Tom Ricketts

Thomas B. Ricketts (January 15, 1853 – January 19, 1939) was a London-born American stage and film actor and director who was a pioneer in the film industry. He portrayed Ebenezer Scrooge in the first American film adaptation of A Christmas Carol (1908), and directed one of the first motion pictures ever made in Hollywood. After directing scores of silent films, including the first film to be released by Universal Pictures, Ricketts became a prominent character actor.

Tom Ricketts
Ricketts in After the Thin Man (1936)
Born
Thomas B. Ricketts

(1853-01-15)January 15, 1853
DiedJanuary 19, 1939(1939-01-19) (aged 86)
Hollywood, California, US
OccupationActor, director
Years active1882–1939
Spouse(s)Josephine Ditt

Biography

Thomas B. Ricketts[1] was born in Greenwich, London January 15, 1853,[2] the son of Rosa (née Penniall) Robert Ricketts. His father was a painter and when Thomas was 17 years old he emigrated to the United States, and initially worked as a painter himself. However he soon moved into acting in the theatre and directed plays on Broadway for Charles Frohman.[3] He was a stage manager for the Shubert family, sang baritone with the Carleton Opera Company, and starred in his own play, Henri Duvar.[4]

In 1906, after he had been with the Shuberts for four years, Ricketts was persuaded by a friend to join Essanay Studios in Chicago.[5][3] He played Scrooge in A Christmas Carol (1908), the first American film adaption of the Dickens classic,[6] then starred in The Old Curiosity Shop (1909). When Ricketts said he had toured with a comedy he had written, A Cure for Gout, the company asked him to make a 600-foot film of it—the length limit for a comedy at that time.[5]

Ricketts became a director, taking over comedies and melodramas from Broncho Billy Anderson, who in turn took over Westerns. Ethel Clayton, Jack Conway, J. Warren Kerrigan and Bryant Washburn were among Ricketts's discoveries—along with Josephine Ditt, "the best-dressed woman on the screen", to whom Ricketts was married.[5] Chief dramatic and general producer for two years at Essanay,[7] he helped organize the American Film Manufacturing Company in 1910. He made six films for the Flying "A"[5] before withdrawing and seeking another opportunity.[7]

Ricketts (front row, right) in group photograph of the Nestor Motion Picture Company, 1911

In 1911 Ricketts moved to California, together with Canadian film pioneer Al Christie, with thoughts of creating a new film company. "We arrived in Los Angeles with no idea of where to establish our studio," Ricketts remembered. "A real estate man who happened to overhear our discussion of a studio site suggested Hollywood. The next day we found our way out to Sunset and Gower, to a defunct roadhouse. The owner, a woman, wanted $60 a month rent for the entire block. We thought it was too much, but we signed a lease."[5] The Nestor Film Company opened its studio October 27, 1911.[8]

Ricketts directed one of the first Hollywood-made motion pictures, The Best Man Wins (1911 film) (1911), photographed by Charles Rosher.[lower-alpha 1][4][10][11] Its stars were juvenile leading man Harold Lockwood, ingenue Dorothy Davenport, vamp Josephine Ditt, juvenile ingenue Victoria Forde, male heavy Gordon Sackville, and character actresses Eugenie Forde and Alice Davenport. Allan Dwan was Ricketts's assistant.[5]

Nestor made between 50 and 60 films—half of them directed by Ricketts—over the next 18 months.[5] On May 20, 1912, the company merged with the Universal Film Manufacturing Company,[12] Nestor's distributor beginning with The Dawn of Netta (1912), directed by Ricketts.[13][14]:11

In 1914, on an independent contract, Ricketts directed Richard Bennett in Damaged Goods. When flower girls were needed for a wedding scene, Bennett's three daughters—Joan Bennett, Constance Bennett and Barbara Bennett—began their film careers.[4] "Its success made me a little egotistical," Ricketts recalled. "It cost about $25,000 to make and brought in a million and a half on its first run. I naturally thought it would put me in great demand as a director. But it didn't. I had to start all over again, this time going back to my old trade as an actor."[lower-alpha 2][5]

Returning to acting in 1919, in his mid-60s, Ricketts was almost always in demand for character parts.[3] By 1935 he was described as "white-haired and bent with age … content with an occasional film role".[4] His later films included Top Hat (1935), After the Thin Man (1936), Pennies from Heaven (1936), The Young in Heart (1938) and Son of Frankenstein (1939). He was regarded as the oldest working actor in Hollywood.[15]

Ricketts died at Hollywood Hospital January 19, 1939, aged 86,[3][16] of pneumonia, contracted the previous week when he went to work at Universal Studios despite a cold. "Mr. Ricketts left no funds," reported The New York Times, "and expenses of his funeral will be paid by the Motion Picture Relief Society."[5] Josephine Ricketts, hospitalized in Santa Monica[3] since suffering a stroke at Christmas, was not informed of her husband's death;[5] it was reported that she would be told sometime before his funeral.[17] Ricketts was buried in an unmarked grave at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.[2]

Select filmography

Director

Still from The Best Man Wins (1911)
Herald for Damaged Goods (1914)
Promotion for The House of a Thousand Scandals in Reel Life, 1915
Year Title Notes
1909 A Cure for Gout [5][18]
1909 The Game [19]
1909 Gratitude [19]
1909 Justified [19]
1909 Maud Muller [19]
1909 A Woman's Wit [19]
1910 The Adventuress [19]
1910 An Advertisement Answered [19]
1910 A Fair Exchange [19]
1910 The Hand of Uncle Sam [19]
1910 His Only Child [19]
1910 The Lure of the City [19]
1910 The Stolen Fortune [19]
1910 The Thief [19]
1910 Vera, the Gypsy Girl [19]
1911 The Best Man Wins First motion picture made in Hollywood[5][11][10]
1912 The Dawn of Netta First film distributed by Universal Pictures[14]:11
1914 Damaged Goods [19][20]
1915 The Buzzard's Shadow [19][21]
1915 The House of a Thousand Scandals [19][22]
1915 The End of the Road [19][23]
1915 The Lure of the Mask [19][24]
1915 Secretary of Frivolous Affairs [19][25]
1915 The Wily Chaperon [19]
1916 The Other Side of the Door [19][26]
1916 The Single Code [19][27]
1916 Secret Marriage [19][28]
1918 The Crime of the Hour [29]

Actor

Year Title Role Notes
1908 A Christmas Carol Ebenezer Scrooge [19]
1909 The Old Curiosity Shop [5][30]
1919 Girls Mr. Dennett [19]
1919 His Official Fiancée Major Montressor [19]
1919 Please Get Married Dr. Jenkins [19]
1920 All of a Sudden Peggy Major Archie Phipps [19]
1920 The Desperate Hero Butler [19]
1920 The Great Lover Potter [19]
1920 The Paliser Case Major Archie Phipps [19]
1920 The Parish Priest Dr. Thomas Cassidy [19]
1920 The Spenders Mr. Milbrey [19]
1920 The Willow Tree The Priest [19]
1921 Beating the Game Jules Fanchette [19]
1922 The Killer Tim Westmore [19]
1921 Sham Uncle James [19]
1922 The Eternal Flame Vidame de Pameir [19]
1922 Fools of Fortune Milton DePuyster [19]
1922 The Lavender Bath Lady Simon Gregory [19]
1922 Putting It Over Arnold Norton [19]
1922 Shattered Idols The Reverend Doctor Romney [19]
1922 A Tailor-Made Man Anton Huber [19]
1923 Alice Adams J. A. Lamb [19]
1923 Black Oxen Charles Dinwiddie [19]
1923 The Dangerous Maid John Standish Lane [19]
1923 Strangers of the Night Lush [19]
1923 Within the Law General Hastings [19]
1924 Cheap Kisses The Old Man [19]
1924 Circe the Enchantress Archibald Crumm [19]
1924 The Gaiety Girl His Grace, the Duke [19]
1925 Bobbed Hair Mr. Brewster [19]
1925 The Business of Love Noah Burgess [19]
1925 The Fate of a Flirt Uncle John Burgess [19]
1925 A Fight to the Finish Cyrus J. Davis [19]
1925 The Girl Who Wouldn't Work The Rounder [19]
1925 My Wife and I Valet [19]
1925 Never the Twain Shall Meet Andrew J. Casson [19]
1925 Oh Doctor! Mr. Peck [19]
1925 Sealed Lips Joseph Howard [19]
1925 Secrets of the Night Jerry Hammond [19][14]:50
1925 Steppin' Out Henry Brodman [19][14]:50
1925 Wages for Wives Judge McLean [19]
1925 Was It Bigamy? Judge Gaynor [19]
1925 When Husbands Flirt Wilbur Belcher [19]
1926 The Belle of Broadway [19]
1926 The Cat's Pajamas Mr. Briggs [19]
1926 Dancing Days Stubbins [19]
1926 Going the Limit Mortimer Harden [19]
1926 Ladies at Play Deacon Ezra Boody [19]
1926 Ladies of Leisure Wadleigh [19]
1926 The Lily Jean [19]
1926 Love's Blindness Marquis of Hurlshire [19]
1926 The Nut-Cracker Isaac Totten [19]
1926 The Old Soak Roué [19]
1926 Poker Faces Henry Curlew [19]
1926 Stranded in Paris Herr Rederson [19]
1926 When the Wife's Away [19]
1927 Broadway Madness Lawrence Compton [19]
1927 Children of Divorce Secretary [19]
1927 In a Moment of Temptation Timothy Gage [19]
1927 My Friend from India Judge Belmore [19]
1927 A Sailor's Sweetheart Professor Meekham [19]
1927 Too Many Crooks Butler [19]
1927 Venus of Venice Bride's father [19]
1928 Dry Martini Joseph [19]
1928 Five and Ten Cent Annie Adam Peck [19]
1928 Freedom of the Press Wicks [19]
1928 Interference Charles Smith [19]
1928 Just Married Makepeace Witter [19]
1928 The Law and the Man Quintus Newton [19]
1929 The Glad Rag Doll Admiral [19]
1929 Light Fingers Edward Madison [19]
1929 Red Hot Speed [19][14]:64
1930 Prince of Diamonds Williams [19]
1930 Sea Legs Commander [19]
1930 The Vagabond King Astrologer [19]
1931 Ambassador Bill Littleton [19]
1931 Man of the World Mr. Bradkin [19]
1931 Side Show Tom Allison [19]
1931 Surrender Gottlieb [19]
1932 A Farewell to Arms Count Greffi [19]
1932 He Learned About Women [19][31]
1932 If I Had a Million Guest at Mrs. Walker's dance [19]
1932 Stepping Sisters "Stock Market" [19]
1932 Thrill of Youth Grandpa Thayer [19]
1933 The Eleventh Commandment Henry [19]
1933 Forgotten Old crony [19]
1933 Good-bye Love Alimony jail inmate [19]
1933 Mama Loves Papa Mr. Pierrepont [19]
1933 The Power and the Glory [19]
1933 Women Won't Tell [19]
1934 Broadway Bill Johnson [19]
1934 The Count of Monte Cristo Cockeye [19]
1934 The Curtain Falls Hotel manager [19]
1934 In Love with Life Bookstore proprietor [19]
1934 Forsaking All Others Wiffens [19]
1934 Friends of Mr. Sweeney Old gentleman [19]
1934 It Happened One Night Prissy old man [19]
1934 The Man Who Reclaimed His Head Curly [19]
1934 Manhattan Love Song Rich man [19]
1934 No Greater Glory Old janitor [19]
1934 One More River Barrister and clerk [19]
1934 Pursued Tourist [19]
1934 Sons of Steel Williams [19]
1934 Springtime for Henry Bookstore clerk [19]
1934 Stolen Sweets Stoner [19]
1934 Viva Villa! Grandee [19]
1934 Whom the Gods Destroy Charlie [19]
1935 Clive of India Old member [19]
1935 Cardinal Richelieu Agitator [19]
1935 Escapade Old dandy [19]
1935 George White's 1935 Scandals Old man [19]
1935 Goin' to Town Eligible bachelor [19]
1935 The Great Impersonation Villager [19]
1935 Hi, Gaucho! Don Salvador [19]
1935 Let's Live Tonight Millionaire [19]
1935 Music Is Magic Dancer, elderly man [19]
1935 Now or Never [19]
1935 The Public Menace Old man [19]
1935 A Tale of Two Cities Tellson, Jr. [19]
1935 Top Hat Thackeray Club waiter [19]
1935 Vagabond Lady Department head [19]
1936 The Case Against Mrs. Ames Juryman [19]
1936 The Crime of Dr. Forbes Faculty doctor [19]
1936 Daniel Boone Attorney General's associate [19]
1936 Show Boat Minister [19]
1936 Gold Diggers of 1937 Reginald [19]
1936 Little Lord Fauntleroy Partygoer [19]
1936 Gentle Julia Old man at dance [19]
1936 Human Cargo Reporter [19]
1936 After the Thin Man Henry, the butler [19]
1936 To Mary - with Love Waiter [19]
1936 More Than a Secretary Henry [19]
1936 Pennies from Heaven Mr. Briggs [19]
1936 Song and Dance Man Old theatrical couple [19]
1936 We Went to College Pop [19]
1937 Born Reckless Patient [19]
1937 Maid of Salem Giles Cory [19]
1937 A Star Is Born Servant [19]
1937 The Lady Escapes Uncle George [19]
1937 The Prince and the Pauper Sexton [19]
1937 The Toast of New York Member of the board of directors [19]
1937 Personal Property Elderly man [19]
1937 Parnell Elderly man [19]
1937 Rhythm in the Clouds Winter [19]
1938 The Young in Heart Andrew [19]
1938 Bluebeard's Eighth Wife Uncle Andre [19]
1938 The Baroness and the Butler Old man [19]
1938 Young Fugitives Tom Riggins [19][14]:107
1938 Gateway Old man [19][14]:107
1938 Four Men and a Prayer Station master [19]
1939 Son of Frankenstein Burgher [19]

Notes

  1. The Best Man Wins is a romantic comedy filmed in October and released December 25, 1911, promoted as a Christmas release. It is sometimes called the first Hollywood film. Also laying claim to that distinction is The Law of the Range, a Western directed by Nestor's Milton H. Fahrney that was released December 13, 1911.[9]
  2. As part of its obituary, The New York Times reprinted a North American Newspaper Alliance interview with Thomas Ricketts conducted not long before his death.

References

  1. Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census [database online]. Provo, Utah: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2010. Retrieved 2016-02-06.
  2. Ellenberger, Allan R. (2001). Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. p. 146. ISBN 9780786409839.
  3. United Press (January 20, 1939). "Prominent Actor, Tom Ricketts, Dies, Age 86". The Bakersfield Californian.
  4. Thomas, Dan (Newspaper Enterprise Association) (November 7, 1935). "Pioneer Film Director Now Just an Extra". The Burlington Daily Times-News. Burlington, North Carolina.
  5. "Thomas Ricketts, Pioneer of Movies". The New York Times. January 21, 1939. Retrieved February 6, 2016.
  6. Smith, Michael Glover; Selzer, Adam (2015). Flickering Empire: How Chicago Invented the U.S. Film Industry. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 90. ISBN 9780786407385.
  7. "Thomas Ricketts (advertisement)". The Moving Picture World. December 3, 1910. p. 1322. Retrieved February 8, 2016.
  8. "Bronze Memorial Will Mark First Hollywood Studio Site." Los Angeles Times. September 25, 1940.
  9. "Independent Release Dates". The Moving Picture World. December 30, 1911. p. 1104. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
  10. "The Best Man Wins". BFI Film & TV Database. British Film Institute. Retrieved February 6, 2016.
  11. Slide, Anthony (2015). Britain Comes to Hollywood and Hollywood Comes to Britain. Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 9781628460872.
  12. Harleman, G. P. von (March 10, 1917). "Motion Picture Studios of California". The Moving Picture World. p. 1601. Retrieved February 12, 2016.
  13. "Advertisement". The Moving Picture World. June 22, 1912. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
  14. Hirschhorn, Clive (1985) [1983]. The Universal Story. New York: Crown Publishers. ISBN 0-7064-1873-5.
  15. Fidler, Jimmie (January 3, 1939). "Jimmie Fidler in Hollywood". Elyria Chronicle Telegram. Elyria, Ohio.
  16. Ancestry.com. California, Death Index, 1905–1939 [database online]. Provo, Utah: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2013. Retrieved 2016-02-06.
  17. United Press (January 21, 1939). "Raft is Released After Refusal on Gigolo Role". Galveston Tribune. Galveston, Texas.
  18. "A Cure for Gout". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved February 6, 2016.
  19. "Tom Ricketts". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved February 6, 2016.
  20. "Damaged Goods". American Silent Feature Film Survival Database. Library of Congress. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
  21. "The Buzzard's Shadow". American Silent Feature Film Survival Database. Library of Congress. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
  22. "The House of a Thousand Scandals". American Silent Feature Film Survival Database. Library of Congress. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
  23. "The End of the Road". American Silent Feature Film Survival Database. Library of Congress. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
  24. "The Lure of the Mask". American Silent Feature Film Survival Database. Library of Congress. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
  25. "Secretary of Frivolous Affairs". American Silent Feature Film Survival Database. Library of Congress. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
  26. "The Other Side of the Door". American Silent Feature Film Survival Database. Library of Congress. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
  27. "The Single Code". American Silent Feature Film Survival Database. Library of Congress. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
  28. "Secret Marriage". American Silent Feature Film Survival Database. Library of Congress. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
  29. "The Crime of the Hour". American Silent Feature Film Survival Database. Library of Congress. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
  30. "The Old Curiosity Shop". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved February 6, 2016.
  31. "Flashes from the Cinema Studios". The New York Times. October 16, 1932. Retrieved February 8, 2016.
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