Saturday, September 28, 2013

No Talkies VI

Next in our journey of 'Silent Forever' stars are an actor and actress who both passed away from tuberculosis in their thirties. Arthur V. Johnson, who was rumored to be D.W. Griffith's favorite actor, and Lottie Lyell, considered to be Australia's first movie star.


Arthur V. ( the V is for Vaughen) Johnson was born on February 2, 1876 in Cincinnati Ohio. He was the second son born to Rev. Myron Johnson and his wife, Frances. He had an older brother named Reginald who worked as a teacher, and a younger sister named Maude.

When he was 19 years old, Arthur left college and went on tour with a Shakespearean acting troupe.

He made his silver screen debut in the 1905 Edison short, White Caps. 

Three years later, Arthur went to work for Biograph and was paired alongside such names as Florence Lawrence, Robert Harron, Henry B. Walthall, Mack Sennett, and the main lady herself, Mary Pickford.

What I found interesting is that all of his 326 film roles were in shorts, meaning he never appeared in a feature length film. And to imagine him appearing in that many films, shorts or not, within a span of ten years is incredible! 

Acting wasn't the only thing keeping him busy. Arthur also had the opportunity to direct while he was working for the Lubin Studios. In total, he put his director stamp on twenty-six film shorts. 

His last film role was in the 1915 short, The Last Rose.

Arthur and Linda Arvidson
Arthur V. Johnson passed away on January 17, 1916 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He had reportedly been dealing with alcoholism, a nervous breakdown, and even a few car accidents that all led to his body being worn down. He fell ill with tuberculosis soon after which led to his untimely death. 

He was buried at Fairview Cemetery in Chicopee, Massachusetts. 

Arthur was married once, to fellow actor Florence Hackett. I am not sure of the exact year they got married, but I believe it to be either 1913 or 1914. They remained married until his death, and the only children they had were her two sons, Albert and Raymond from a previous marriage. It is worth mentioning that Raymond Hackett was married to silent screen star Blanche Sweet from 1935 until his death in 1958.  Raymond also passed on words of wisdom from his step father to his friend, James Cagney who used them to better his acting. I just love all the connections!

Here's Arthur Johnson; oh, Arthur, dear,

To be your wife I would have no fear,
But then, I have heard you are awf'ly gruff,
And that it is because you are in 'luff!'

I love sweet Mary Pickford,

Marion Leonard I adore;
I am strong for Arthur Johnson
As well as Owen Moore;
But ask me who my favorite be
'Tis Miss Lawrence, all agree.

"His very frankness of speech and original way demands attention. Also, the enthusiastic and frank way in which he acts places him in a far superior class to those whose acting appears self-conscious and unnatural." -- Florence Glaser, of Philadelphia


Lottie Lyell was born Charlotte Edith Cox on February 23, 1890 in Balmain, New South Wales, Australia. She was the youngest daughter of Joseph, a land and estate agent, and his wife, Charlotte. 

When she was around seventeen she made her stage debut under the name Lottie Lyell. It wasn't until a few years later in 1910 that she began to get noticed for her performance in the play An Englishman's Home. Her success led her to join a travelling theatre troupe that took her all over Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania. 

The next year she decided to try her hand at the new 'fad' of film making. She made her screen debut in The Bushranger's Bride. In a span of about thirteen years she appeared in roughly 24 films. 

One of the films she appeared in, 1918's The Woman Suffers was actually banned in South Australia for no given reason. I am guessing it is because part of the film involves Lottie's character being seduced by a man, impregnated by him, and then abandoned. Her response is to try to abort her baby but then is stopped by the man's brother. Quite the scandalous soap opera there, especially for 1918!

William Coulter, Lottie, and Arthur Tauchert

Not only was Lottie a swell actress, she also worked as a writer, editor, and director on some of her films. She was also an accomplished horsewoman. 

Like Gish/Griffith and Garbo/Stiller, Lottie had a director/actor partnership with Raymond Longford. Their films were well known because of spectacular special effects (for 1913 that is), excellent screenplays, art direction, and production. They even created a company called Longford-Lyell Australian Motion Picture Productions, but unfortunately the company liquidated its assets in 1924. The company and their films were doing fine, so the loss of the company seemed odd to some people. 

She made her last screen appearance in the 1923 film, Gentleman in Mufti.

Lottie Lyell passed away on December 21, 1925 in Sydney.

She was buried in Macquarie Park Cemetery in North Ryde, South Wales, Australia. What is REALLY interesting is that she is buried with Raymond Longford. Were the two married? Nope. In fact, it says on the gravestone that he was the 'beloved husband of Emilie Longford.' She must have been one hell of a woman because it was actually HER idea for her husband to be buried by Lottie. 

Apparently Raymond had been living with Lottie and her family and were considered a couple but were unable to be officially married because his first wife, Melena was a devout Catholic and would not divorce her husband. Something must have happened to her faith though because the two did divorce in 1926, the year after Lottie died. He married Emilie Anschutz in 1933.


  1. Thank you for more information about Mr. Johnson!He's my favorite amongst the male cast of Mr. Griffith's earlier Biograph efforts, and it's hard to miss him with that excellent poise he had.
    I re-watched The Unchanging Sea recently, and I was really impressed by the emotional depth that the film (aided by some excellent musical accompaniment on the Kino disk) had for 1910.

    1. I hadn't heard of him until I was researching who to cover for this series. He was so dashing! I am going to have to go back and watch some of my early silents and watch him on screen.