Thanhouser Career Synopsis: Frederick B.
Warde, a well known stage actor, joined Thanhouser in November 1915 and played a number of
important dramatic roles in the company's films through 1917.
Biographical Notes: Frederick Barkham Warde was born in Wardington,
Oxfordshire, England on February 23, 1851, the son of Thomas and Anne (Barkham) Warde.
Educated at the City of London School, he intended to become a lawyer, but a stage career
took precedence. Warde made his debut on the boards at the Lyceum Theatre, Sunderland,
England, where on September 4, 1867 he played the Second Murderer in Macbeth. From there
he went to the Theatre Royal in Glasgow, Scotland where he played 80 different parts in
nine months. Later, he was seen in Manchester where he made the acquaintance of playwright
Dion Boucicault, who encouraged him to go to America. In 1871 he married Annie Edmondson,
an English actress (who died in 1923). Warde's debut on this side of the Atlantic occurred
on August 10, 1874, in the role of Marston Pike in Belle Lamar at Booth's Theatre, New
York City. He remained at Booth's as a leading man for three years, appearing with such
notables as Adelaide Neilson, Charlotte Cushman, John McCullough, E.L. Davenport, and
Lawrence Barrett. He then went on tour with Edwin Booth.
Warde's Stage Career Continues: From 1893 to 1903 Frederick Warde appeared jointly with
Louis James, after which he played Matho, with Kathryn Kidder, in Salambo. In May 1904 he
filed a petition in voluntary bankruptcy in the United States District Court, Brooklyn,
citing accumulated debts from a series of unsuccessful theatrical tours as the cause.
"Made almost a nervous wreck by the importunities of his creditors, Warde took
advantage of the bankruptcy laws," his attorney stated. By July of the same year, his
finances must have improved, for a press release noted that he had been signed to give a
series of 30 lectures per year, and he "has purchased a tract of land up in Sullivan
County, New York, 10 miles from the nearest railroad, and will build a handsome residence
there, finding a seclusion which appeals strongly to him after his long years of activity
under the public eye." During 1905-1906 he toured with his own company in
Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale and other plays. In later years he played in such
productions as The Lady of Lyons, The Count of Monte Cristo, Chesney World, Brunhilde, and
In the summer of 1909 he conducted The Frederick Warde Institute of Oratory, Expression
and Shakespearean Study at the mansion on his 30-acre estate, Wardesden, at North White
Lake, New York. At the time his business address was 240 Westminster Avenue, Brooklyn.
Assisting him were his sons, Ernest as "stage instructor" and Arthur as business
manager. In the summer and autumn of 1910 he toured the South with his own Shakespeare
company. By the end of October the troupe, which had played to disappointingly small
audiences, had run out of funds and was forced to cancel several engagements. Seven
members of the company, representing about half of the players, deserted in Jacksonville,
Florida to return to New York on a Clyde Line steamer.
Into Films: The September 11, 1912 issue of The New York Dramatic Mirror stated that at
the time Warde had been off the stage for several years and had devoted his time to
lecturing on Shakespeare. He appeared in a much-publicized film of Shakespeare's Richard
III, produced by M.B. Dudley and directed by James Kean, scheduled to be released by the
Richard III Film Company on a states rights basis on September 15, 1912. The release was
later rescheduled to October 15th. The company, which apparently realized the limitations
of its corporate name, changed its designation to The Shakespeare Film Company, and from
offices at 815 Longacre Building, 42nd Street and Broadway, New York City, announced that
Richard III "will be followed by Macbeth, Othello, Hamlet, and probably King
Lear." Promotion and distribution of the Richard III film was continued in 1913, when
it was handled by Clarence Weis and Max Plohm. Subsequently, the film was advertised by
the Sterling Camera and Film Company, New York City.
An article in The Moving Picture World, November 20, 1915, told of his coming to
Thanhouser. As he had been in films earlier, his comments concerning the initiation into
the mysteries of films were misleading: "That eminent tragedian and Shakespearean
authority, Frederick Warde, has at last succumbed to what he jokingly terms 'the film
inevitable.' He has just been engaged by Edwin Thanhouser, the Wizard of New Rochelle, and
will be first seen as Silas Marner. Mr. Warde is practically the sole survivor of the
Shakespearean actors of another day.... Of moving pictures, he says: 'A wonderful art to
which I am a total stranger but an ardent admirer. Little did I think that I would ever
take part in a studio production, but the spirit of the time and Mr. Thanhouser's proposal
bade me give ear to the 'film inevitable.' My initiation into the mysteries of the film
studio proves to me that I am not too old for new tricks.'"
He subsequently appeared in Thanhouser's Silas Marner, released on February 19, 1916,
followed by King Lear and other productions through 1917, all of which featured him in
publicity and advertising.
In his book, Fifty Years of Make-Believe (1923), Warde devoted two paragraphs to his
Thanhouser involvement: "The moving picture industry was growing rapidly. Mr. Edwin
Thanhouser, president of the Thanhouser Film Corporation of New Rochelle, made me the
offer of a year's engagement to appear in a number of pictures under the direction of my
son [Ernest C. Warde], who had become quite an efficient director. The offer was liberal,
and the association exceedingly pleasant, and the results very satisfactory.
"We made pictures of Shakespeare's tragedy of King Lear, George Eliot's novel of
Silas Marner, Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield, and several modern subjects, all of
which were popular successes. The leading characters gave me an opportunity to utilize the
experience of so many years upon the stage, while the liberality of the arrangement and
skill of the director enabled me to appear to the best advantage, and the work that at
first was not entirely to my liking became agreeable as the possibilities of the camera
became apparent." He was the author of at least one other book, The Fools of
Warde's Later Life: Frederick B. Warde acted in the March 1919 World release of The
Unveiling Hand, and appeared in films with other companies through at least the mid-1920s.
He died of heart trouble in Brooklyn, New York on February 7, 1935, at the home of his
daughter, Mrs. May Schmitt, 1720 Ditmars Avenue, Brooklyn, New York. He was survived by
his son, Arthur Frederick Warde, and two daughters: Mrs. Schmitt, and Mrs. John J.
Hillgardner, of West Hempstead, New York. Services were conducted on February 9th at the
Fairchild Chapel, 86 Lefferts Place, Brooklyn. About 50 friends and family members
attended. His two sons were each in motion pictures. Ernest was with Thanhouser, as noted.
In June 1916 his other son, Arthur F. Warde, was press agent for the Rosegraph Film
Corporation, which was set to produce Queen of Roses.
Copyright © 1995 Q. David Bowers. All Rights Reserved.
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