Volume III: Biographies


ASHLEY, Arthur H. ** .

Actor (1914-1915)

Thanhouser Career Synopsis: Arthur Ashley was an actor with Thanhouser for only a few months, yet he was featured widely in publicity during his tenure and was considered to be among Thanhouser's top several male leads early in 1915.

Biographical Notes: Born Arthur Ash in New York City on October 6, 1886, Arthur H. Ashley, as he styled himself on the stage and screen (but not in private life), was also educated there, after which he attended and graduated from the Long Island Medical College, although he never practiced medicine. Pursuing a stage career he played stock with Peyton, Spooner, Poli, Baker, Davis, and other companies, appearing in many productions.

He began his motion picture career with Vitagraph, where he remained for three and one-half years (although the October 11, 1913 issue of The Moving Picture World stated that as of that time he had been with Vitagraph for "about six months"). During that time he appeared in numerous films and also wrote numerous scenarios, including many for Vitagraph comedians John Bunny and Flora Finch. Departing from Vitagraph, Ashley went to Thanhouser, where he arrived around October 1914. The Thanhouser organization expected great things of the actor, and his coming was widely heralded in news releases. He began work as a leading player with Florence LaBadie in various films, his first being the January 12, 1915 release of The Speed King. It turned out that he stayed at Thanhouser for a relatively short time, just until the following April,. In January 1916 the Studio Directory of Motion Picture News stated incorrectly that he had been with Thanhouser for one year.

The Evening Mail, December 19, 1914, carried this note by Wid Gunning, film columnist: "Arthur Ashley, who is well known from his work at Vitagraph and recently at Thanhouser, is going to 'break in' to 'vodeville' in an unusual manner on Jan. 12 at the Dyckman Theatre in the regions far uptown. Arthur is being prepared for the plunge by Producer Carroll Fleming of Thanhouser, who formerly was a producer at the Hippodrome. Harry Schenck will appear with Mr. Ashley. I know that Arthur has been working in a film called The Speed King - an auto story - and now they are going to put over some sudden transition from the film to the honest-to-goodness Arthur himself - which is expected to be quite interesting. If the idea goes as well as the little 'promoters of said idea' plan - they threaten to put it into a big Broadway vaudeville house and - maybe - I say maybe - they don't - they are going to make a three act play out of it for next season in which Hero Arthur will star. Well, we'll look him over January 12."

A 1914 Sketch: The following article by John William Kellette, one of a series on Thanhouser players, appeared in The New Rochelle Pioneer, December 26, 1914:

"Arthur Ashley's debut in motion pictures occurred a little over three years ago at the Vitagraph Studios in Brooklyn, New York, and he came to the Thanhouser Film Corporation about ten weeks ago to play feature leads in two reel productions under the direction of Carroll Fleming, and to date he has completed three - The Speed King, In the Jury Room and The Magnet of Destruction - all booked for release in the near future.

"He should rightly be known as the 'daredevil of the screen,' because he owns the famous No. 14, a national racing car, in which he has broken many records; has been an aeronaut, sailing dirigibles, but claims never to have operated a biplane, and before his connection with the legitimate stage used to do a 'dip of death' at county fairs, traveling all over the country to perform his spectacular stunt.

"On the legitimate he scored big successes in Brewster's Millions, Get Rich Quick Wallingford, The College Widow, and in the support of Bertha Galland in Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall. Besides these, he scored in a great list of stock engagements. He is young, vigorous, and has a dignified military bearing which ordinarily would proclaim him of the service.

"For three years, while with Vitagraph, he built up a strong following that will welcome his return to the screen in Thanhouser productions, and he is artist enough to warrant the intent to feature him in the multiple reelers. He lives in Brooklyn and made the trip to New Rochelle via automobile, because he is a great enthusiast. In The Speed King, many of the scenes were taken during the races at Brighton Motordrome, and in racing scripts it oftentimes happens that a double is used in the racing scenes, but not so in this case, because Mr. Ashley ran his own car, which is almost as prominent throughout the country as he is. His opportunities with Thanhouser will be greater than ever, and he will add to his following."

Ashley's Later Life: The New Rochelle Pioneer, April 24, 1915, reported that Ashley had recently resigned from Thanhouser and had returned to the Vitagraph studio in Brooklyn. Shortly thereafter, he relocated the Humanology Film Producing Company, of Boston, and made his home in Medford, Massachusetts. Apparently, this employment was not to his liking, for soon thereafter he went to Metro, then to Fort Lee, New Jersey to join the World Film Corporation.

By autumn 1916 he had played in many films for various companies, with notable releases including Crucible of Fate, An Officer and a Gentleman, Prince of Vanity, A Million Bid, The Juggernaut, What a Woman Loves, Sealed Lips, Tangled Fates, What Happened at 22, Her Majesty, The Little Mademoiselle, The Revolt, and Miss Petticoats. Later, he was with Goldwyn (Be Careful Mary). He was listed as a director in the 1918 edition of the Motion Picture Studio Directory.

In 1916 he was described as being 6' tall, weighing 176 pounds, and having brown hair and blue eyes. He spent his summers at Long Beach and, according to a newspaper article, his only superstition was when someone whistled in his dressing room, which he considered to be an omen of bad luck.

In his spare time Arthur Ashley enjoyed auto racing, swimming, and horseback riding. His derring-do at the wheel was the subject of several newspaper comments. In the summer of 1916 he owned three automobiles: a Buick roadster, a National racing car, and a special model four-passenger Paige touring car. Ashley claimed to be the only actor ever to be in three major disasters and escape unscathed. He was in the acting company at the Iroquois Theatre on December 30, 1903, when hundreds of people were killed in a frantic rush for the exits during a fire; on April 18, 1906 he was in San Francisco during the earthquake and subsequent fire; and he was stranded during the Dayton flood.

In September 1915, Ashley instituted a divorce action against his wife, Bertha Ash, in the Supreme Court in Brooklyn. Earlier, his wife had filed a separation suit against him. Named as corespondent by Arthur Ashley was B.B. Benson, age 20, of 230 West 97th Street. His wife countered by saying that Benson was simply a friend who had visited with her from time to time. The couple had married in 1907 and had two children. Arthur Ashley continued in motion pictures and stage work into the 1920s and died in East Islip, New York, on December 28, 1970. At the time he was living at the Percy Williams Home for Retired Actors.

Thanhouser Filmography:

1915: The Speed King (1-12-1915), In the Jury Room (2-2-1915), The Shoplifter (2-7-1915), Jealousy (3-26-1915), The Magnet of Destruction (3-30-1915), A Double Exposure (4-11-1915), The Moment of Sacrifice (4-13-1915), The Reformation of Peter and Paul (4-23-1915), The Song of the Heart (5-11-1915), The House That Jack Moved (Falstaff 5-21-1915)

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