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GARWOOD, William

Thanhouser Career: Actor
(1909-1913)

William Garwood from The Photoplay Magazine, August 1913. (Courtesy of Robert S. Birchard)

Thanhouser Career Synopsis: William Garwood worked for Thanhouser intermittently from 1909 to 1913, during which time he was among the company's most important actors.

Below is a chronological list of extant films featuring William Garwood available for viewing:

  1. The Pasha's Daughter (1-3-1911)
  2. The Coffin Ship (6-20-1911)
  3. David Copperfield (1911)
  4. The Little Girl Next Door (11-1-1912)
  5. Petticoat Camp (11-3-1912)
  6. Cymbeline (3-28-1913)

Biographical Notes: Born on April 26, 1884 in Springfield, Missouri, William Davis Garwood, Jr. (the "Jr." was not used in later publicity) was educated in the same city. At the age of 15 he went to New Mexico for several years. His advanced education was at Springfield's Drury College, where he was awarded prizes for his prowess in dramatic reading and literature. At the same institution he was active in athletics and ran the 100-yard dash in ten and one-fifth seconds and played on the football team. His father hoped that he would go into metallurgy and secured a position for William with a zinc company in Joplin, Missouri. However, young Garwood had other plans, and over his father's vehement protests he headed for the stage.

Among his early work was employment in 1903 for $3.50 per week with the Lakeside Theatre at Elitch's Gardens in Denver, where for two seasons he did odd jobs in addition to taking minor stage roles with the stock company, which at the time included such players as Maude Fealy, Bruce McRae, Douglas Fairbanks, Olive Wyndham, Olive Oliver, and Edward Mackey. From Denver he went to New York City, where he worked with Virginia Harned, after which he joined the Frohman management in the original production of Mizpah, followed by Just Out of College. Later, he was with Kyrle Bellew in Brigadier Girard and with S. Miller Kent in Raffles. In between these productions he worked with various stock companies, including those at the Alcazar Theatre in San Francisco and the Auditorium Theatre in Los Angeles. At one time he also worked with David Belasco. Among his appearances on stage he considered his supporting role with Dustin Farnum in the traveling company of Cameo Kirby to be especially notable. This was his last appearance on the boards prior to his debut in films.

Garwood Joins Thanhouser: William Garwood joined Thanhouser in late 1909 and was seen in his first Thanhouser film in 1910. He departed from Thanhouser in the autumn of 1911, by which time he was one of the studio's best known players. However, it wasn't long before the June 26, 1912 issue of The New York Dramatic Mirror told of his comeback: "William Garwood has returned to the Thanhouser fold. He has been engaged with others for the new Thanhouser third weekly release…."

Garwood, who had spent a season on the stage with the Stubbs-Mackay stock company in The Prisoner of Zenda, Mills of the Gods, and other plays at the Southern Theatre in Columbus, Ohio during his hiatus from the screen, told a reporter that he would miss the applause of the stage audience but, among other things, he especially enjoyed driving automobiles, something he could do in films but not in theatrical performances.

With Majestic and American: When the Thanhouser players left Los Angeles for New Rochelle on April 30, 1913, William Garwood did not make the return trip. He remained behind in the same studio, which was acquired by Majestic, and became, with Francelia Billington and Fred Mace, one of three featured stars in the "New Majestic" films. In an interview in The Photoplay Magazine, February 1913, he said that he liked love, life, and laughter, was fond of automobiles, and preferred blonde girls. His involvement with fast cars was particularly well known, and he often drove the streets of New Rochelle at high speeds.

William Garwood was mentioned in the "From the Inside" column by Jean Darnell (a Thanhouser actress who also wrote a gossip column), in the August 1913 issue of The Photoplay Magazine: "Anyone visiting Majestic Company and seeing handsome Billie Garwood 'made up' for the Millionaire Clubman could never fancy that he reads books entitled How to Raise Onions and Best Kinds of Soil Suitable for Growing Alfalfa. But he does. Really, Billie is very much the farmer, and is going to improve the ranch he has just bought near Long Beach, by planting alfalfa and onions and installing a big irrigating plant in connection with an artesian well on his place."

In 1914, he lived in a six-room bungalow in Whittier, California and supervised three acres of irrigated crops, with his favorite being onions, a food staple which he had cultivated on a commercial basis beginning the year before, when he had an onion patch on the farm of actor Irving Cummings. His interest in onion culture began in the early summer of 1913, when he was acting in the Majestic film, The Toy, and in his role worked in the garden of a prison.

An article in Reel Life, July 11, 1914, told of the enlargement of his real estate holdings: "William Garwood, of the American, believes in expansion. He has a big ranch near Los Angeles and several seaside lots. Now he is purchasing farm lands in the vicinity of Santa Barbara. Mr. Garwood is no mere real estate barterer. He cultivates his property intensively and makes it pay. He says that he has no intention of buying an automobile out of his salary at the studios, but he plans to get one of the finest cars on the market from the income of his land investments."

An determined bachelor, his answer to reporters' inquiries about the possibility of his becoming married was "Never!" He lived with a Japanese servant, who attended to his personal needs and did most of the cooking. His parents lived in the Los Angeles area, and he often visited them on Sundays. Garwood was interested in geology, and many weekends were spent in the pursuit of mineral specimens.

His move from Majestic to American was made on March 21, 1914, after which he played opposite Vivian Rich, under the direction of Sidney Ayres, at the American studio.

After being with American in Santa Barbara for eight months, he went to Universal under a two-year contract, where he was directed by Lucius J. Henderson. Garwood's first Universal release was On Dangerous Ground. An article in the June 16, 1915 issue of The New York Dramatic Mirror stated that Garwood was putting on weight, and this might make him unattractive to film fans who admired him as a hero. An item in The New Rochelle Pioneer, July 31, 1915, noted that Garwood, a leading man for Universal, had returned to live in New Rochelle and had taken up residence with Mr. and Mrs. W. Ray Johnston, at 9 Rhodes Street. The New Rochelle Pioneer, September 4, 1915, told what happened next: "Billy Garwood, who lived with Ray Johnston on Rhodes Street for a brief spell, has gone back to the Longacre Hotel, New York City, as it took him too long to make the trip to the Universal at Coytesville. Billy wishes that the studio was located near enough so that he could live here always."

Garwood remained with Universal, where by 1916 he was one of several dozen directors at Universal City, California. Apparently, his overweight physique was trimmed to good shape later, for an adulatory article by Nina Dorothy Gregory, in Motion Pictures, September 1917, noted: "He keeps his five feet, ten inches height and 165 pounds weight in perfect athletic condition by swimming, motoring, and football playing, when not engaged in the studio work or hoeing onions in his garden. His kindly brown eyes express not only sympathetic unselfishness, but also independent and dignified reserve. From each particularly well-groomed dark hair of his well-shaped head to the immaculate white canvas tip of his oxfords he always appears the gentleman. Genial, companionable, an excellent actor, and a good businessman, he is at once the student and the author, the artist and the critic, the idealist and the practical manager."

While with Universal, he enjoyed driving to and from the studio in his Stutz Bearcat automobile. Around the same time, an article in The New York Star, September 13, 1916, noted that he had amassed considerable wealth through wise investments, liked the simple life and usually went to bed early, and for recreation often visited a local movie theatre.

In December 1916 he was engaged by Thomas H. Ince and went to Kay-Bee, which released through the Triangle program. In 1917 he was in A Magdalene of the Hills (Rolfe for Metro) and The Little Brother (Kay-Bee for Triangle). For the next several years he was involved in many films, including acting for Ince and the Authors' Film Company. In 1918 his mailing address was care of the Screen Club in New York City. He appeared in the 1919 release of Wives and Other Wives (American for Pathé) and directed the 1919 Universal picture, A Proxy Husband. In his spare time he enjoyed athletic pursuits. His death was caused by a coronary occlusion and cirrhosis of the liver in Los Angeles on December 28, 1950.

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