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Boyd, William (05 June 1898–12 September 1972), film actor and producer, was born in either Cambridge or Hendrysburg, Ohio, the son of Charles W. Boyd, a laborer, and Linda Alberta Wilkins. When Boyd was six the family moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma. His father was killed in a work-related accident before Boyd reached the age of thirteen, and the boy was forced to quit school after the sixth grade to earn money for the family....

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Cassavetes, John (09 December 1929–03 February 1989), actor, screenwriter, director, and filmmaker, was born in New York City, the son of Nicholas John Cassavetes, the owner of a travel business, and Katherine Demitri. Although his father, a Greek immigrant, had a “knack” for making and losing millions, Cassavetes grew up in the affluent Long Island towns of Sands Point and Port Washington, where he went to public schools. He attended Mohawk College and Colgate University, majoring in English. He left college for a brief stint as a sports announcer, but after reading the plays of ...

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Charlie Chaplin Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111085).

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Charlie Chaplin. A movie still from A Dog's Life, 1918, with Scraps, the dog. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-97609).

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Chaplin, Charlie (16 April 1889–25 December 1977), motion picture actor and director, was born Charles Spencer Chaplin in London, England, the son of Charles Chaplin, Sr., and Hannah Harriet Pedlingham Hill. His parents were singers in the English music halls. His father, after separating from the family in 1890, provided little child support and died an alcoholic in 1901. After her singing career ended, Chaplin’s mother worked as a seamstress. From 1895 on, however, she was frequently hospitalized for physical and emotional difficulties. During this period Chaplin was placed in several different institutions, including the Hanwell School for Orphans and Destitute Children, and intermittently obtained over four years his only formal education....

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Cromwell, John (23 December 1887–26 September 1979), actor and director, was born Elwood Dager Cromwell in Toledo, Ohio, the son of George Oliver Cromwell, a businessman, and Helen Sheeler. Cromwell attended the Howe School in Howe, Indiana, graduating in 1905. While a student Cromwell made his stage debut as a clerk in the school’s production of ...

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Melissa Vickery-Bareford

Foy, Bryan (08 December 1896–20 April 1977), and Eddie Foy, Jr. (04 February 1910–15 July 1983), actor, were two of the eleven children born to vaudeville and Broadway comedian Eddie Foy (Edwin Fitzgerald Foy) and Madeline Morando, an ex-ballerina. Bryan was born in Chicago, Illinois, and Eddie (Edwin Fitzgerald) Jr. was born at the family home in New Rochelle, New York. The Foy children became part of their father’s vaudeville act almost as soon as they could walk and talk; thus their public education was sporadic—both boys briefly attended St. Gabriel’s School in New Rochelle, but the bulk of their education came from private tutors or from their mother’s tutoring on the road....

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See Foy, Bryan

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William S. Hart Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103842).

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Hart, William Surrey (06 December 1870–24 June 1946), actor and film director, was born in Newburgh, New York, the second son of Nicholas Hart, an itinerant English mill mechanic, and Roseanna McCauley. Like many actors, Hart tried to make himself younger and may have been born as early as 1862. He grew up in Minnesota, South Dakota, Kansas, and Iowa during the last days of the Wild West. As a child he played with Sioux boys, spoke Lakota, and was one of the rare movie cowboys who had worked on cattle ranches....

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Houseman, John (22 September 1902–31 October 1988), producer, director, and actor, was born Jacques Haussmann in Bucharest, Romania, the son of Georges Haussmann, a Jewish-Alsatian grain merchant, and May Davies, a British woman of Welsh and Irish descent. As a small child Houseman spoke English to his mother, French to his father, German to his governess, and Romanian to the household staff. When Houseman was five years old, the grain business run by his father’s family went bankrupt, and he moved with his parents to Paris, where his father became a broker in commodities. At age seven Houseman was sent to the Clifton School in Bristol, England. Summer vacations and holidays were spent with his parents in France. His father died in 1917. After completing his studies at Clifton in December 1920, Houseman lived for a year in Argentina, working on a cattle ranch and as a clerk at the Dutch Bank of South America. Returning to England, he turned down a scholarship to Cambridge University in order to help support his mother and became an apprentice at an international grain brokerage in London....

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Keaton, Buster (04 October 1895–01 February 1966), actor and filmmaker, was born Joseph Francis Keaton in Piqua, Kansas, the son of Joseph Francis Keaton and Myra Edith Cutler, variety performers. Keaton’s parents worked in traveling medicine shows in the rural Midwest, constantly on the verge of unemployment and poverty, until their New York debut in high-class vaudeville in 1899. They became headliners and achieved nationwide fame as “The Three Keatons” after 1901, when Keaton, who had occasionally appeared on stage since the age of three, was turned into the act’s featured attraction. An accomplished singer, actor, mimic, and monologist, Keaton (known by then, as “Buster”) attracted most attention for spectacular comic fights with his father....

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Lubitsch, Ernst (28 January 1892–30 November 1947), motion picture director and actor, was born in Berlin, Germany, the son of Simon Lubitsch, owner of a small clothing shop, and Anna Lindenstedt. Ambitions to become an actor led him to drop out of high school at age sixteen. While working in his father’s shop, he studied acting with a well-known stage comedian, Victor Arnold, and began performing nights in cabarets and music halls. In 1911, Arnold, a member of the ...

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Lupino, Ida (04 February 1918–03 August 1995), film actor, producer, and director, was born in London, England, the daughter of Stanley Lupino, a comedian and playwright, and Connie Emerald, a musical-comedy performer. At an early age, Ida and her younger sister Rita began appearing on stage, and Ida studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. According to Hollywood legend, Lupino’s film career began at age fourteen, when she accompanied her mother to an audition for director ...

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Ida Lupino. Gelatin silver print, 1949, by Unidentified Artist. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of an anonymous donor.

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Muse, Clarence E. (07 October 1889–13 October 1979), actor, producer, and writer of plays and films, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Alexander Muse and Mary Sales. He was educated at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where he became interested in music and participated in choral groups; although he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in international law in 1911, he immediately embarked on a musical and theatrical career. In 1907 he married Frieda Belle Moore; the marriage was apparently dissolved soon after the birth of their son in 1910....

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Turner, Florence (06 January 1887–28 August 1946), motion picture actress and producer, was born in New York City, the daughter of William Turner, a painter, and Frances Bowles, an actress. Her father died when she was one year old, and she was raised in Brooklyn theaters where her mother and grandmother performed. She first appeared onstage at age three in a Brooklyn production of ...

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von Stroheim, Erich (22 September 1885–12 May 1957), film director and actor, was born in Vienna, Austria. The anti-Semitism von Stroheim’s parents possibly faced as members of the Vienna Jewish community may explain his attempts to fictionalize both his family and personal histories. He maintained, for instance, that he was the son of Count Frederick von Nordenwald, a major in the Austrian army, and Baroness Johanna Bondy, whose brother was an Imperial counselor. Evidence shows, however, that von Stroheim’s parents were Benno Stroheim, a hat manufacturer, and Johanna Bondy, members of the Vienna middle class. Furthermore, von Stroheim reported that he had graduated from a military academy in 1901 and served in the Austrian army. Various sources suggest, however, that he deserted from the military, while others assert that he was never associated with the military in any capacity....

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Walsh, Raoul (11 March 1887–31 December 1980), motion picture director and actor, was born Albert Edward Walsh in New York City, the son of Thomas Walsh, a men’s clothing designer, and Elizabeth Brough. His father had immigrated to the United States from Ireland by way of Spain; his mother was of Irish-Spanish descent. Thomas Walsh prospered in New York, and the family home was often filled with notable visitors. After graduating from high school, Walsh enrolled at Seton College. About this time, his mother, whom he adored, died of cancer at the age of forty-two. Grief-stricken, he decided to leave New York for a while and sailed to Havana with his uncle Matthew, owner of a cargo schooner. On the way back to New York, the ship was hit by a hurricane and was towed to Veracruz for repairs. Eager to roam, Walsh left the ship, learned to ride and rope steers, then joined a trail herd headed to Texas. From there, in 1905 he was sent to Butte, Montana, with a trainload of horses. In Butte he worked for a time as an undertaker’s assistant and for a local doctor, then made his way back to Texas. In San Antonio, he broke horses for the cavalry before joining an itinerant theater troupe that needed someone to ride a horse on stage....

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Weber, Lois (13 June 1879–13 November 1939), silent film director, screenwriter, and performer, was born Florence Lois Weber in Allegheny (now part of Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania, to George Weber, an upholsterer and decorator, and Mary Matilda Snaman. Weber displayed early musical prowess and, at age sixteen, toured briefly as a concert pianist. Her parents were devout Christians, and the influence of the church was a constant throughout Weber’s life. She spent two years with the Church Army, a Salvation Army–style missionary group, evangelizing on street corners and singing in rescue missions. She credited the advice of an uncle with her decision to enter the theater, a venue that allowed her to proselytize as well as perform....