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WARDE, Frederick B.

Thanhouser Career: Actor (1915-1917)

(From THE MOVING PICTURE WORLD, April 7, 1917) The Vicar of Wakefield, Frederick Warde, Pathe Exchange

F-1100-a.JPG (69631 bytes)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 Mary Stuart.

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 Shakespeare.

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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