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March 19, 2024

Francis X. Bushman: One of the Biggest Stars of the 1910s and Early ’20s

Born 1883 in Baltimore, Maryland, American actor and director Francis Xavier Bushman joined the Maryland Athletic Club as a young man and began a body building regimen that would give him his famous film physique.

After appearing in theater, Bushman was hired by Essanay Studios in Chicago in 1911, launching his film career and stardom. Over the next five years he appeared generally as the leading man in over a hundred silent films for the studio. The studio’s publicity department kept secret his marriage from his fans, who sent him thousands of letters, including marriage proposals. He gained a large female following and was one of the biggest stars of the 1910s and early 1920s.

Bushman, like many of his contemporaries, broke into the moving picture business via the stage. He rose to fame at Essanay Studios in Chicago, where he was first noticed for his muscular, sculpted frame. He appeared in nearly 200 feature film roles—more than 175 films before 1920, and 27 in his screen debut year of 1911 alone. He also worked for the Vitagraph studio before signing with Metro in 1915.

At the peak of his career, Bushman was advertised as “The Handsomest Man in the World”. He was also known as “the King of Photoplay” or “the King of Movies”. He suffered a heart attack and died at his home in Pacific Palisades, California, in 1966, aged 83. Take a look at these vintage photos to see portraits of Francis X. Bushman in the 1910s and 1920s.


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