Today is the birthday of early film actor Robert “Bobby” Harron.
He’s one of my favorite actors…not just from the silent era, but overall. Indeed, I think there’s an argument to be had that his talent is just as brilliant today as it was in the ’10s.
Harron is an important figure in film history, being one of D.W.Griffith’s finest “discoveries” and having acted in many of Griffith’s most well-known films. His was an example of “pure” acting talent, having had no stage experience prior to working in films.
While he often played naive youths, he could handle dramatic roles with aplomb. His looks were boyish, but a simple mustache added enough “age” for him to convincingly play mature men (True Heart Susie, Hearts of the World and Intolerance are nice examples).
He seems to have been much beloved and admired by his fellow actors and embraced by the public (teenaged girls were especially appreciative). In looking through old issues of Photoplay and the like online I’ve seen more than one article and letter commenting on “that talented Robert Harron.” In his private life he seems to have been a kind and principled young man, very much a devout Catholic.
As anyone who’s read about Harron knows, his was a life that was cut tragically short. The gunshot wound he died from was officially listed as “accidental” on his death certificate. Recent writers have put forth their suspicions that Harron had actually grown depressed (the reasons given vary), but close friends had always insisted that he wasn’t capable of such a thing. I pray they were right.
His early death (at only 27) cut short a career that almost certainly would’ve continued for some time. His naturalistic acting and dramatic chops would’ve suited him to a wide variety of roles in the maturing cinema. There’s a possibility that he may have transitioned into directing. And what would his voice have sounded like?
“The screen lost one of its sweetest and most lovable characters when ‘Bobby’ Harron died.”
Someday I would like to write a longer piece on Harron, but for now I have my biography of him here.