Linda Arvidson

Linda Arvidson (born Linda Arvidson Johnson, July 12, 1884 – July 26, 1949; sometimes credited as Linda Griffith) was an American actress who became one of the early movie stars. Because actors usually were not credited on screen in the first years of cinema, she often was referred to as simply one of the Biograph Girls. Arvidson had been encouraged to work in the new medium by her future husband D.W. Griffith, who impressed her as an innovative film director. Their marriage was kept secret for reasons of professional discretion.

Linda Arvidson
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c. 1916
Linda Arvidson Johnson

(1884-07-12)July 12, 1884
DiedJuly 26, 1949(1949-07-26) (aged 65)
New York City, U.S.
Other namesLinda Griffith
Years active1907–1916
Spouse(s)D. W. Griffith
(m. 1906-div. 1936)


The daughter of Swedish parents,[1] Arvidson was the first wife of film director D.W. Griffith. She played lead roles in many of his early films.

In 1925, she wrote her autobiography When the Movies Were Young (1925, 1968). She is mentioned in William J. Mann's The Biograph Girl, a novel based on Florence Lawrence.[citation needed]

On July 26, 1949, Arvidson died in New York City at age 65.[2]


Arvidson's first professional role was on stage at the Alcazar Theatre in San Francisco in a 1904 adaptation of The Christian by British novelist Hall Caine. In this production, she portrayed one of the fisher girls and earned a weekly wage of three dollars and 40 cents for her performances. One experience called up after another as Arvidson performed in a variety of recitals across San Francisco's great concert halls. She appeared as a servant boy in the play Fedora. It was on this production where she met David Wark Griffith, a supporting actor and future husband, who at that time worked under the stage name Lawrence Griffith. Through the next few months in which Arvidson and Griffith were together, Arvidson spent time performing small roles in productions at the Burbank Theatre in Los Angeles and at the Orpheum.

Film CareerEdit

In 1906, Arvidson and Griffith moved to New York, where they began rehearsals for playwright Rev. Thomas Dixon's play The Other Woman. As the two settled into the New York theatre scene, Griffith learned about the Biograph Company and the American Mutoscope and their work with moving pictures. Griffith encouraged Arvidson to introduce herself there. When Knights Were Bold, Arvidson's first picture at Biograph, was directed by Sidney Olcott and included Griffith in the cast as well, marking the couple's only appearance together on screen.

In 1908, Griffith rose to directing The Adventures of Dollie, his first picture for Biograph, in which Arvidson played the leading female character. In her memoir, Arvidson described most of the characters she played in her early film career as "the sympathetic, the wronged wife, the too-trusting maid...waiting for the lover who never came back."[citation needed] At the time, the studio did not want the women in their films to be identified, so the leading women they featured like Arvidson, Mary Pickford, and Florence Lawrence were all known as the Biograph Girls. During their days on set, the women spent time getting ready with elaborate makeup for the camera while Griffith as a director would take only the men out to lunch. As more actors began to emerge into this new medium, the old timers like Arvidson had their salaries doubled, accumulating up to $10 per day. On October 4, 1909, Pippa Passes, Arvidson and Griffith's biggest picture at the time, was released. The film was the first of their productions to attract the attention of The New York Times and to receive a favorable review from this newspaper.

Writing careerEdit

Arvidson wrote screenplays, including the one for the five-reel Who's Guilty Now? She was an associate editor of Film Fun and a film critic for Leslie's Magazine, and she wrote the book When the Movies Were Young.[1]

Relationship with D.W. GriffithEdit

When meeting Griffith on the set of Fedora, Arvidson immediately was struck by his presence, his talent and booming voice. He too grew infatuated with her quickly; in Arvidson's memoir When the Movies Were Young, Arvidson recalls Griffith's encouragement: "Said I had wonderful eyes for the stage and if I ever went to New York and got it right, I'd get jobs 'on my eyes.'" Arvidson also mentions that Griffith advised her to never get married if she wanted to continue to have a career as an actress; an ironic sentiment because the two ended up marrying less than 2 years later.

When the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake hit, Griffith was finding work in Boston when Arvidson sent him a telegram explaining what had happened. Griffith’s theatre company was booked for a six-week engagement in Boston, so he got Arvidson a railroad ticket there. When Arvidson arrived, the two spontaneously rode to the Old North Church and wrote their names in the wedding registry, and then they moved to New York City.

In 1908, when Griffith encouraged Arvidson to test her talent on camera, Arvidson recalled in her memoir that he told her not to mention that she was his wife because it is "better business not to."[citation needed] As they grew more experienced with acting on camera and more in tune with the people at Biograph, Griffith still wanted to leave for a summer and do a summer stock theatre show, yet Arvidson convinced him to stay and continue his relationship with the company. Arvidson served as the leading person who supported Griffith's success in his budding film career, first as an actor, then writer, then director. Griffith wondered about the stories that would unfold if public spectators witnessed them together and how that would affect the work they created together. As of 1909, those at Biograph were unaware of Arvidson and Griffith's marriage. The two kept their relationship confidential because personal and business matters were not known to intermingle and was deemed "unprofessional."[citation needed] The couple separated around 1912, and finally divorced on March 2, 1936 when Griffith wished to remarry.[citation needed]

Partial filmographyEdit


  1. ^ a b Sartain, Geraldine (May 18, 1933). "Mrs. Griffith, a Swedish Movie Star Before It Was Fashionable, Longs for Biograph Days When Sincerity Surpassed 'Box Office'". The Oklahoma News. Oklahoma, Oklahoma City. p. 9. Retrieved February 9, 2020 – via
  2. ^ Katchmer, George A. (2009). A Biographical Dictionary of Silent Film Western Actors and Actresses. McFarland. p. 10. ISBN 9781476609058. Retrieved 8 September 2018.


  • Finler, Joel W. The Hollywood Story. Wallflower Press, 2003. ISBN 1903364663
  • Griffith, Linda Arvidson. When the Movies Were Young. Dover Publications (1925, reprinted in 1968). ISBN 0-486-22300-0
  • Menefee, David W. The First Female Stars: Women of the Silent Era. Praeger Publishers, 2004. ISBN 0275982599
  • Wexman, Virginia Wright. Creating the Couple: Love, Marriage, and Hollywood Performance. Princeton University Press, 1993. ISBN 0691069697

External linksEdit