen Ware.
He played the part of Robert Underwood, whose
suicide, in this remarkable play, by Charles
Klein, caused so much trouble for Annie Jeffries,
the role played by Miss Ware. It was this play
that carried the actress to the highest rungs of
the ladder of fame.

He next tried a season in vaudeville, playing
the part of Van Brunt, with George Beban, in
"The Sign of the Rose," one of the greatest hits
on the variety stage.



20 THE LIFE OF

With this engagement Earle Williams' career
on the speaking stage came to an end as he made
his first appearance in moving pictures during
the summer following the vaudeville season, and
was such a success in the new field, that he has
never returned to the stage to play a part, but he
has appeared in person at many of the different
moving picture theatres throughout the country,
to lecture about his work before the camera.

The following chapters will deal with accounts
and details of his career on the screen and his
intimate home life.




Earle Williams as John Storm in "The Christian.

(By kind permission of Tlie Vltagrapli Company.)



Film Work




ANY of the photoplayers, at the time of
their entry into the profession, were ad-
vised by someone to go to a certain film
manufacturing company in quest of an engage-
ment with the stock company.

Many players are located in this way in some
obscure road company and given the much-
desired chance to make a name for themselves
on the screen.

Mr. Williams was engaged in a similar manner.
He got a letter of introduction to Mr. Frederick
A. Thomson, a Vitagraph director, from the
Packard Theatrical Exchange, of New York.

It was not exactly necessary that Mr. Williams
should have immediate employment, but, being
inclined to be industrious, he thought he would
like to work during the summer with some mo-
tion picture company and refrain from loafing
about town until the opening of the regular
theatrical season.

At the time he did not see the great possibilities



24 THE LIFE OF

of film work. The legitimate players did not
care for the moving picture business and sort of
looked down on it.

Mr. Charles Frohman, the well-known theatri-
cal manager, even went so far as to say that he
would never engage a player who had appeared
on the screen.

He has changed his mind since then and is now
interested in the Famous Players Film Company,
with his brother, Daniel Frohman. The latter
was the first of the more prominent managers to
enter the field of the motion pictures with a first-
class company of his own.

An amusing incident, in this respect, occurred
to Mr. Williams after he had been in the service
of the Vitagraph Company for about three
months.

He had an offer to play the juvenile part in
"The Runaway," with Miss Billie Burke, but
when he mentioned the matter to one of the of-
ficers of the motion picture company, he
promptly gave him a substantial increase in
salary and he remained with the film concern.



EARLE WILLIAMS 25

Miss Burke was, at that time, and is yet, I be-
lieve, under the management of Mr. Charles
Frohman. If Mr. Williams had agreed to accept
the engagement to support Miss Burke, it would
have been interesting to note the attitude of Mr.
Frohman, when he discovered that one of his
subordinates had really engaged a "detested"
screen player in support of his well-known star.

Mr. Williams was not one of the first players
to apply for a position with the Vitagraph. In
fact the company had been in existence for eight
years but they had very few leading men and
were just beginning to designate, on the screen,
the names of the more prominent people in the
cast.

The Vitagraph was among the first of the film
companies, releasing on the general program,
to seize upon the wonderful drawing power of
the names of the players as an advertising asset.
Where one is aware of the names, it is so much
easier for one to describe a player one likes in a
certain picture.



26 THE LIFE OF

Of course the idea is expensive, as it tends to
increase salaries.

Mr. Williams says he does not recall that he
had any special impressions or feelings in partic-
ular on the way to the office of the Vitagraph.

He was not very anxious about going into the
business, but, since then, he has been very glad
he made the plunge.

Mr. Albert E. Smith, of the Vitagraph Com-
pany, was very nice to him and seemed to like
him from the beginning. He began work after
he had been there about a week, under the able
direction of Mr. Frederick A. Thomson.

This man should not be confused with the
Frederick Thompson, of Hippodrome fame, as
he is no relation of the latter.

The present Vitagraph director has had years
of stage experience and was for a long time asso-
ciated with David Belasco.

Mr. Thomson, whom Mr. Williams had known
slightly when they were in the legitimate busi-
ness, was very kind to him. Mr. Williams is of
the opinion that Frederick A. Thomson is one of



EARLE WILLIAMS 27

the most capable directors in the moving picture
business.

Mr. Williams made good instantly and has
been with the Vitagraph Company ever since,
and hopes to remain there for many years to
come. Messrs. Rock, Smith and Blackton, the
owners of the Vitagraph, are the finest men he
has ever worked for and he thinks they deserve
all the success that has come to them.

The first picture he appeared in was 'The
Thumb Print," playing the part of Jack Plymp-
ton, with Harry Morey as Abe Case, the post-
master, and Helen Gardner as the heroine, Helen
Mowbry.

The plot of the photoplay is very interesting.
An unscrupulous postmaster of a small town is
in love with Helen Mowbry, but she does not
love him. She meets a young fellow, Jack
Plympton, and they fall in love with each other.
He is called east on business; to be gone indefi-
nitely. He writes to his sweetheart, but the
letters are intercepted by the postmaster and
they never reach her.



28 THE LIFE OF

She, thinking he has forgotten her, is heart-
broken and, when the postmaster proposes, she
accepts him.

Prior to this, an Italian resident of this small
town is cheated in a business deal by the post-
master and swears vengenance. The postmaster
and his bride go to New York and there, at a
ball, she meets her old sweetheart and learns
the truth; that he had written her repeatedly and
had never received an answer to his many letters.

They meet occasionally and are suspected by
the husband. In the meantime the Italian has
followed the postmaster to New York, and one
night, during a party, kills him. He makes his
escape and the crime is fastened upon the post-
master's wife.

They trace the murderer by the thumb print
on the dagger. He is brought in during the trial,
confesses to the crime, and the photoplay ends
happily.

Mr. Thomson was impressed with the actor's
ability from the start and has often told many



EARLE WILLIAMS 29

people that he considered Earle Williams the
finest actor on the screen.

The actor reciprocates the regard of the direc-
tor. He thinks every actor should be under a
good director because ''we can never see our-
selves as others see us." An actor cannot direct
himself as well as having a director do it for him.

The director always stands next to the camera
and directs the players. They always rehearse a
scene several times and then take it.

The question was put to Mr. Williams, if he
felt that had he remained on the stage and had
not come under the influence of a director — on
the stage one must rely on one's self after the
play begins— whether he would have remained
in the ranks of the average actor or if he thought
he could have risen to the top.

"That is a hard question to answer," he re-
plied. "I cannot tell whether I would have been
a 'star' if I had remained on the legitimate stage.
Even stars should be directed and a great many
of them deteriorate when they are not."

Mr. Williams is best suited for serious roles



30 THE LIFE OF

and prefers to play them. On the stage he gen-
erally played ''heavies," but the Vitagraph peo-
ple insisted that he should be a leading man.

He occasionally plays a comedy role for a
change, but is generally cast for serious parts, in
which line of roles he considers he has done his
best work, preferring strong, dramatic parts.

In regard to the choice of the Vitagraph lead-
ing women that he prefers to act with, he likes
to play opposite Anita Stewart or Edith Storey,
because he considers them the best leading
women there.

The combination of a good director and con-
genial players is shown to advantage in nu-
merous photoplays directed by Frederick A.
Thomson, with Earle Williams, in the leading
male role, and with Edith Storey, or Anita Stew-
art playing opposite.

The effectiveness of "The Mischief Maker," a
two-part feature drama, was due to the wonder-
ful acting of Earle Williams, Edith Storey and
Rita Bori, the latter playing the titular role.

The action of the photoplay holds the attention



EARLE WILLIAMS 31

from beginning to end. The romance between
Dolly, played by Edith Storey, and Peter, played
by Earle Williams, is fast drawing to a crucial
point, only Peter is unable to decide whether he
wants Dolly or Anita, Dolly's school chum,
played by Rita Bori, who is visiting Dolly and
who is secretly in love with Peter.

An accident to Dolly, in which she shows her
brave spirit when she is thrown from a horse and
sprains her ankle, but bears the pain wonder-
fully, decides Peter and he proposes to Dolly and
they are married.

At a house-party shortly after the wedding,
the jealous Anita sees Dolly and Billy, who is
a good, true friend of the husband and wife, in
close conversation together and leads the hus-
band to the best vantage-ground, where he can
witness the innocent actions of the couple. With
insinuating remarks Anita sows the seeds of sus-
picion in his mind which immediately take root
and blossom wonderfully. The husband, unduly
suspicious, accuses the wife, who, through



32 THE LIFE OF

womanly pride, refuses to state the nature of
the conversation she was having with Billy.

The husband, thinking she is untrue to him,
plans to go to the city and live apart from her
until they can come to some mutual understand-
ing in regard to the difficulty. He leaves on an
early morning train after writing a note explain-
ing his intentions. He slips the note under her
bedroom door.

Anita, to escape the tense atmosphere which
she has created, decides to return to her home on
the same train that will carry the husband, but
she is not aware of the husband's decision to this
effect. She pens a note of regret anent her hasty
departure and slips this under the wife's bed-
room door.

Dolly, arising earlier than usual, discovers the
two notes, and, after reading the contents, hits
upon a plan to get her husband back and rid
herself of the selfish friendship of Anita.

She tries to catch the train that carries her hus-
band and Anita, but comes to the depot just as



EARLE WILLIAMS 3.3

the rear car of the train disappears around the
curve toward the city.

The wife, enlisting the aid of her other chum,
Nell, routs Billy out of bed and they make the
trip to the city in an automobile, before the train
arrives, and meet the husband and Anita as they
are leaving the depot. Dolly accuses Peter, who,
realizing the false position he is in, asks forgive-
ness for his conduct of the night before, when
he accused her unjustly of improper relations
with Billy, whom he now sees with Nell, and he
wishes to explain that he is not eloping with
Anita, but that it is an accident that they are
together.

But the wife does not forgive at once and we
witness the spectacle of the dignified Peter, run-
ning up a public thoroughfare, alongside of the
automobile, in a vain effort to secure the for-
giveness of his wife, who wishes the lesson to
sink in deeply. The husband takes the train
home and is forgiven when he arrives.

It was quite interesting, as well as amusing,
to see the dignified actor, in the role of Peter,



34 THE LIFE OF

with a suit-case in his hand, running up the
street, trying to reconcile his wife as to his
innocence.

Many players on the screen have traveled all
over the United States and others have circled
the globe for unusual settings. 'The Christian"
was the only picture that Mr. Williams has ap-
peared in, where he had to go to a large city,
outside of New York, for scenes. These were
taken in and around Boston, which was modeled
after London. They wanted some street scenes
that looked like London, so they went there for
them. Most of the scenes of the plays, that he
appears in, are taken in and around New York
and part of New Jersey.

Some of the leading players in the company,
at the time Mr. Williams was engaged, were
Maurice Costello, Helen Gardner, Edith Storey,
Leo Delaney, Florence Turner, William Dunn,
Harry Morey and Charles Kent.

Earle Williams is one of the highest salaried
players with the Vitagraph Company.



EARLE WILLIAMS 35

Since the foregoing was written, Mr. Frederick
A. Thomson has severed his connection with the
Vitagraph Company of America and is at pres-
ent, I believe, with the Famous Players Film
Company. Mr. Ralph Ince, his present director,
is the best dramatic director now with the Vita-
graph. He is a brother-in-law of Anita Stewart
and brother of Thomas H. Ince, General Mana-
ger of the New York Motion Picture Corpora-


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