Actor Maurice Costello

Maurice George Costello (February 22, 1877 – October 29, 1950) 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.

Early life

Costello was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Irish immigrants Ellen (née Fitzgerald; born 1853) and Thomas Costello (born 1852). His father Thomas died while repairing a blast furnace at Andrew Carnegie’s Union Iron Mill when Maurice was just five months old. He had a strongly Irish upbringing, living with his mother, her Irish brother, and many Irish immigrant boarders.


Costello 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. 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.”

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. Costello was notorious for his refusal to help build sets, insisting that he was “hired as an actor and nothing else”, despite the common practice of the time. From this and his role as the creator of the first known school of screen acting, Costello is sometimes credited as “the father of screen acting”.

Costello 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. While his leading man status was largely lost, Costello continued to appear in movies, often in small roles and bit parts, right up until his death in 1950.

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.

Personal life

Costello was married to actress Mae Costello (née Altschuk). 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.

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

His descendants include two daughters, actresses Dolores Costello and Helene Costello, a grandson John Drew Barrymore, and a great granddaughter Drew Barrymore.


Year Title Role Notes
1908 Antony and Cleopatra Marc Antony Short
1909 Les Misérables Jean Valjean Short
1909 A Midsummer Night’s Dream Lysander Short
1911 A Tale of Two Cities Sydney Carton Short
1911 His Sister’s Children Harry Burton Short
1911 Some Good in All Bill Short
1912 As You Like It Orlando
1912 The Adventure of the Italian Model Lambert Chase
1912 The Adventure of a Thumb Print Lambert Chase
1912 The Mystery of the Seven Jewels Lambert Chase
1913 A Princess of Bagdad Seyn – the Cobbler
1914 Mr. Barnes of New York Mr. Barnes
1915 The Man Who Couldn’t Beat God Martin Henchford
1915 The Crown Prince’s Double Prince Oscar / Barry Lawrence
1916 The Crimson Stain Mystery Harold Stanley
1919 The Captain’s Captain John Sark
1919 The Cambric Mask John Sark
1919 The Man Who Won Henry Longfield
1919 The Girl-Woman Sanford
1920 Human Collateral Richard Morton
1920 Deadline at Eleven Paul Klocke
1920 The Tower of Jewels Fraser Grimstead
1921 Conceit Barbe la Fleche
1922 Determination Putnam
1923 None So Blind Russell Mortimer
1923 The Glimpses of the Moon Fred Gillow
1923 Man and Wife Caleb Perkins
1923 Fog Bound Deputy Brown
1924 Let Not Man Put Asunder Sir Humphrey
1924 Roulette Ben Corcoran
1924 Week End Husbands John Keane
1924 Virtuous Liars Josiah Wright
1924 Love of Women Mr. Redfield
1924 Heart of Alaska
1924 The Story Without a Name The Cripple
1924 The Law and the Lady Cyrus Blake
1925 The Mad Marriage
1926 The Wives of the Prophet William Neil
1926 The Last Alarm Fireman’s father
1926 The False Alarm
1926 Camille Armand’s father
1927 Johnny Get Your Hair Cut Baxter Ryan
1927 Wolves of the Air Bob’s Father
1927 The Shamrock and the Rose Father O’Brien
1927 Spider Webs Jeffrey Stanton
1928 See You Later
1928 The Wagon Show Colonel Beldan
1928 Black Feather
1928 Eagle of the Night
1934 Search for Beauty Health Acres Guest Uncredited
1936 Hollywood Boulevard Director in Commissary
1938 I Am the Law Lindsay Staff Member Uncredited
1938 A Man to Remember Town Councilor Uncredited
1938 Comet Over Broadway Actor at Dress Rehearsal Uncredited
1938 There’s That Woman Again Headwaiter Uncredited
1939 Disbarred Frightened Juror Uncredited
1939 It’s a Wonderful World Guest Uncredited
1939 Judge Hardy and Son Man in Audience Uncredited
1939 Five Little Peppers and How They Grew Hart Uncredited
1939 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington Diggs – Newsman Uncredited
1939 The Roaring Twenties Nightclub Patron Uncredited
1940 Rovin’ Tumbleweeds Ways and Means Committee Member Uncredited
1940 The Ghost Comes Home Townsman at Banquet Uncredited
1940 Johnny Apollo Extra Uncredited
1940 Edison, the Man Broker Uncredited
1940 The Sea Hawk Man Carrying Spear Uncredited
1940 All This, and Heaven Too Minor Role Uncredited
1940 Foreign Correspondent Minor Role Uncredited
1940 A Little Bit of Heaven Uncle Louie
1940 Third Finger, Left Hand Man at Railroad Station Uncredited
1940 Tin Pan Alley Uncredited
1941 A Man Betrayed Club Inferno Patron UNcredited
1941 Lady from Louisiana Edwards
1941 Citizen Kane Extra Uncredited
1941 Here Comes Mr. Jordan Ringsider at Fight Uncredited
1941 H.M. Pulham, Esq. Wedding Guest Uncredited
1942 Ride ‘Em Cowboy Rodeo Spectator with Martin Manning Uncredited
1942 Reap the Wild Wind Ball Guest Uncredited
1942 Cairo Cavity Rock Townsman Uncredited
1942 The Glass Key Card Player Uncredited
1942 Henry Aldrich, Editor Fire Spectator Uncredited
1943 Du Barry Was a Lady Passerby Uncredited
1943 Sweet Rosie O’Grady Minor Role Uncredited
1944 A Fig Leaf for Eve Nightclub Patron Uncredited
1944 The Doughgirls Minor Role Uncredited
1944 The Climax Minor Role Uncredited
1944 Practically Yours Senate Stenographer Uncredited
1945 Guest Wife Bit Part Uncredited, (final film role)

External Links

Actor Maurice Costello – Wikipedia

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