Legendary Artists Who Can't Be Categorized In Normal Ways

by mdswamp | created - 25 Mar 2015 | updated - 15 Oct 2017 | Public

1. Georges Méliès

Director | À la conquête du pôle

Georges Méliès was a French illusionist and film director famous for leading many technical and narrative developments in the earliest days of cinema.

Méliès was an especially prolific innovator in the use of special effects, popularizing such techniques as substitution splices, multiple exposures, ...

2. Buster Keaton

Actor | The General

Joseph Frank Keaton was born on October 4, 1895 in Piqua, Kansas, to Joe Keaton and Myra Keaton. Joe and Myra were Vaudevillian comedians with a popular, ever-changing variety act, giving Keaton an eclectic and interesting upbringing. In the earliest days on stage, they traveled with a medicine ...

3. Charles Chaplin

Writer | The Great Dictator

Considered to be one of the most pivotal stars of the early days of Hollywood, Charlie Chaplin lived an interesting life both in his films and behind the camera. He is most recognized as an icon of the silent film era, often associated with his popular character, the Little Tramp; the man with the ...

4. Fritz Lang

Actor | Le mépris

Fritz Lang was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1890. His father managed a construction company. His mother, Pauline Schlesinger, was Jewish but converted to Catholicism when Lang was ten. After high school, he enrolled briefly at the Technische Hochschule Wien and then started to train as a painter. ...

5. Lois Weber

Director | Suspense

Lois Weber, who had been a street-corner evangelist before entering motion pictures in 1905, became the first American woman movie director of note, and a major one at that. Herbert Blaché, the husband of Frenchwoman Alice Guy, the first woman to direct a motion picture (and arguably, the first ...

6. Thomas H. Ince

Producer | The Coward

Thomas H. Ince was born into a family of stage actors. He appeared on the stage at age six and worked with a number of stock companies, making his Broadway debut at 15. Vaudeville work was inconsistent, so he was a lifeguard, a promoter and part-time actor. His stage career was a failure but by ...

7. Harold Lloyd

Actor | Safety Last!

Born in Buchard, Nebraska, USA to Elizabeth Fraser and 'J. Darcie 'Foxy' Lloyd' who fought constantly and soon divorced (at the time a rare event), Harold Clayton Lloyd was nominally educated in Denver and San Diego high schools and received his stage training at the School of Dramatic Art (San ...

8. Carl Theodor Dreyer

Director | Ordet

The illegitimate son of a Danish farmer and his Swedish housekeeper, Carl Theodor Dreyer was born in Copenhagen on the 3th of February, 1889. He spent his early years in various foster homes before being adopted by the Dreyers at the age of two. Contrary to popular belief (perhaps nourished by the ...

9. D.W. Griffith

Director | The Birth of a Nation

David Wark Griffith was born in rural Kentucky to Jacob "Roaring Jake" Griffith, a former Confederate Army colonel and Civil War veteran. Young Griffith grew up with his father's romantic war stories and melodramatic nineteenth-century literature that were to eventually shape his movies. In 1897 ...

10. F.W. Murnau

Director | Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

F.W. Murnau was a German film director. He was greatly influenced by Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Shakespeare and Ibsen plays he had seen at the age of 12, and became a friend of director Max Reinhardt. During World War I he served as a company commander at the eastern front and was in the German air ...

11. Aleksandr Dovzhenko

Writer | Zemlya

Aleksandr Dovzhenko was born on September 10, 1894 in Vyunishche, Sosnitsa Ueyzd, Chernigov Governorate, Russian Empire as Aleksandr Petrovich Dovzhenko. He was a writer and director, known for Earth (1930), Shors (1939) and Life in Bloom (1949). He was married to Yuliya Solntseva. He died on ...

12. Sergei M. Eisenstein

Director | Ivan Groznyy

The son of an affluent architect, Eisenstein attended the Institute of Civil Engineering in Petrograd as a young man. With the fall of the tsar in 1917, he worked as an engineer for the Red Army. In the following years, Eisenstein joined up with the Moscow Proletkult Theater as a set designer and ...

13. Clyde Bruckman

Writer | The General

Had been out of work and was pretty much broke when he killed himself. He borrowed Buster Keaton's gun and after eating a meal that he could not pay for, shot himself. There are two stories; One says it was in the restroom of the cafe on Santa Monica Blvd, and the other story states he did it in ...

14. Erich von Stroheim

Actor | Sunset Blvd.

Erich von Stroheim was born Erich Oswald Stroheim in 1885, in Vienna, Austria, to Johanna (Bondy), from Prague, and Benno Stroheim, a hatter from Gleiwitz, Germany (now Gliwice, Poland). His family was Jewish.

After spending some time working in his father's hat factory, he emigrated to America ...

15. Victor Sjöström

Actor | Smultronstället

Victor Sjöström was born on September 20, 1879, and is the undisputed father of Swedish film, ranking as one of the masters of world cinema. His influence lives on in the work of Ingmar Bergman and all those directors, both Swedish and international, influenced by his work and the works of ...

16. Dziga Vertov

Director | Chelovek s kino-apparatom

Born in Bialystok, Poland, studied music and enrolled in St. Petersburg Neurological Institute in 1916. Worked on first Soviet newsreel, Kinonedelia (1918-1919), then on subsequent newsreel series (inc. Kinopravda, 1922-1925).

17. Robert Wiene

Director | Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari

Robert Wiene was born on April 24, 1873 in Breslau, Silesia, Germany. He was a writer and director, known for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), The Hands of Orlac (1924) and L'autre (1930). He died on July 17, 1938 in Paris, France.

18. Mabel Normand

Actress | Mickey

Mabel Normand was one of the comedy greats of early film. In an era when women are deemed 'not funny enough' it seems film history has forgotten her contributions. Her films debuted the Keystone Cops, Charlie Chaplin's tramp and the pie in the face gag. She co-starred with both Chaplin and Roscoe "...

19. Theda Bara

Actress | A Fool There Was

Theda Bara was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, as Theodosia Goodman, on July 29, 1885. She was the daughter of a local tailor and his wife. As a teenager Theda was interested in the theatrical arts and once she finished high school, she dyed her blond hair black and went in pursuit of her dream. By 1908 ...

20. Larry Semon

Director | The Show

Slapstick comedian known for his charming, white-painted face and clownish smile, mugged his way to being a very highly paid and popular actor. His career was marred by personal problems, and his fortune was lost to high spending. By the time he died, he'd already been hospitalized for a nervous ...

21. Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle

Actor | The Butcher Boy

Roscoe Arbuckle, one of nine children, was the baby of the family who weighed a reported 16 pounds at birth. Born in Smith Center, Kansas, on March 24, 1887, his family moved to California when he was a year old. At age eight he appeared on the stage. His first part was with the Webster-Brown Stock...

22. Edward F. Cline

Director | The Boat

Edward "Eddie" Cline began his career in the film business as one of the Keystone Kops. The former vaudevillian appeared sporadically in films as an actor until 1922, but became increasingly active behind the camera as a gagman and scenario writer for Mack Sennett. From 1916 he worked on a steady ...

23. Elgin Lessley

Cinematographer | Sherlock Jr.

Elgin Lessley was born on January 10, 1883 in Higbee, Missouri, USA. He was a cinematographer and actor, known for Sherlock Jr. (1924), The Navigator (1924) and Our Hospitality (1923). He was married to Blanche Olmstead and Blanche May Olmstead Schultz Maxwell (her 3rd marriage). He died on ...

24. Ovanes Ohanian

Director | Haji Agha actore cinema

In 1925 a young Armenian-Iranian, Ovanes Ohanian (Oganianse), who studied film in Cinema Akademi Of Moscow, returned to Iran. His goal was to establish a film industry in the country. Since he found it impossible to initiate any production without professionals in the field, Ohanian decided to ...

25. Jean C. Havez

Writer | Sherlock Jr.

Songwriter ("Darktown Poker Club"), author and agent who wrote special material for musical comedy and vaudeville, also scenarios for Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd, and a press agent for Lew Dockstader's Minstrels. A charter member of ASCAP (1914), Havez' other novelty and ...

26. Roland Totheroh

Cinematographer | City Lights

Rollie Totheroh worked as cinematographer on Charles Chaplin's movies for over 30 years, right from the earliest shorts in 1915 to Monsieur Verdoux (1947), including all of Chaplin's masterpieces: The Kid (1921), The Gold Rush (1925), City Lights (1931), Modern Times (1936) and The Great Dictator (...

27. Clyde Bruckman

Writer | The General

Had been out of work and was pretty much broke when he killed himself. He borrowed Buster Keaton's gun and after eating a meal that he could not pay for, shot himself. There are two stories; One says it was in the restroom of the cafe on Santa Monica Blvd, and the other story states he did it in ...

28. W.C. Fields

Actor | It's a Gift

William Claude Dukenfield was the eldest of five children born to Cockney immigrant James Dukenfield and Philadelphia native Kate Felton. He went to school for four years, then quit to work with his father selling vegetables from a horse cart. At eleven, after many fights with his alcoholic father ...

29. Mary Pickford

Actress | Coquette

Mary Pickford was born Gladys Louise Smith in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to Elsie Charlotte (Hennessy) and John Charles Smith. She was of English and Irish descent. Pickford began in the theater at age seven. Then known as "Baby Gladys Smith", she toured with her family in a number of theater ...

30. Bela Lugosi

Actor | Dracula

Bela Lugosi was born Béla Ferenc Dezsö Blaskó on October 20, 1882, Lugos, Hungary, Austria-Hungary (now Lugoj, Romania), to Paula de Vojnich and István Blaskó, a banker. He was the youngest of four children. During WWI, he volunteered and was commissioned as an infantry lieutenant, and was wounded ...

31. Mack Sennett

Producer | The Good-Bye Kiss

Mack Sennett was born Michael Sinnott on January 17, 1880 in Danville, Quebec, Canada, to Irish immigrant farmers. When he was 17, his parents moved the family to East Berlin, Connecticut, and he became a laborer at American Iron Works, a job he continued when they moved to Northampton, ...

32. Hal Roach

Director | One Million B.C.

Hal Roach was born in 1892 in Elmira, New York. After working as a mule skinner, wrangler and gold prospector, among other things, he wound up in Hollywood and began picking up jobs as an extra in comedies, where he met comedian Harold Lloyd in 1913 in San Diego. By all accounts, including his own,...

33. Frank Borzage

Director | No Greater Glory

Frank Borzage was born on April 23, 1894 in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. He was an actor and director, known for No Greater Glory (1934), 7th Heaven (1927) and Bad Girl (1931). He was married to Juanita Scott, Edna Skelton and Rena Rogers. He died on June 19, 1962 in Hollywood, Los Angeles, ...

34. Emil Jannings

Actor | The Last Command

His real name was Theodor Friedrich Emil Janenz, and in the early 1900s, he was already working in the theater under Max Reinhardt's company. Important movies where he defined himself as a convincing actor were Passion (1919) and Quo Vadis? (1924), followed by The Last Laugh (1924)(aka The Last ...

35. Max Schreck

Actor | Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens

Max Schreck was born in Berlin. He worked in an apprenticeship until his father's death before enrolling into a school for acting. He toured the country with his peers and was a member of several theaters until he became a part of Max Reinhardt's group of innovative German actors. He played mostly ...

36. Harry Langdon

Actor | The Chaser

Langdon first performed when he ran away from home at the age of 12-13 to join a travelling medicine show. In 1903 he scored a lasting success in vaudeville with an act called "Johnny's New Car" which he performed for twenty years. In 1923, he signed with Principal Pictures as a series star, but ...

37. Virginia Cherrill

Actress | City Lights

Actress in US and UK films of the early 1930s. Born on a farm, Cherrill was discovered by Charles Chaplin while sitting beside him at a boxing match in Los Angeles; he introduced himself at intermission and hired her for her debut in City Lights (1931). She met husband Cary Grant at the premiere of ...

38. Mary Miles Minter

Actress | Anne of Green Gables

Little Mary Miles Minter was a child star who was dominated by her mother. At the age of 5 she first appeared on the stage in the play "Cameo Kirby". From that time on she worked steadily without a single vacation. Her greatest stage success was in "The Littlest Rebel", with William Farnum and ...

39. Harry Myers

Actor | City Lights

Harry Myers was born on September 5, 1882 in New Haven, Connecticut, USA as Harry Clifford Myers. He was an actor and director, known for City Lights (1931), The Catch of the Season (1914) and The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1922). He was married to Rosemary Theby and Nellie Campbell. He died on...

40. Eric Campbell

Actor | The Vagabond

Campbell was born in Sale, Cheshire on 26th April 1880 and began acting as a boy. He married fellow music hall performer Fanny Gertrude Robotham on March 30, 1901 and was later hired by English music hall impresario Fred Karno for his "Fun Factory" comedy troupes that featured other comics like a ...

41. Ford Sterling

Actor | Yankee Doodle in Berlin

Ford Sterling was born on November 3, 1883 in La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA as George Ford Stich. He was an actor and director, known for Yankee Doodle in Berlin (1919), The Show-Off (1926) and Wild Oranges (1924). He was married to Teddy Sampson. He died on October 13, 1939 in Los Angeles, California,...

42. Henry Bergman

Actor | Modern Times

Henry Bergman was born on February 23, 1868 in San Francisco, California, USA. He was an actor and assistant director, known for Modern Times (1936), City Lights (1931) and The Gold Rush (1925). He died on October 22, 1946 in Hollywood, California.

43. Albert Austin

Assistant_director | City Lights

British-born supporting actor, primarily in the films of Charles Chaplin, for whom Austin also worked as an assistant director and co-writer. His career paralleled that of Chaplin, but dwindled prior to the coming of sound. His brother, William Austin, had a lengthy Hollywood career as a character ...

44. Ben Turpin

Actor | Yankee Doodle in Berlin

First of all, the cross-eyed comedian of silent days was not born that way. Supposedly his right eye slipped out of alignment while playing the role of the similarly afflicted Happy Hooligan in vaudeville and it never adjusted. Ironically, it was this disability that would enhance his comic value ...

45. Glen Cavender

Actor | The General

Glen Cavender was born on September 19, 1883 in Tucson, Arizona, USA. He was an actor and director, known for The General (1926), The Man from Brodney's (1923) and The Lion and the Girl (1916). He was married to Hazel Chene. He died on February 9, 1962 in Hollywood, California, USA.

46. Florence Lee

Actress | City Lights

Florence Lee was born in February 1864 in South Carolina, USA. She was an actress and writer, known for City Lights (1931), The Flame Fighter (1925) and A Mixed Affair (1912). She was married to Francis K. Lee and John Aleck Murrey. She died on February 17, 1933 in Los Angeles, California, USA.

47. Edna Purviance

Actress | A Woman of Paris: A Drama of Fate

Edna Purviance began working as a stenographer in San Francisco. Charles Chaplin invited her to join him at Essanay Studio in 1915, the year of her film debut in Chaplin's His Night Out. Over the next seven years she appeared as his leading lady in over 20 Chaplin films made by Essanay, Mutual, and...

48. John Rand

Actor | The Fireman

John Rand was born on November 19, 1871 in New Haven, Connecticut, USA. He was an actor, known for The Fireman (1916), The Circus (1928) and Name the Woman (1934). He died on January 25, 1940 in Los Angeles, California, USA.

49. James Finlayson

Actor | Way Out West

Alongside Ben Turpin, diminutive Scots-born Jimmy Finlayson was, arguably, the most instantly recognisable of the many clowns of silent screen slapstick who made their living as comic foil to stars like Laurel & Hardy, or Harold Lloyd. The perpetually exasperated, squinting, bald-pated master of ...

50. Albert Austin

Assistant_director | City Lights

British-born supporting actor, primarily in the films of Charles Chaplin, for whom Austin also worked as an assistant director and co-writer. His career paralleled that of Chaplin, but dwindled prior to the coming of sound. His brother, William Austin, had a lengthy Hollywood career as a character ...

51. Tiny Sandford

Actor | Modern Times

Stanley J. Sandford, better known as "Tiny" Sandford, was born in Iowa, U.S.A in 1894. He went into films in 1910 for Mack Sennett and joined Charles Chaplin in 1916 appearing in The Count (1916), The Immigrant (1915), and The Adventurer (1917). He later appeared in Chaplin's productions such as ...

52. Violet MacMillan

Actress | The Patchwork Girl of Oz

Violet MacMillan was born on March 4, 1885 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA as Violet Iola McMillan. She was an actress and director, known for The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1914), The New Wizard of Oz (1914) and The Girl Who Won Out (1917). She was married to John Hall Folger (industrial executive) and ...

53. Maria Falconetti

Actress | La passion de Jeanne d'Arc

Renée Jeanne or Maria Falconetti, born in Pantin (not in Sermano, Corsica, as many film dictionaries wrongly attest) on July 21, 1892 and died in Buenos Aires on December 12, 1946, is a French actress of theater and cinema. Joining the troupe of the Odeon theater in 1916, she made her debut in "...



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