Sunday, May 26, 2013

Mr. Art Acord

Art is going to be our first stop in remembering the actors and actresses who never made it to the talkies. Now, Art is an actor I had heard about before, but I never knew about his personal life and what happened to him until I read up about him recently. Sad ending to a wonderful and talented man. 

Art Acord was born Arthemus Ward Acord (like that?) on April 17, 1890 in Glenwood, Utah. Finding information about his background was a pain, but I did manage to find out that his father, Valentine, was a farmer, and his mother, Mary, took care of Art and his four sisters Eliza, Zurr, Dora, and Adelia.

At a young age Art became very intrigued by the outdoors and especially horses. His family moved to Oklahoma when he was still a child and it was here that he began working as a ranch hand. 

In 1912 and 1916 he won a world championship rodeo event, and in the 1916 competition, he beat his friend and fellow Western screen actor, Hoot Gibson. Art would also become friends with Tom Mix and Broncho Billy Anderson through a Wild West show he joined and traveled with.

Art's first few screen appearances were as a stuntman, as well as some uncredited roles. His first credited role was in the 1910 short film, The Sergeant. 

Not surprising that most of his film roles were of a cowboy, but some of my favorite character names he portrayed include: 'Hairtrigger Jordan,' 'The Mysterious Spaniard,' 'Bullets Bernard,' and 'Two-Gun O'Brien.' Kinda like the flapper edition of western names. And unfortunately like so many silent film stars, many of his films are considered lost. 

Art took a brief 'break' from films to serve in the army during WWI, and when he came back he appeared in a serial produced by Universal Pictures. Sadly, this was the beginning of the end for his film career. He had begun to drink heavily and that coupled with the coming of talkies and the audiences' tastes changing lead to a career decline and eventual end in 1929. 

The same year he retired from films was also the year when he was arrested for robbery and liquor possession. The charges were eventually dropped, but the damage was already done to his character, so he decided to move to Mexico to appear in rodeo shows.

Art Acord passed away on January 4, 1931 in Chihuahua, Mexico. He allegedly ingested poison after being depressed for some time  (He reportedly told this to a doctor at the hospital. I am not sure how he ended up at the hospital though). 

He was buried at Forest Lawn in Glendale. He received a full military funeral. 

Of course there has to be some scandal and drama surrounding his death. Although he had been depressed and relying on alcohol for years before his death, some of his friends couldn't believe that Art would have killed himself. Some of them claimed that he was killed by a powerful Mexican politician because Art was sleeping with his wife. So...yeah...

Art was married three times. His first wife was an actress named Edythe Sterling, who he married in 1913. Edythe was a member of (but didn't perform with) the famous vaudeville family "The Five Sedgwicks" which included her parents, Edward and Josephine, her twin sisters, Eileen and Josie, and her brother, Edward Jr. Art had met Edythe when both were traveling with the vaudeville circuit. The couple divorced in 1916.

Four years later, he married another actress, Edna May Nores. Four years after that, Edna filed for divorce claiming that Art abused her and cheated on her with actress Louise Lorraine. Art eventually married his mistress Louise in 1926, but two years later she filed for divorce, also citing that he abused her. 

In May of 1928, Art was injured when a gas heater exploded in his home. He received some pretty bad burns, but other than that he was alright. 

He was nicknamed the "Mormon Cowboy" and the "Fair-Haired Boy of Filmland."

"His [Art Acord] requiem today is sung in tales of a generous hand, a full pocket, a careless heart while the fun lasted. Many pass from the Earth without writing such an epitaph." ~~ The Spokesman-Review - January 6, 1931


  1. How sad and he is one of many. He liked the hard living too bad his films are lost like so many

    1. I know, it is sad that people have to turn to the bottle to try and 'help' themselves. Sounds like he was one talented man.

  2. The info you have on his family is not correct Sarah Frost was the first wife of Valentine her children Ida, Samuel, Emma, Molly, Becky and Minnie. After Sara died Valentine married Mary (Poder) Peterson her children were Eliza, Zurr, Dora, Adelia and Art. They moved from Utah to Stillwater Oklahoma in 1892 where Mary died the family moved back to Utah. Valentine was a Cattleman and Rancher. Art was very good to his sisters.

    1. Thank you very much for the information/corrections! Digging up all the info on these stars that died before appearing in talkies is difficult. Thank you very much for the clarifications.

  3. Art Acord did have one talkie appearance in Hoot Gibson's Trailin' Trouble filmed in late 1929/early 1930. One can't judge much from four lines of dialogue, but his voice is high-pitched, and he sounds quite tentative. So sad considering that he was a member of Universal's stable of western stars just two years before.
    Only one of his Universal two reelers exists,and none of his features for that company are extant beyond a few reels. If anyone sees any films of his, it's three bottom of the barrel oaters made in 1928 and 1929.
    Thank you for remembering him.

    1. Thank you Jon for the additional information! It is unfortunate that his 'lesser' work is only available for viewing, so hard to see how great these people really were.
      I think it is interesting that a lot of the male stars of the silent era had higher pitched voices, much to the disappointment of their female fans. Hell, I love people like John Gilbert silent or talking!

  4. Maybe it was initial nervousness and expectations that were a tad bit too high. After all, silent actors and actresses moved in a dream world when they were on the screen, and the transition to reality might have made their fans have the equivalent of a "meh" reaction.

    John Gilbert has a nice, cultured voice. Too bad that MGM didn't give him a few better early talking films to showcase his fun personality. Richard Dix got by just fine with that hint of an Irish brogue (ok, maybe it's just me thinking that), and I hate how Douglas Fiarbanks, Sr, supposedly has a "high-pitched" voice because he exercised too much. Right...that's why he was a successful Broadway actor before 1915...because his voice didn't cut it.

    Back to Acord, it seems that he was at such a low point in 1929/30, and it was swell of his old friend Hoot Gibson to give him a part in the film. I'm certainly not deprecating his voice or performance, but he seemed so uneasy, and it was saddening. Fay Wray wrote about him briefly in her autobiography. His problems with alcohol seem to be the main reason that she was uncomfortable working with him.

    Thank you for all of the research that you are putting into your endeavours.

    1. That is too bad that Art let alcohol get in the way of his talent and his personality. Hearing about fellow actors being uncomfortable working with him, not something you want to read about being your legacy.
      Thank YOU for coming by and reading my blog!! And for being a fellow fan of silent films!