Saturday, October 5, 2013

No Talkies VII

So, we are nearing the end of the No Talkies series and I have decided to split the last entry up (again) into two separate entries rather than cram four of them into one. Cool? Cool.

This entry we will talk about Bobby Connelly, who tragically died at age thirteen, and Joseph Graybill whose death was caused by multiple factors. This should be an interesting one!


Bobby Connelly was born Robert Joseph Connelly on April 4, 1909 in Brooklyn, New York. He was the second of four children born to vaudeville performers Joseph and Frances Connelly. His older sister, Helen also worked as an actress while younger brothers Arthur and Leonard seemed to shy away from the limelight. It seems too that to help support his family, Joseph also worked as an assistant bookkeeper and later an accountant. 

He made his screen debut in the 1912 short, The Grandfather. And his second film the following year was called Grandfather. Not the same film, but come on now...

In 1914, Bobby began appearing in a series of films as the main character, Sonny Jim for the Vitagraph Company. The series eventually consisted of 20 shorts and dealt with some pretty controversial issues. For instance, in An Easter Lily, Sonny Jim befriends a little black girl named Lily whose mother does washing for his family. He tells her all about his brand new Easter Sunday clothes and asks what hers look like. She starts crying and points to the dress she has on saying that that was all she had. Bobby then grabs her by the hand and brings her inside and wraps up a dress that belongs to one of his visiting cousins (it so cute to see him wrapping it up for her in a newspaper). He then tells her that she has to meet him at church on Sunday and that he will save her a spot next to him. She does show up and is scared to go into the church, but Bobby grabs her by the hand and leads her in and unfortunately this becomes a cliffhanger because the existing print of this short is missing. GRRRRR!!!! Check it out here because what there is of it (and what isn't damaged) shows a wonderful interaction between Bobby and Ada Utley, the girl who plays Lily.

Another film of his that caused outage with some audiences was 1919's The Unpardonable Sin, which starred Blanche Sweet in a dual role. The film was banned in Kansas because part of the plot dealt a German soldier raping two sisters (Blanche played both roles) and their mother. 

A few years later he appeared in another set of shorts, but this time he simply played himself, a boy named Bobby. This series only contained about nine shorts and had titles like, Bobby, Boy Scout, Bobby to the Rescue, and Bobby the Magician. 

His final years in films had him appearing alongside some big names like Clara Kimball Young, Elmo Lincoln, Alma Rubens, and Wallace Beery. He appeared in one of my favorite silent films, The Flapper, with Olive Thomas! He also appeared in a few films with his sister, Helen. Busy boy!

His last film appearance was in 1922's Wildness of Youth.

Bobby Connelly passed away on July 5, 1922 at his home in Lynbrook, New York. He was only 13 years old. In 1917, he was diagnosed with endocarditis, an inflammation of the inner layer of the heart. He was given the okay by doctors to keep working but his heavy filming schedule seems to have taken a toll on the poor boy's health. Soon after he finished working on his last film, he fell ill with bronchitis and that is eventually what killed him. 

He was buried at Saint Boniface Cemetery in Elmont, New York. 


Joseph Graybill was born Harold Graybill on April 17, 1887 in Kansas City, Missouri. He was the only son born to Clarence Frank and Henrietta Graybill. His sister, Gladys, came along four years later. 

He was educated at St. John's Military Academy in Milwaukee. This was also where he made his stage debut at age eighteen and where he jumped on board with the Thanhouser company. Busy boy!

What is known is that he made his screen debut in 1909 in the short, The Light That Came, which was directed by D.W. Griffith. The short featured Mary and Lottie Pickford, Owen Moore, and Kate Bruce.

During the next four years, Joseph appeared both on the screen and on the stage. While making films in the East, he was travelling as far as Iowa in various theater plays I have never heard of I might add. 

His screen career lasted from 1909 until 1913 and in that time he appeared in almost 90 films. In that short time he shared the screen with such big names like Mack Sennett, Henry B. Walthall, Bobby Harron, Blanche Sweet, Florence La Badie, Mabel Normand, Lionel Barrymore, the Gish sisters...needless to say, pretty much everyone who worked for the Biograph and Thanhouser Studios. 

His final film was a 1913 short entitled The Blight, which was released posthumously.

Joseph Graybill passed away on August 3, 1913 in New York City. He was only 26. 

He was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. 

And here is where things get confusing. I have read that he died because of the following: spinal meningitis, a nervous breakdown, gastritis, alcohol poisoning, and acute pachymeningitis. With all of these diagnoses, I am surprised he didn't explode. I read in a 1913 Motion Picture Story magazine article that said he had a 'nervous disorder of the optic nerve and died.' I'm thinking it was a bit of a mix...the meningitis, the breakdown, and the loss of eyesight that is, all related. There is nothing that I have read to suggest that Joseph had a drinking problem.


  1. "With all of these diagnoses, I am surprised he didn't explode."

    Nicely put. I got a good chuckle out of that, which was quite welcome, considering the sad tale of young Master Connolly that preceded that of Mr. Graybill and his ominous list of potential maladies.

    1. It is awful that they both died so young. But I couldn't help but laugh when I was reading about Joseph Graybill because almost every article had him dying of something else!