Maurice Costello

Maurice George Costello (February 22, 1877 – October 29, 1950)[1] was a prominent American vaudeville actor of the late 1890s and early 1900s, who later played a principal role in early American films, as leading man, supporting player and director.

Maurice Costello
Maurice George Costello

(1877-02-22)February 22, 1877
DiedOctober 29, 1950(1950-10-29) (aged 73)
Burial placeCalvary Cemetery, East Los Angeles
Occupationactor, director, screenwriter
Years active1905–1945
Mae Costello
(m. 1902; div. 1927)

Ruth Reeves
(m. 1939; div. 1941)
ChildrenDolores Costello
Helene Costello

Life and career

Costello was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Irish immigrants Ellen (née Fitzgerald; born 1853) and Thomas Costello (born 1852). He made his film debut in 1908, but was long believed to have debuted in Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; or, Held for Ransom (1905), supposedly playing the lead in what is regarded as the first serious film to feature the character of Sherlock Holmes, since it was preceded only by the 30-second comedy film Sherlock Holmes Baffled (1900). However, Holmesian scholar Leslie S. Klinger has written that the identification of Costello in the role is flawed.[2] Klinger states that the first identification of Costello with the role was in Michael Pointer's Public Life of Sherlock Holmes published in 1975 but Pointer later realized his error and wrote to Klinger stating

"I am now aware that Maurice Costello could not have been in that film, as he had not joined the Vitagraph company by that date. I'm sorry that my book has been misleading, but I doubt that I shall have the opportunity for an amended reprint, and should not have the time to prepare one anyway."[2]

Costello joined Vitagraph, being a member of the first motion picture stock company ever formed, playing opposite Florence Turner. Among some of his best known pictures are A Tale of Two Cities, The Man Who Couldn't Beat God and For the Honor of the Family. After an absence of some years he returned to the screen. He was married to actress Mae Costello (née Altschuk). His descendants include two daughters, actresses Dolores Costello and Helene Costello, a grandson John Drew Barrymore, and a great granddaughter Drew Barrymore. He was one of the world's first leading men in early American cinema, but like a lot of other silent screen stars, he found the transition to "talkies" extremely difficult, and his leading man status was over. However, Costello was a trouper, and continued to appear in movies, often in small roles and bit parts, right up until his death in 1950.

On November 23, 1913, Costello was arrested for beating his wife Mae. On November 25, 1913, Costello admitted that he had beaten his wife while intoxicated. Mae Costello requested that the charges be dropped to disorderly conduct, and Costello was given six months probation by Magistrate Geisner of the Coney Island Police Court.[3]

Maurice Costello also discovered Moe Howard of the Three Stooges, who, as a teenager, ran errands and got lunches for the actors at the Vitagraph Studios at no charge. This impressed Costello who brought him in and introduced him to other leading actors of the day. Moe then gained small parts in many of the Vitagraph movies but most of these were destroyed by fire that swept the studios in 1910.

Costello died at the age of 73 in 1950 in Los Angeles, California of a heart problem[4] and was interred at Calvary Cemetery, East Los Angeles, a Catholic cemetery.


Year Title Role Notes
1908Antony and CleopatraMarc AntonyShort
1909Les MisérablesJean ValjeanShort
1909A Midsummer Night's DreamLysanderShort
1911A Tale of Two CitiesSydney CartonShort
1911His Sister's ChildrenHarry BurtonShort
1911Some Good in AllBillShort
1912As You Like ItOrlando
1912 The Adventure of the Italian Model Lambert Chase [5][6]
1912 The Adventure of a Thumb Print Lambert Chase [5][6]
1912 The Mystery of the Seven Jewels Lambert Chase [5][6]
1913A Princess of BagdadSeyn - the Cobbler
1914Mr. Barnes of New YorkMr. Barnes
1915The Man Who Couldn't Beat GodMartin Henchford
1915The Crown Prince's DoublePrince Oscar / Barry Lawrence
1916The Crimson Stain MysteryHarold Stanley
1919The Captain's CaptainJohn Sark
1919The Cambric MaskJohn Sark
1919The Man Who WonHenry Longfield
1919The Girl-WomanSanford
1920Human CollateralRichard Morton
1920Deadline at ElevenPaul Klocke
1920The Tower of JewelsFraser Grimstead
1921ConceitBarbe la Fleche
1923None So BlindRussell Mortimer
1923The Glimpses of the MoonFred Gillow
1923Man and WifeCaleb Perkins
1923Fog BoundDeputy Brown
1924Let Not Man Put AsunderSir Humphrey
1924RouletteBen Corcoran
1924Week End HusbandsJohn Keane
1924Virtuous LiarsJosiah Wright
1924Love of WomenMr. Redfield
1924Heart of Alaska
1924The Story Without a NameThe Cripple
1924The Law and the LadyCyrus Blake
1925The Mad Marriage
1926The Wives of the ProphetWilliam Neil
1926The Last AlarmFireman's father
1926The False Alarm
1926CamilleArmand's father
1927Johnny Get Your Hair CutBaxter Ryan
1927Wolves of the AirBob's Father
1927The Shamrock and the RoseFather O'Brien
1927Spider WebsJeffrey Stanton
1928See You Later
1928The Wagon ShowColonel Beldan
1928Black Feather
1928Eagle of the Night
1934Search for BeautyHealth Acres GuestUncredited
1936Hollywood BoulevardDirector in Commissary
1938I Am the LawLindsay Staff MemberUncredited
1938A Man to RememberTown CouncilorUncredited
1938Comet Over BroadwayActor at Dress RehearsalUncredited
1938There's That Woman AgainHeadwaiterUncredited
1939DisbarredFrightened JurorUncredited
1939It's a Wonderful WorldGuestUncredited
1939Judge Hardy and SonMan in AudienceUncredited
1939Five Little Peppers and How They GrewHartUncredited
1939Mr. Smith Goes to WashingtonDiggs - NewsmanUncredited
1939The Roaring TwentiesNightclub PatronUncredited
1940Rovin' TumbleweedsWays and Means Committee MemberUncredited
1940The Ghost Comes HomeTownsman at BanquetUncredited
1940Johnny ApolloExtraUncredited
1940Edison, the ManBrokerUncredited
1940The Sea HawkMan Carrying SpearUncredited
1940All This, and Heaven TooMinor RoleUncredited
1940Foreign CorrespondentMinor RoleUncredited
1940A Little Bit of HeavenUncle Louie
1940Third Finger, Left HandMan at Railroad StationUncredited
1940Tin Pan AlleyUncredited
1941A Man BetrayedClub Inferno PatronUNcredited
1941Lady from LouisianaEdwards
1941Citizen KaneExtraUncredited
1941Here Comes Mr. JordanRingsider at FightUncredited
1941H.M. Pulham, Esq.Wedding GuestUncredited
1942Ride 'Em CowboyRodeo Spectator with Martin ManningUncredited
1942Reap the Wild WindBall GuestUncredited
1942CairoCavity Rock TownsmanUncredited
1942The Glass KeyCard PlayerUncredited
1942Henry Aldrich, EditorFire SpectatorUncredited
1943Du Barry Was a LadyPasserbyUncredited
1943Sweet Rosie O'GradyMinor RoleUncredited
1944A Fig Leaf for EveNightclub PatronUncredited
1944The DoughgirlsMinor RoleUncredited
1944The ClimaxMinor RoleUncredited
1944Practically YoursSenate StenographerUncredited
1945Guest WifeBit PartUncredited, (final film role)


  1. According to the California Death Index,
  2. Kilnger, Leslie S. (June 1998). "Was Maurice Costello The First Screen Sherlock Holmes?". The Baker Street Journal. 48 (2): 27–30.
  3. "The evening world. (New York, N.Y.) 1887-1931, November 25, 1913, Final Edition, Image 22". 25 November 1913 via
  4. Los Angeles Times
  5. Encyclopedia of Early Cinema, ed. Richard Abel (London: Routledge, 2005), 679; and Adam Lauder, “It’s Alive!: Bertram Brooker and Vitalism,” in The Logic of Nature, the Romance of Space: Elements of Canadian Modernist Painting, ed. Cassandra Getty (Windsor, ON; Oshawa, ON: Art Gallery of Windsor; The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, 2010), 104n93.
  6. James King, Betram Brooker. Life and work. Art Canada Institut – Institut de l’Art Canadien, 2018, p. 5.
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