Volume 3: Biographies


GIRARDOT, Etienne *

Actor (1911-1912)

Thanhouser Career Synopsis: Etienne Girardot appeared in various Thanhouser films.

Biographical Notes: Etienne Girardot was born of French parents in London, England on February 22, 1856. Following in the footsteps of his father, E. Gustave Girardot, Etienne studied to become an artist. In 1875 he played a minor role in a play, which changed the direction of his ambition. His first professional engagement came with a small traveling company in England, which was touring the outlying districts. He joined the company in Coventry, and met his fellow players who were staying there at the Peeping Tom Inn. At first he was considered to be a "dandy," but by dint of his hard work, he was soon accepted by his peers. This led him to spend the next eight years on the stage, sometimes in as many as 15 roles in a single week. On one memorable occasion he played eight characters in a single performance of Shakespeare's Macbeth.

Appearing in The Yellow Dwarf at Her Majesty's Theatre in London, Etienne Girardot attracted favorable attention, and from that point forward, his career flourished. He played a year at the Haymarket Theatre with Mr. and Mrs. Bancroft, later joining John Hare and Arthur Cecil, and appearing as Woodbine Grafton in Peril and as the colonel in The Queen's Shilling. Who's Who on the Stage 1908, source of much of the preceding information, relates that for two years (after that time) he acted Colonel Sterndale in The Solicitor, and made successes as the idiot in Almost a Life, and as Silas Hobbs in Little Lord Fauntleroy. He was Antonio in Much Ado About Nothing when Ellen Terry first played Beatrice. During the late 1880s he was on stage in the United States with Gertrude Homan (who later became Mrs. Edwin Thanhouser).

In 1893, Mr. Girardot was selected by author Brandon Thomas to play the leading part in Charley's Aunt in the United States, at the Standard Theatre (later known as the Manhattan Theatre). The great success that the play had in London was repeated in America, and for a long time Girardot was associated with the role of Lord Fancourt Babberly. His list of accomplishments from the 1890s through the middle of the first decade of the 20th century is a long one and includes playing Cavendish in Mam'zelle 'Awkins, Professor Archibald Gilworthy in The Purple Lady, Frank Stayner in Miss Francis of Yale, Major Wilbraham, with Minnie Maddern Fiske, in Miranda of the Balcony, Baron de Stael, with William Collier, in The Diplomat, Sir Robin McTaft in My Lady Peggy Goes to Town, Flute, with Nat Goodwin, in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Valentine Favre, with Minnie Maddern Fiske, in Leah Kleschna, Baptiste, with Mrs. Fiske again, in The Rose, and Auguste de St. Gre in The Crossing. During the season of 1907-1908 he staged a one-act vaudeville sketch, A Game of Cards. His sister, Isabelle Girardot, was a well-known stage actress and, among other roles, appeared with Etienne Girardot in the memorable production of Charley's Aunt.

For Thanhouser, Etienne Girardot is best remembered for his appearance in the 1912 film, Nicholas Nickleby. However, he played minor parts in numerous other Thanhouser films in the era, though he received very little publicity in this regard. As a writer for The New York Tribune was to observe years later in an obituary notice, in films "he had some success without achieving any recognized reputation." In the meantime Girardot continued his stage activities, and, for example, was seen in New York City in The Bachelor's Baby in 1912 and with Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish in A Good Little Devil at the Belasco Theatre in 1913. In 1914 he was seen in the Vitagraph release of The Violin of M'sieur, and in 1916 he appeared in the Vitagraph release of Artie, the Millionaire Kid. His list of film credits in later years is a long one, with releases through 1940, the year after his death. In the early 1930s he moved to Hollywood, California.

Etienne Girardot died of an intestinal ailment in Hollywood on November 10, 1939. Shortly before, he had completed a role in the RKO film, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and had been signed for a part in My Favorite Wife, with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. His wife, Dr. Violetta Shelton, an otolaryngologist, survived him, as did a sister living in England.

Thanhouser Filmography:

1912: Nicholas Nickleby (3-19-1912)

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Copyright © 1995 Q. David Bowers. All Rights Reserved.