Sunday, July 14, 2013

Mr. True Boardman and Mr. William Courtleigh Jr.

Okay, so the past couple of entries have been about silent film stars who died before making it in talkies. I am going to combine the next bunch of them together because there isn't a lot of info on all of them to make a whole entry. Also, there aren't a lot of pictures out there, which I love to include with my entries. 

How am I grouping them together you ask? By the way they died is the answer. Why? Because that is how I roll.....and it seemed like a logical way.

Anyway, this entry is going to be about actors True Boardman and William Courtleigh Jr., who both passed away during the 1918 flu pandemic. 

And away we go!


True Boardman was born William True Boardman on April 21, 1882 in Oakland, California. He was the only child (from what I have read) of William and Caroline Boardman. 

Caroline Boardman was an actress and it seems that True got the acting bug from her. He made his stage debut in 1900 and began touring up and down the Pacific coast from his home state of California all the way up to Seattle, Washington. 

His film debut came in 1911 in the film short, The Rose of Old St. Augustine. Over the next six or so years, True appeared in over 50 films, mostly shorts, and they were mostly Westerns. He had the chance to share the screen with such stars as Tom Mix, Broncho Billy Anderson, Elmo Lincoln, and Helen Holmes. 

His relatively short career consisted of almost 150 films! That is LOT to cram into a space of eight years. In that time, True bounced from the Selig, Essanay, and Kalem studios. 

In 1917, True appeared in the first screen adaptation of the Tarzan film franchise. In it he played John Clayton, Lord Greystoke alongside Elmo Lincoln as Tarzan. He reprised his role later that year in a second Tarzan film. It would be the last picture he appeared in to be released while he was still alive. 

True Boardman passed away on September 28, 1918 in Los Angeles. He was one of the many victims of the 1918 flu pandemic. He was just 36 years old.

He was buried at Forest Lawn in Glendale. 

True was married once, to actress Virginia True Boardman, from around 1909 until his death. They had a son together named True who later went on to work in the film industry like the rest of his family. Virginia Boardman never remarried, passing away in 1971. She was buried next to her husband. True Boardman Jr. passed away in 2003. 

True, Virginia, and True Jr. appeared in a lot of films together, mostly in the Broncho Billy shorts. I have read some confusing articles about True Sr. and Jr. and it seems like people are getting the two mixed up. For example, Wikipedia says that True Sr. shared the screen with Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford. This is not correct. True Jr. appeared in the 1919 Mary Pickford film, Daddy-Long-Legs in an uncredited part as an orphan, and later that year he had another uncredited part in the Charlie Chaplin  short, A Day's Pleasure. It would be rather difficult for True Sr. to appear in a film a year after his death, just saying.

True's last film, Terror on the Range, was released after his death. 

In 1916, True returned to the stage, what he called his "first love." He and friend, James Post, created the Post-Boardman Players and together they put on an eight performance show that included recreating some of the Western films he had made for the silver screen. 

True was not related to silent film actress Eleanor Boardman. 


William Thomas Courtleigh Jr. was born on March 8, 1892 in Buffalo, New York. He was the son of a William, a well known actor, and his wife, Edna, who had worked as a model. 

I have read that his parents separated and that William Sr. later remarried and fathered three more sons. I have also read that the couple stayed married until William Sr. died in 1930 and that they had just one son named Robert. From what I have read in census records is that William Sr. and Edna Courtleigh were still married in 1920 and had a son named Stephen who was only two years old when his older brother passed away. So, the truth is hidden between all of that information right there. What I DO know is that Robert Courtleigh did later go on to become an actor.

It didn't take long for William to take the cue from his father and begin acting on the stage. It didn't take long for him to transition to the screen again, just like his father. 

He made his screen debut in the 1914 film, The Better Man. And although his film career only consisted of 14 titles, he did get to share the screen with such stars as Dorothy Phillips, Norma Talmadge, and Owen Moore.

I found it pretty interesting that he also appeared in films that featured famous Ziegfeld Follies stars like Lillian Lorraine, Ann Pennington, and Hazel Dawn. Lucky guy!

William's last film, Children of Destiny, wasn't released until 1920, two years after his death.

William is second from the right

William Courtleigh Jr. passed away on March 13, 1918 in Philadelphia. The flu pandemic of 1918 claimed his life at age 26. I am not sure where he is buried, but I am assuming it is in New York. 

In his short life, he did manage to at least get married. In 1915, he married actress Ethel Fleming. The couple remained married until his death. I found an article in archive that I believe is about Ethel about an incident that occurred after her husband died. According to the article, in 1921, Ethel got into an argument with a man named Joseph King and during the argument she drank a bottle of Lysol. She was taken to Bellevue Hospital to recuperate and was not in very serious condition. What makes me wonder if it is her is that in the article is says "Miss Ethel Fleming, 27, who said she is a movie picture actress..." Kinda harsh journalism there.

1 comment:

  1. I never really knew how many stars died during the flu epidemic. Considering the millions who did die it would be safe to assume that quite a few passed away. Very interesting to read about them