Joseph Schildkraut, The Future Great Actor (Photoplay 1921)

Joseph Schildkraut, The Future Great Actor (Photoplay 1921)

The Future Great Actor

is the opinion the critics have of Joseph Schildkraut.

Herein he is introduced to you.


Photoplay Vol. XX November 1921 No. 6


He was running up and down stairs. He’d run up, stop a minute, and run down again. And oh, yes, he had a young lady with him. In one arm he was carrying the young lady and with the other he was fighting off some rude gentlemen who couldn’t see that he had his hands full and were trying to tickle him with swords. It was a warm day. That is, you might have called it warm if you weren’t running up and down stairs. Then you would have called it something else. The young man was all dressed up and he was perspiring. In fact, the perspiration was running down his face as fast as he was running up and down stairs. I felt so sorry for him.

Presently he stopped. He released the young lady. He took out a lace handkerchief and wiped his face. He sighed. “That’s all, right now, .Mr. Schildkraut,” said D. W. Griffith’s sixth assistant.

La fete from Orphans of The Storm - Henriette kidnapped by Marquise De Liniers ...
La fete from Orphans of The Storm – Henriette kidnapped by Marquise De Liniers …

Mr. Schildkraut unbuttoned the diamond buttons of his beautiful brocaded coat. Then he took off his wig. Then he sat down. I had to interview him. I began.

Aren’t the costumes charming?” I said tactfully. Joseph Schildkraut is a gentleman. “Yes, charming,” he replied, smiling a rather forced, but still a willing smile, “charming. Of course, they’re rather—er—warm, still—”

I had seen him in “Liliom.” He plays the Hungarian roughneck, the title role of Franz (Ferenc) Molnar’s play, produced by the Theater Guild. He gives a superb characterization of the young man who goes to Heaven and then to Hell at the Garrick. People all around you say, “Oh, yes, that’s Joseph Schildkraut. He’s from Europe, you know. Aren’t those Continentals charming?”

And you watch him and think how easy it must be to be a Continental, whatever that means. And you recall that Max Reinhardt called him “the handsomest man in Europe.” And you think, “Ah—and in America, too.”

“Oh, yes, I like it.” Schildkraut was saying; “it means getting up at an unearthly hour in the morning, to get to Mamaroneck from New York by nine, and then of course I’m busy every minute of the day, until six, and it is a rush to get to the theater in time for the evening performance. But I like it very much.”

Lillian Gish and Joseph Shildkraut - Orphans of the Storm - Promo V22
Lillian Gish and Joseph Schildkraut – Orphans of the Storm – Promo

He looks, when he isn’t in action on the set, like a young man from a fine family who has dropped into the studio and has had someone say to him, “How’d you like to be an actor? Well, slap on some makeup and get in this scene.” He has been on the stage for years, and years. He’s twenty-six now. He played in every capital in Europe, in every play perhaps ever produced in the leading theaters. He made some pictures over there, too. He says they were terrible. Of course he didn’t really say terrible; he talks just like a play, or something.

” I may give up the stage for a year, to make pictures,” he went on. “I could never give up the stage altogether, but I find the films fascinating. It is my dream, you know, to establish a repertory theater conducted along the lines of those abroad; and give there only the finest plays of the finest playwrights. The Theater Guild is an American organization which embodies my ideals. I have a contract with them, and will soon do Franz Molnar’s new play, ‘The Swan,’ which is a satire on European royalty, or what was once European royalty.”

Orphans of the Storm - Henriette and Chevalier de Vaudrey
Orphans of the Storm – Henriette and Chevalier de Vaudrey

“Yes,” I said. I had noticed that everyone was staring at me. After adjusting my hat and looking around to see if Lillian Gish or some other celebrity wasn’t the object of attention I discovered that I was the cynosure of all those eyes because any young lady who talks with Mr. Schildkraut more than ten minutes around the studio is positively disliked.

Disliked is a mild word. The extras count their day lost, even their $7.50, if they aren’t in a scene with him. Francis X. Bushman was never like this. And yet his indifference is amazing. It is almost insolent. He has an extraordinary apathy as to publicity, close-ups, and screen credit. He has none of those little tricks by which you can almost always recognize the actor. He cannot understand adulation—American brand. ‘”What difference does it make to the public where an actor lives, what he eats and wears, with whom he lives? So long as he does justice to his roles? It is a great mystery to me. In Europe, the actor has no private life as far as his audiences know. Here, an actor’s private life seems to matter more than his ability.”

Only several thousand persons have seen “Liliom.” Considerably more will see “The Two Orphans.” Griffith’s new picture. (The figures will all be published in due time.) The New Yorker knows Schildkraut as Liliom The rest of the world will know him as the Chevalier Maurice de Vaudrey, a delightful young man with a marvelous profile and interesting eyes who goes about rescuing Lillian Gish from the perils of the plot. Miss Gish was the young lady he was rescuing up in the first paragraphs. His first audience went home and talked about him. His new audience will go home and write letters to him. I shall take great pleasure in interviewing .Mr. Schildkraut again when his first American picture has been released.

Orphans of the Storm - Henriette and Chevalier de Vaudrey
Orphans of the Storm – Henriette and Chevalier de Vaudrey

I hope he won’t be spoiled. He is, of course, no novice; he has had his share of press notices and verbal bouquets. But he still regards acting as his business. His screen work is a business proposition. He doesn’t believe it himself, if you know what I’m driving at. His ideas on pictures are by no means epoch-making, but his viewpoint is that of the Continental, and therefore of some interest.

“Three pictures I have seen which rouse my interest,” said Schildkraut ;, “They were ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,’ ‘Sentimental Tommy,’ and ‘Broken Blossoms.’ The German pictures shown in this country have not, to my mind, been as good as American products. ‘The Cabinet’ had a definite idea; it attempted and achieved it. The others—1 cannot honestly praise. Pola Negri, I understand, has made an amazing success here. It is because of her vivid personality rather than her acting, I think. Henny Porten is the leading screen actress abroad.” He likes Mr. Griffith. He would. I have a feeling that the genial D. W. G. didn’t engage him for the role of the Chevalier because he is a great actor. The Chevalier doesn’t have to do a great deal of acting. A part that would be impossible and insipid in the hands of two-thirds of our matinee idols becomes a real, thrilling, and truly romantic role as Schildkraut plays it. He can’t help doing his best because that’s all he ever does. He hasn’t different speeds.

Alfred Cheney Johnston Lillian Gish 1922 Orphans outfit
Alfred Cheney Johnston – Lillian Gish (Henriette Girard)

Lillian Gish, he thinks, is the supreme artiste of the screen. “She has,” he said, “a very rare gift. She has intelligence, but she doesn’t have to use it when she is acting. That sounds strange to you. But Miss Gish acts by instinct. She is always right. The finest acting I have ever seen in my life is Lillian Gish’s in the closet scene in ‘Broken Blossoms’.”

Joseph’s ambitions are by no means small or simple. He would like to see Griffith do all the plays of Shakespeare, and film the Bible! He himself wants to do Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” a version of which he appeared in abroad; and Romain Rolland’s “Jean-Christophe,” which he considers the great novel of the age.

He is a Roumanian. His father and mother are both living,—with their son. His father, Rudolph, is a famous old actor, who has never, I believe, acted in English. It is Rudolph, strangely enough, who advises Joseph to leave the stage for the screen.

Critics say that he is the future great actor of his day. In case you can’t get all worked up over that, just look at the pictures accompanying this article.

Orphans of The Storm Prog Herald 1921
Orphans of The Storm Prog Herald 1921

D. W. Griffith has revived “The Two Orphans.”

THERE was a moon. It shone upon the women in their high white wigs and their widespread skirts of silk or satin and their shining shoulders; upon the men. in their gorgeous brocaded coats and curled wigs. It shone upon the three silvery fountains, and the marble statues, and upon the trees, which were after Corot. To the tinkling strains of an old minuet, they danced.

It was France, of the last Louis.

They were curtsying and bowing, their tiny toes twinkling and the silver buckles on their slippers gleaming — “Just a little more life, boys and girls,” came a voice from somewhere. “Just a little more life, children!” It was Mr. Griffith speaking. He was on top of a very high platform, with a megaphone—yes, they do use them once in a while—and three cameramen and six assistants. He was enjoying himself. He was watching the lovely, lighted scene with as much pleasure as though he hadn’t directed it all himself In fact, Griffith is going to do it again. He is once more, making a costume picture. And if he doesn’t beat the Germans at their own game—making old-time romance live again—quite a few people will be very much surprised. He is resurrecting that noble old story “The Two Orphans,” by Adolphe d’Ennery, with a cast that includes Lillian and Dorothy Gish as Henriette and Louise, the title roles; Joseph Schildkraut, the great young European actor, as the Chevalier Maurice de Vaudrey; Creighton Hale as Picard; Lucille LaVerne as Madame Frochard; Sheldon Lewis as Jacques; and Frank Puglia as Pierre. It ought to make a pretty good picture!

And Theda Bara.

Theda Bara
Theda Bara

Yes. Theda was there to see “The Two Orphans” being done right. You know she did it for Fox some time ago. And she asked to meet Lillian Gish, who was an adorable Little Orphan in a rose-and-lavender costume — one of those demure things that only Lillian can wear and she asked Lillian how on earth she ever made up that way. You see Miss Gish uses very little makeup. Theda couldn’t understand it. because she always, if you remember, blacks her eyes and—oh, well, you remember.



Dorothy Gish - Orphans of the Storm

They say that Dorothy Gish is doing her finest work as Louise, the little blind girl. Everybody is glad that she has left her black-wig; comedies and is playing a part that will give her an opportunity to do something besides pout. And she’s doing it. Hers is really the fat part of the picture, and nobody feels better about it than Lillian.

Back to Lillian Gish Home page

Joseph Schildkraut
Joseph Schildkraut

Back to Lillian Gish Home page


Popular posts from this blog

When Mamaroneck Upstaged Hollywood – By Bruce Berman (The New York Times – June 19, 1977)

Mayor of NY with Connie Towers and Lillian Gish – backstage in the opening night of “Anya”