Frank McGlynn Sr.

Frank McGlynn Sr. (October 26, 1866 May 18, 1951) was an American stage and screen actor who in a career that spanned more than half a century is best known for his convincing impersonations and performances as Abraham Lincoln in both plays and films.

Frank McGlynn Sr.
McGlynn featured in The Moving
Picture World
, 1913
Born(1866-10-26)October 26, 1866
DiedMay 18, 1951(1951-05-18) (aged 84)
Years active1911–1947 (film)
Spouse(s)Rose (née Sheridan) McGlynn
ChildrenHelen, Virginia Rose, Mary Rose, Rev. Thomas McGlynn, Frank Jr.

Early life

McGlynn was born in 1866 in San Francisco, the eldest of four children of Mary and Frank McGlynn.[1] Federal census records indicate that McGlynn, in addition to having two younger sisters, had a younger brother, George, who died sometime between 1870 and 1880.[2][3] Those records show too that McGlynn's mother, a native of Australia, immigrated to the United States with her Irish parents around the time of the California Gold Rush. His father, also of Irish ancestry, moved to California and supported the family there as a carpenter and later by working in real estate.[3]

Originally McGlynn studied to be a lawyer. He received his law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, and was admitted to the bar in 1894.


By 1896, however, McGlynn had turned to a career entirely different from law. That year he began appearing on stage in New York at the Casino Theatre, performing in The Gold Bug, a burlesque musical comedy written by Glen MacDonough with music from Victor Herbert.[4]Later that year McGlynn toured in a road production of Under the Red Robe, a story based on Stanley Weyman's novel that was adapted for the stage by Edward Everett Rose. Over the next two decades McGlynn performed mostly in supporting roles with stock companies and in early silent films.

McGlynn's first film role in which he impersonated Abraham Lincoln was in 1915 in The Life of Abraham Lincoln directed by Langdon West for the Edison Studios in New York.[1][5] Four years later the actor's big break came when, at age fifty-three, the six-foot four-inch actor earned the starring role to portray the former president again in the Broadway production of John Drinkwater's play Abraham Lincoln.[6][7] That stage production had a run of 193 performances at the Cort Theatre in Manhattan and then toured the country for over two years. In 1924, McGlynn also performed in an excerpt from Drinkwater's play that was actually recorded. Lee de Forest and J. Searle Dawley produced a two-reel short of Abraham Lincoln using De Forest's Phonofilm sound-on-film process.[8] Unfortunately, with the exceptions of some film stills that survive, no full copy or partial reels of that motion picture have been found.[9]

McGlynn went on to play in seven more Broadway plays; his last as Johnnie, in Frankie and Johnnie at the Theatre Republic in 1930.[10] McGlynn's 1919 performance as Lincoln had rejuvenated his film career, which lasted into the late 1940s.[1][5] In at least ten films he portrayed "The Great Emancipator"; and in one other film, Are We Civilized?, he was cast as an actor named Felix Bockner who in the plot performs as Lincoln.


McGlynn died at the age of eighty-four on May 18, 1951, at his daughter's residence in Newburgh, New York. He was survived by four daughters—Grace, Helen, Virginia, and Mary Rose—and by a son, Reverend Thomas McGlynn. His wife, Rose (née Sheridan), and son, Frank Jr. (also an actor), preceded him in death.[1] He is interred in Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery.

Selected filmography


  1. "FRANK M'GLYNN, 84, LINCOLN ON STAGE...", The New York Times, May 19, 1951; p. 12.
  2. "The Ninth Census of the United States: 1870", digital copy of original census page, San Francisco, California, June 27, 1870. Family Search, archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah. Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  3. "The Tenth Census of the United States: 1880", San Francisco, California, June 3, 1880. Family Search. Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  4. "THIS WEEK'S NEW BILLS...", archives of The New York Times, September 13, 1896; p. 18, cols. 1-2.
  5. "Frank McGlynn Sr.", biographical sketch and filmography, Internet Movie Database (IMDb), a subsidiary of Amazon, Seattle, Washington. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
  6. "Abraham Lincoln". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved February 28, 2018.
  7. The American Magazine: Volume 89, 1920, p. 34
  8. Lee de Forest and Phonofilm at Virtual Broadway website
  9. Reinhart, Mark (2009). Abraham Lincoln on Screen (2nd ed.). McFarland. pp. 30–31. ISBN 9780786452613.
  10. Frank McGlynn
  11. "Lincoln in the White House (1939)", summary and production details, IMDb. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
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