Maurice George Costello
February 22, 1877
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Died||October 29, 1950 (aged 73)|
Hollywood, California, U.S.
|Burial place||Calvary Cemetery, East Los Angeles|
|Occupation||actor, director, screenwriter|
(m. 1902; div. 1927)
(m. 1939; div. 1941)
Maurice George Costello (February 22, 1877 – October 29, 1950) was a prominent American vaudeville actor of the late 1890s and early 1900s who later played a principal role in early American films as leading man, supporting player, and director.
Costello was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Irish immigrants Ellen (née Fitzgerald; born 1853) and Thomas Costello (born 1852). His father Thomas died while repairing a blast furnace at Andrew Carnegie's Union Iron Mill when Maurice was just five months old. He had a strongly Irish upbringing, living with his mother, her Irish brother, and many Irish immigrant boarders.
Costello made his film debut in 1908, but was long believed to have debuted in Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; or, Held for Ransom (1905), supposedly playing the lead in what is regarded as the first serious film to feature the character of Sherlock Holmes, since it was preceded only by the 30-second comedy film Sherlock Holmes Baffled (1900). However, Holmesian scholar Leslie S. Klinger has written that the identification of Costello in the role is flawed. Klinger states that the first identification of Costello with the role was in Michael Pointer's Public Life of Sherlock Holmes published in 1975 but Pointer later realized his error and wrote to Klinger stating
"I am now aware that Maurice Costello could not have been in that film, as he had not joined the Vitagraph company by that date. I'm sorry that my book has been misleading, but I doubt that I shall have the opportunity for an amended reprint, and should not have the time to prepare one anyway."
Costello joined Vitagraph, being a member of the first motion picture stock company ever formed, playing opposite Florence Turner. Among some of his best known pictures are A Tale of Two Cities, The Man Who Couldn't Beat God and For the Honor of the Family. Costello was notorious for his refusal to help build sets, insisting that he was "hired as an actor and nothing else", despite the common practice of the time. From this and his role as the creator of the first known school of screen acting, Costello is sometimes credited as "the father of screen acting".
Costello was one of the world's first leading men in early American cinema, but like a lot of other silent screen stars, he found the transition to "talkies" extremely difficult. While his leading man status was largely lost, Costello continued to appear in movies, often in small roles and bit parts, right up until his death in 1950.
Maurice Costello also discovered Moe Howard of the Three Stooges, who, as a teenager, ran errands and got lunches for the actors at the Vitagraph Studios at no charge. This impressed Costello who brought him in and introduced him to other leading actors of the day. Moe then gained small parts in many of the Vitagraph movies but most of these were destroyed by fire that swept the studios in 1910.
Costello was married to actress Mae Costello (née Altschuk). On November 23, 1913, Costello was arrested for beating his wife Mae. On November 25, 1913, Costello admitted that he had beaten his wife while intoxicated. Mae Costello requested that the charges be dropped to disorderly conduct, and Costello was given six months probation by Magistrate Geisner of the Coney Island Police Court.
|1908||Antony and Cleopatra||Marc Antony||Short|
|1909||Les Misérables||Jean Valjean||Short|
|1909||A Midsummer Night's Dream||Lysander||Short|
|1911||A Tale of Two Cities||Sydney Carton||Short|
|1911||His Sister's Children||Harry Burton||Short|
|1911||Some Good in All||Bill||Short|
|1912||As You Like It||Orlando|
|1912||The Adventure of the Italian Model||Lambert Chase|||
|1912||The Adventure of a Thumb Print||Lambert Chase|||
|1912||The Mystery of the Seven Jewels||Lambert Chase|||
|1913||A Princess of Bagdad||Seyn – the Cobbler|
|1914||Mr. Barnes of New York||Mr. Barnes|
|1915||The Man Who Couldn't Beat God||Martin Henchford||also co-directed|
|1915||The Crown Prince's Double||Prince Oscar / Barry Lawrence|
|1916||The Crimson Stain Mystery||Harold Stanley|
|1919||The Captain's Captain||John Sark|
|1919||The Cambric Mask||John Sark|
|1919||The Man Who Won||Henry Longfield|
|1920||Human Collateral||Richard Morton|
|1920||Deadline at Eleven||Paul Klocke|
|1920||The Tower of Jewels||Fraser Grimstead|
|1921||Conceit||Barbe la Fleche|
|1923||None So Blind||Russell Mortimer|
|1923||The Glimpses of the Moon||Fred Gillow|
|1923||Man and Wife||Caleb Perkins|
|1923||Fog Bound||Deputy Brown|
|1924||Let Not Man Put Asunder||Sir Humphrey|
|1924||Week End Husbands||John Keane|
|1924||Virtuous Liars||Josiah Wright|
|1924||Love of Women||Mr. Redfield|
|1924||Heart of Alaska|
|1924||The Story Without a Name||The Cripple|
|1924||The Law and the Lady||Cyrus Blake|
|1925||The Mad Marriage|
|1926||The Wives of the Prophet||William Neil|
|1926||The Last Alarm||Fireman's father|
|1926||The False Alarm|
|1927||Johnny Get Your Hair Cut||Baxter Ryan|
|1927||Wolves of the Air||Bob's Father|
|1927||The Shamrock and the Rose||Father O'Brien|
|1927||Spider Webs||Jeffrey Stanton|
|1928||See You Later|
|1928||The Wagon Show||Colonel Beldan|
|1928||Eagle of the Night|
|1934||Search for Beauty||Health Acres Guest||Uncredited|
|1936||Hollywood Boulevard||Director in Commissary|
|1938||I Am the Law||Lindsay Staff Member||Uncredited|
|1938||A Man to Remember||Town Councilor||Uncredited|
|1938||Comet Over Broadway||Actor at Dress Rehearsal||Uncredited|
|1938||There's That Woman Again||Headwaiter||Uncredited|
|1939||It's a Wonderful World||Guest||Uncredited|
|1939||Judge Hardy and Son||Man in Audience||Uncredited|
|1939||Five Little Peppers and How They Grew||Hart||Uncredited|
|1939||Mr. Smith Goes to Washington||Diggs – Newsman||Uncredited|
|1939||The Roaring Twenties||Nightclub Patron||Uncredited|
|1940||Rovin' Tumbleweeds||Ways and Means Committee Member||Uncredited|
|1940||The Ghost Comes Home||Townsman at Banquet||Uncredited|
|1940||Edison, the Man||Broker||Uncredited|
|1940||The Sea Hawk||Man Carrying Spear||Uncredited|
|1940||All This, and Heaven Too||Minor Role||Uncredited|
|1940||Foreign Correspondent||Minor Role||Uncredited|
|1940||A Little Bit of Heaven||Uncle Louie|
|1940||Third Finger, Left Hand||Man at Railroad Station||Uncredited|
|1940||Tin Pan Alley||Uncredited|
|1941||A Man Betrayed||Club Inferno Patron||UNcredited|
|1941||Lady from Louisiana||Edwards|
|1941||Here Comes Mr. Jordan||Ringsider at Fight||Uncredited|
|1941||H.M. Pulham, Esq.||Wedding Guest||Uncredited|
|1942||Ride 'Em Cowboy||Rodeo Spectator with Martin Manning||Uncredited|
|1942||Reap the Wild Wind||Ball Guest||Uncredited|
|1942||Cairo||Cavity Rock Townsman||Uncredited|
|1942||The Glass Key||Card Player||Uncredited|
|1942||Henry Aldrich, Editor||Fire Spectator||Uncredited|
|1943||Du Barry Was a Lady||Passerby||Uncredited|
|1943||Sweet Rosie O'Grady||Minor Role||Uncredited|
|1944||A Fig Leaf for Eve||Nightclub Patron||Uncredited|
|1944||The Doughgirls||Minor Role||Uncredited|
|1944||The Climax||Minor Role||Uncredited|
|1944||Practically Yours||Senate Stenographer||Uncredited|
|1945||Guest Wife||Bit Part||Uncredited, (final film role)|
- According to the California Death Index, http://vitals.rootsweb.ancestry.com/ca/death/search.cgi?surname=Costello&given=Maurice Archived 2016-04-10 at the Wayback Machine
- Shulman, Terry C. (2019). "Film's First Family: The Untold Story of the Costellos": 7–8. Cite journal requires
- Kilnger, Leslie S. (June 1998). "Was Maurice Costello The First Screen Sherlock Holmes?". The Baker Street Journal. 48 (2): 27–30.
- "Walk along Middle River leads to biography of Hollywood stars, The News Leader". 15 November 2009.
- "The evening world. (New York, N.Y.) 1887–1931, November 25, 1913, Final Edition, Image 22". 25 November 1913 – via chroniclingamerica.loc.gov.
- Los Angeles Times
- Encyclopedia of Early Cinema, ed. Richard Abel (London: Routledge, 2005), 679; and Adam Lauder, “It’s Alive!: Bertram Brooker and Vitalism,” in The Logic of Nature, the Romance of Space: Elements of Canadian Modernist Painting, ed. Cassandra Getty (Windsor, ON; Oshawa, ON: Art Gallery of Windsor; The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, 2010), 104n93.
- James King, Betram Brooker. Life and work. Art Canada Institut – Institut de l’Art Canadien, 2018, p. 5.
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