Gareth Hughes

Gareth Hughes (23 August 1894 – 1 October 1965) was a Welsh stage and silent screen actor.[2] Usually cast as a callow, sensitive hero in Hollywood silent films, Hughes got his start on stage during childhood and continued to play youthful leads on Broadway.

Gareth Hughes
William John Hughes

(1894-08-23)23 August 1894
Died1 October 1965(1965-10-01) (aged 71)
OccupationStage actor, silent screen actor, missionary
Years active1920s–1944
His grin was described as one that "begins almost shyly, and finishes widely" in Picture-Play, July 1921.[1]


Born William John Hughes into a working-class family in Dafen, Carmarthenshire, after working with a number of UK touring companies he joined a group of Welsh players. The group took a tour to the United States, and although not successful Hughes was spotted in Chicago, and stayed in America to pursue his acting career. By the end of 1915, he had become successful on Broadway. This, in turn, led to his involvement in the motion picture business.

Film careerEdit

Hughes's earlier screen work was with Clara Kimball Young in Eyes of Youth (1919) and with Marguerite Clark in Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch (1920). He was teamed with Viola Dana in The Chorus Girl's Romance (1920). He signed with Metro Pictures and was loaned to Famous Players Lasky for Sentimental Tommy (1921), probably his best film role.[according to whom?]

Even though he had already appeared in many films before this, he regarded Sentimental Tommy as his favourite and most successful. He made forty-five films from 1918 to 1931. He was also the Welsh dialect coach on The Corn Is Green (1945) starring Bette Davis. Cecil B. DeMille called him "a young idealist", and Fulton Oursler described him as "the charm boy to end all charm boys".

Return to theatreEdit

In 1929, like many others, he lost his fortune in the Wall Street crash and was left penniless, but he carried on making films until 1931 when he appeared in Scareheads. He then decided to leave the world of film and return to theatre, which had always been his first love. His final role ran for 18 weeks at the Hollywood Playhouse in 1938, where he starred as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.


In the early 1940s, Hughes experienced a religious calling. Adopting the name of Brother David, in 1944, he became a Christian missionary to the Paiute Indians on the Pyramid Lake Reservation of Nevada. Hughes spent almost 14 years with his "children", as he called them.

Later years and deathEdit

In 1958, Hughes returned to Llanelli to spend his final years. But he longed for the sunshine of the West Coast, and after five months he returned to California. Later, Hughes moved into the Motion Picture Country Home in Woodland Hills where he had his own cottage. He baptised silent film actress Clara Kimball Young prior to her death.

He died in 1965 of complications from byssinosis, a lint-born respiratory disease he contracted from years of sorting donated clothing at Pyramid Lake, and his cremated remains were buried at the Masonic Memorial Gardens cemetery in Reno, Nevada.[3]


In 2000, the first TV documentary on Hughes's life was produced by Nant Films in collaboration with Stephen Lyons, Hughes's biographer. The programme, in Welsh, was broadcast on S4C. In 2008, his relative Kelvin Guy made a film In Search of Gareth Hughes, which has received only limited release. The film has been neither broadcast nor made available for public viewing.[4]

In 2000, a bronze plaque to Hughes's memory was mounted in Parc Howard Museum (Llanelli) by Stephen Lyons and Hughes's niece; later the same year, a blue plaque at Hughes's boyhood dwelling on Princess Street in Llanelli was unveiled by members of his family. Stephen Lyons, Llanelli Community Heritage and relative Kelvin Guy are responsible for these tributes to this star of the silent film.[5]

The National Library of Wales has designated biographer Stephen Lyons's web site as part of Wales's documentary heritage.[6]



  1. ^ Squier, Emma-Lindsay (July 1921). "Sentimental Gareth". Picture-Play. New York: Street & Smith Corporation. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  2. ^ Willis, John A. (1983). Screen World. Crown Publishers. p. 237.
  3. ^ Davis, Lisa Fagin (3 January 2014). "A Welshman in Reno". Manuscript Road Trip. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  4. ^ "Tribute to 'forgotten' film star". BBC Wales. 22 August 2008.
  5. ^ "Bronze Plaque".
  6. ^ Lyons, Stephen. "Gareth Hughes: The First Welsh Film Star". Archived from the original on 6 March 2011. Retrieved 4 January 2014.

External linksEdit