Gordon Griffith

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Producers, directors and media figures

Gordon Griffith or Gordon S. Griffith ( July 4, 1907, Chicago October 12, 1958) was an American assistant director, film producer, and one of the first child actors. Griffith worked in the film industry for five decades, acting in over sixty films, and surviving the transition from silent films to talkies—films with sound. During his acting career, he worked with Charlie Chaplin, and was the first actor to portray both Tom Sawyer and Tarzan on film.

Griffith was born on July 4, 1907 in Chicago, Illinois, to actors Harry Sutherland Griffith and Katherine Kiemar Griffith. He had two siblings, an older sister Gertrude, and a younger brother Graham—also an actor. Griffith was already an experienced actor when, at age seven, he got his first acting role as a regular character in the Little Billy serials. Mack Sennett of Keystone Studios cast Griffith in many of his slapstick features, including Tillie's Punctured Romance, where he eventually earned supporting roles in Charlie Chaplin films.

His big break came with the role of young Tarzan, in the 1918 film Tarzan of the Apes. He was required to do his own stunts, such as climbing trees, swinging from vines, and interacting closely with a chimpanzee. Griffith also has several nude scenes in the first half of the film, making him one of the first pre-teens to appear on screen naked. Griffith appears before the actor portraying the adult Tarzan— Elmo Lincoln—making him the first actor to portray Tarzan in film. After seeing the film, a critic described Griffith as "a youthful actor of uncommon gifts."

Gordon Griffith (bottom) and Florence Morrison (top) in a detail of a publicity picture for the 1922 film, Penrod.
Gordon Griffith (bottom) and Florence Morrison (top) in a detail of a publicity picture for the 1922 film, Penrod.

Griffith received the role of Tom Sawyer in the 1920 film Huckleberry Finn. Later he was again cast in the first Tarzan serial as Tarzan's son, Korak, a role that has been described as "anticipating John Sheffield's 'boy' roles [in later Tarzan films]." Both of his parents died in the 1920s—his mother in 1921 and his father in 1926. At the time of the 1930 census, he and his brother were living with his sister and her family in Pasadena, California.

Although his career survived the transition from silent films to sound, Griffith received smaller and smaller roles—occasionally not even being credited for his performances. As his acting career cooled, Griffith moved into other areas of the film industry. At the age of twenty-three he got his first job as an assistant director. His final acting credit came six years later in 1936's Bars of Hate.

Griffith continued to work in the film industry until his death, working as an assistant director at Monogram Pictures, an associate producer under Robert Sherwood, and as a director and then as an associate producer for Gregory Ratoff Productions. In 1941, Griffith became production manager at Columbia Pictures, and later served as an associate producer for RKO, eventually becoming a producer for films such as 1956's Alexander the Great. In 1958, Griffith died of a heart attack in Hollywood, and was survived by his sister.

Selected filmography

  • Little Billy's Triumph (1914)
  • Little Billy's Strategy (1914)
  • Little Billy's City Cousin (1914)
  • Tillie's Punctured Romance (1914)
  • Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914)
  • Little Sunset (1915)
  • Billy's Cupidity (1915)
  • Tarzan of the Apes (1918)
  • The Romance of Tarzan (1918)
  • Cupid Forecloses (1919)
  • Son of Tarzan (1920)
  • Huckleberry Finn (1920)
  • The Adventures of Tarzan (1921)
  • Penrod (1922)
  • Little Annie Rooney (1925)
  • The Cat's Pajamas (1926)
  • Bars of Hate (1936)
Retrieved from " http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Griffith"