Volume III: Biographies


GRAYBILL, Joseph *

Actor (1912)

Thanhouser Career Synopsis: Joseph Graybill appeared in various Thanhouser films in 1912.

Biographical Notes: Joseph Graybill was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1887. From 1909 to 1913 he appeared in many American Biograph films, including The Light that Came (November 1909), Love in an Apartment Hotel (February 1913), and numerous other subjects. Film historians remember him best as a Biograph actor. During this time he was sometimes known as "Joe Grable." In April 1913 he appeared in the World's Best Film Company release of The Wizard of the Jungle.

Joseph Graybill appeared in several 1912 Thanhouser films. In January 1912 he went to Florida with Thanhouser players to produce films during the winter. During this era he was also working for Biograph and Pathé. His death occurred in New York City on August 3, 1913.

The Morning Telegraph, August 3, 1913, told of his final hours: "Joseph Graybill, Pathe actor, lies ill today in Bellevue Hospital, practically blind, snatched from death's door at midnight Thursday only by the most extreme methods of resuscitation, probably but not certainly on the road to recovery, and thereby hangs a tale. Mr. Graybill had just concluded his work in one Pathé picture and was at his rooms at the Hotel Pierpont when he was stricken. For several weeks he had been in a highly nervous state due to his tendency to worry, and when he collapsed not only did his nerves controlling the muscles give way, but also the optic nerve. He suddenly went practically blind.

"Just at this time he was summoned to play over again several scenes which it was necessary to retake. Despite his nervous condition he was taken to a studio at Jersey City Heights at his own request, and there with unseeing eyes again rehearsed his part in the pictures. Still blind he played over again the scenes which it was necessary to retake, while his every step and move was guided by the voice of the director, and the only communication reaching his mind from the outside world. As the end of the scenes grew near he weakened, but pulled himself together and, by a victory of mind over matter, he finished his work as an actor. Then he collapsed utterly. He was taken to the Hotel Pierpont and from there was removed to Bellevue Hospital Thursday. Meanwhile his mother was summoned by telegraph from Milwaukee.

"Thursday night a delegation from the Screen Club, consisting of Frank A. Tichenor, Arthur Leslie, William Robert Daly and James Kirkwood, visited the hospital and found Graybill very low and not expected to live. At midnight it was said over the telephone that he was dying, but he rallied and Friday was pronounced on the road to recovery. So certain did his death seem that at least one New York newspaper printed his obituary on Friday. His mother arrived from Milwaukee Friday evening and took charge of affairs...."

The Moving Picture World, August 23, 1913, carried his obituary: "Joseph Graybill, well-known and popular young actor, died in New York City on Sunday, August 3, of acute spinal meningitis. He was stricken in his rooms at the Pierpont Hotel. It was a case of physical collapse accompanied by blindness, which, had he lived, would have been permanent. Funeral services were held according to the Christian Science ritual at Campbell's Chapel on West 23rd Street, August 6, and interment was at Greenwood Cemetery.... The deceased leaves a mother and sister, Mrs. Chester B. Roberts, of Milwaukee. A large number of his friends attended the services, including as many of the Pathé players as could be spared.

"Joe was born in Kansas City Mo., in 1887. He was educated at St. John's Military Academy in Salina, Kansas, and at the Milwaukee Academy. At the age of 18 he began his theatrical career with the Thanhouser stock company in Milwaukee. After one season there, he came to New York and got an engagement with Henry Woodruff in Brown of Harvard. After that he played juvenile leads in comedy parts with Henrietta Crosman and Henry E. Dixey. Later he played the part of Clay Whipple in a road production of The Witching Hour - this part he always considered his best. The followed a period of 44 weeks in vaudeville in support of Margaret Moffet in Awake at the Switch.

"About three years ago he joined the Biograph Company and played with it in New York and California. He next joined the Lubin Company and from there went to the IMP Company. Leaving the IMP, he went south with Harold Shaw's company to play in the Jack Bonavita lion picture. On his return he played under James Kirkwood in the Victor Company. At the time of his being stricken, he was with the Pathé Company in Jersey City. There were some scenes that had to be finished, and, although nerve broken and blind, he insisted on going through the scenes, with only the director's voice to guide him. He collapsed at the end of the ordeal and died a few days later in Bellevue Hospital."

The New York Dramatic Mirror, August 6, 1913, gave additional details: "Joseph Graybill, the well-known Pathé play actor, died Sunday afternoon at the Bellevue Hospital.... He came to motion picture work from the legitimate stage, having been a favorite with the Hunter Bradford and Poli stocks and with regular productions, several years ago. He played first with the Biograph, then with Lubin, next with IMP. As a member of the World's Best Film organization, he distinguished himself, following that engagement with one under James Kirkwood in Victor films. Finally he went with Pathé Frères, where he was connected at the time of his death."

Thanhouser Filmography:

1912: On Probation (2-2-1912), The Silent Witness (2-13-1912), The Arab's Bride (3-1-1912), Flying to Fortune (3-12-1912), For Sale - A Life (3-26-1912), The Girl of the Grove (4-5-1912), A Love of Long Ago (4-9-1912), Rejuvenation (4-23-1912), The Ring of a Spanish Grandee (5-24-1912), The Star of Bethlehem (12-24-1912)

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