Francis X. Bushman

Francis Xavier Bushman (January 10, 1883 – August 23, 1966) was an American film actor and director. His career as a matinee idol started in 1911 in the silent film His Friend's Wife.[1] He gained a large female following and was one of the biggest stars of the 1910s and early 1920s.

Francis X. Bushman
Bushman in 1912
Francis Xavier Bushman

(1883-01-10)January 10, 1883
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
DiedAugust 23, 1966(1966-08-23) (aged 83)
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
OccupationActor, director, writer
Years active1911–1966
Height1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)
  • Josephine Fladine Duval
    (m. 1902; div. 1918)
  • Beverly Bayne
    (m. 1918; div. 1925)
  • Norma Emily Atkin
    (m. 1932; died 1956)
  • Iva Millicent Richardson
    (m. 1956; his death 1966)

Bushman, like many of his contemporaries, broke into the moving picture business via the stage. He was performing at Broncho Billy Anderson's Essanay Studios in Chicago, Illinois, where he was first noticed for his muscular, sculpted frame. He appeared in nearly 200 feature film roles—more than 175 films before 1920, and 17 in his screen debut year of 1911 alone. He also worked for the Vitagraph studio before signing with Metro in 1915.


Bushman was born in Baltimore, Maryland. As a young man he joined the Maryland Athletic Club and began a body building regimen that would give him his famous film physique. He cited Eugen Sandow as one of his body building influences. In New York City, he worked as a sculptor's model, often posing in the nude in sessions. In 1902, he married seamstress Josephine Fladine Duval. By the launch of his film career, the couple had five children. In 1918, he was the subject of a national scandal as his affair with longtime costar Beverly Bayne became public. Three days after his divorce with Josephine was final, Bushman and Bayne were married; they would eventually have a son. Bushman and his studios had kept his marriage secret for fear of losing popularity. He was married four times.

Bushman eventually retained the talented services of Harry Reichenbach as his agent. When Bushman noted that he would be well suited to starring in the upcoming 1925 film, Ben-Hur, Reichenbach had a plan to increase his client's marketability. From a railway station, Reichenbach took Bushman to see studio executives, while dropping pennies to the street from his pocket. Lots of people followed the two, picking up the coins along the way. The crowd gave the studio executives an impression that Bushman was very popular and they cast him as Messala. Bushman was concerned that playing a villain would affect his career, so he asked the advice of William S. Hart, who had played the part on stage for years. "Take it", Hart advised—"It's the best part in the play!" Unlike Ramon Novarro, the star of the picture, Bushman knew how to properly drive a team of horses and a chariot without getting severely injured or killed in the process. When Ben Hur was remade in 1959, Charlton Heston had to learn the technique and quipped "The only man in Hollywood who can drive a chariot is Francis X. Bushman—and he's too old!"

At the peak of his career, Bushman was advertised as "The Handsomest Man in the World". He was also known as "the King of Photoplay" or "the King of Movies" before those titles were more popularly attached to Clark Gable.

Bushman was paid large salaries during his screen career, and donated the land upon which Sid Grauman erected his famous Chinese Theater. But his fortune was wiped out in the Wall Street Crash of 1929, and his career as a movie star had had its run. After his film career had waned, Bushman made his broadcasting mark on the CBS Radio network's long-running dramatic serial entitled Those We Love. In the soap opera, which ran from 1938 to 1945, he played the role of John Marshall, father of the twins (played by Richard Cromwell and Nan Grey). Robert Cummings rounded out the cast. Bushman took small roles in pictures and attempted to run a few small businesses, all of which lost money. On viewing one of his early films, Bushman is said to have remarked, "My God, look at that! I'm putting all my emotion into my chin!"

In later years, Bushman made assorted guest appearances on American television in the 1950s and 1960s. On February 6, 1958, he and his wife Iva Millicent Richardson appeared on the quiz show You Bet Your Life with Groucho Marx and won $1,000 by successfully answering questions in a geography quiz.[2] He also performed on weekly sitcoms and television dramas, including Burns and Allen, Peter Gunn, Make Room for Daddy, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Perry Mason, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, and Dr. Kildare. Bushman guest-starred as well in 1966 on a two-part episode of Batman.[3] Both Bushman and Neil Hamilton, his co-star in The Grip of the Yukon, appeared in the Batman episode—their first reunion acting together in 38 years.[3] Bushman's role as a wealthy collector of silent pictures and promoter of a silent film festival (Batman episodes 31 & 32) was his last appearance on camera.[4]

Francis X. Bushman is mentioned numerous times by the character Pearl Bodine in the first season of The Beverly Hillbillies. In the episode entitled "No Place Like Home," Pearl has written a song which she plays when the silent version of "Ben-Hur" is shown in the Clampetts' hometown. In a later episode, when Pearl visits the Clampetts in Los Angeles, she speaks about hoping to meet Francis X. Bushman. In the episode "Jed's Dilemma," Jed takes the family on a sightseeing tour of Beverly Hills. When passing a fancy home, Pearl wonders if it could be the home of a movie star, possibly Francis X. Bushman. Jed tells her it can't be Bushman's home, because he got a good look in the yard and didn't see room for horses or a chariot.

Francis X. Bushman suffered a heart attack and died at his home in Pacific Palisades, California, on August 23, 1966. He was interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.[1]


see Francis X. Bushman filmography


His son Ralph Everly Bushman (1903–1978) had a film career from the 1920s through the 1940s. Tall (6'4") and good-looking, he was in over 40 films, often playing stuffy upper-class types or menacing gangsters. In Brown of Harvard (1926) he was cast against William Haines and Jack Pickford. He was often billed as "Francis X. Bushman Jr."

Francis Bushman's granddaughter, Barbara Bushman Quine, married actor Harry Morgan. A grandson, Pat Conway (1931–1981), the son of film director Jack Conway and Bushman's daughter, Virginia, starred on the ABC western television series Tombstone Territory.

For his contributions to the film industry, Bushman was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960 with a motion pictures star located at 1651 Vine Street.[5][6]


  1. "Francis X. Bushman Of Silent Films Dies; Francis X. Bushman, actor, Dies at 83". The New York Times. August 24, 1966. Retrieved May 17, 2008. Francis X. Bushman, the romantic hero of the silent screen, died today after an accident in the kitchen of his home in suburban Pacific Palisades. An ambulance crew, summoned by his wife, Iva, pronounced him dead. He was 83 years old.
  2. "You Bet Your Life #57-20 Francis X. Bushman ...", episode 20 of 1957–1958 season of You Bet Your Life, originally broadcast February 6, 1958. Digital copy of full episode on YouTube, a streaming service owned by Alphabet, Inc., Mountain View, California. Retrieved 17 July 2017.
  3. Sutton, David. "Guests – Francis X Bushman". The 1966 Batman TV Trivia Site. Archived from the original on October 21, 2007. Retrieved June 7, 2007.
  4. The Silent film festival has Keystone Cops comedy and The Great Train Robbery scenes-neither of which Bushman appeared in during his silent movie acting career
  5. "Francis X. Bushman | Hollywood Walk of Fame". Retrieved June 26, 2016.
  6. "Francis X. Bushman". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 26, 2016.

Further reading

  • Francis X. Bushman: a Biography and Filmography by Richard J. Maturi and Mary Buckingham Maturi.
  • Silent Lives: 100 Biographies of the Silent Film Era by Lon Davis
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