Thomas B. Ricketts (15 January 1853 – 19 January 1939) was an English-born American stage and film actor and director who was a pioneer in the film industry. He portrayed Ebenezer Scrooge in the first American film adaptation of A Christmas Carol (1908), and directed one of the first motion pictures ever made in Hollywood. After directing scores of silent films, including the first film to be released by Universal Pictures, Ricketts became a prominent character actor.
Thomas B. Ricketts
15 January 1853
|Died||19 January 1939 (aged 86)|
|Resting place||Hollywood Forever Cemetery|
Thomas B. Ricketts was born in Greenwich, London 15 January 1853, the son of Rosa (née Penniall) Robert Ricketts. His father was a painter and when Thomas was 17 years old he emigrated to the United States, and initially worked as a painter himself. However he soon moved into acting in the theatre and directed plays on Broadway for Charles Frohman. He was a stage manager for the Shubert family, sang baritone with the Carleton Opera Company, and starred in his own play, Henri Duvar.
In 1906, after he had been with the Shuberts for four years, Ricketts was persuaded by a friend to join Essanay Studios in Chicago. He played Scrooge in A Christmas Carol (1908), the first American film adaption of the Dickens classic, then starred in The Old Curiosity Shop (1909). When Ricketts said he had toured with a comedy he had written, A Cure for Gout, the company asked him to make a 600-foot film of it—the length limit for a comedy at that time.
Ricketts became a director, taking over comedies and melodramas from Broncho Billy Anderson, who in turn took over Westerns. Ethel Clayton, Jack Conway, J. Warren Kerrigan and Bryant Washburn were among Ricketts's discoveries—along with Josephine Ditt, "the best-dressed woman on the screen", to whom Ricketts was married. Chief dramatic and general producer for two years at Essanay, he helped organize the American Film Manufacturing Company in 1910. He made six films for the Flying "A" before withdrawing and seeking another opportunity.
In 1911 Ricketts moved to California, together with Canadian film pioneer Al Christie, with thoughts of creating a new film company. "We arrived in Los Angeles with no idea of where to establish our studio," Ricketts remembered. "A real estate man who happened to overhear our discussion of a studio site suggested Hollywood. The next day we found our way out to Sunset and Gower, to a defunct roadhouse. The owner, a woman, wanted $60 a month rent for the entire block. We thought it was too much, but we signed a lease." The Nestor Film Company opened its studio October 27, 1911.
Ricketts directed one of the first Hollywood-made motion pictures, The Best Man Wins (1911), photographed by Charles Rosher.[a] Its stars were juvenile leading man Harold Lockwood, ingenue Dorothy Davenport, vamp Josephine Ditt, juvenile ingenue Victoria Forde, male heavy Gordon Sackville, and character actresses Eugenie Forde and Alice Davenport. Allan Dwan was Ricketts's assistant.
Nestor made between 50 and 60 films—half of them directed by Ricketts—over the next 18 months. On May 20, 1912, the company merged with the Universal Film Manufacturing Company, Nestor's distributor beginning with The Dawn of Netta (1912), directed by Ricketts.: 11
In 1914, on an independent contract, Ricketts directed Richard Bennett in Damaged Goods back at American. When flower girls were needed for a wedding scene, Bennett's three daughters—Joan Bennett, Constance Bennett and Barbara Bennett—began their film careers. "Its success made me a little egotistical," Ricketts recalled. "It cost about $25,000 to make and brought in a million and a half on its first run. I naturally thought it would put me in great demand as a director. But it didn't. I had to start all over again, this time going back to my old trade as an actor."[b] However, Ricketts did direct several more feature films for American through 1916, including some with their major romantic team of May Allison and Harold Lockwood such as The Lure of the Mask (1915) and The Other Side of the Door (1916).
Returning to acting in 1919, in his mid-60s, Ricketts was almost always in demand for character parts. By 1935 he was described as "white-haired and bent with age … content with an occasional film role". His later films included Top Hat (1935), After the Thin Man (1936), Pennies from Heaven (1936), The Young in Heart (1938) and Son of Frankenstein (1939). He was regarded as the oldest working actor in Hollywood.
Ricketts died at Hollywood Hospital 19 January 1939, aged 86, of pneumonia, contracted the previous week when he went to work at Universal Studios despite a cold. "Mr. Ricketts left no funds," reported The New York Times, "and expenses of his funeral will be paid by the Motion Picture Relief Society." Josephine Ricketts, hospitalized in Santa Monica since suffering a stroke at Christmas, was not informed of her husband's death; it was reported that she would be told sometime before his funeral. Ricketts was buried in an unmarked grave at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
|1909||A Cure for Gout|||
|1909||A Woman's Wit|||
|1910||An Advertisement Answered|||
|1910||A Fair Exchange|||
|1910||The Hand of Uncle Sam|||
|1910||His Only Child|||
|1910||The Lure of the City|||
|1910||The Stolen Fortune|||
|1910||Vera, the Gypsy Girl|||
|1911||The Best Man Wins||First motion picture made in Hollywood|
|1912||The Dawn of Netta||First film distributed by Universal Pictures: 11|
|1915||The Buzzard's Shadow|||
|1915||The House of a Thousand Scandals|||
|1915||The End of the Road|||
|1915||The Lure of the Mask|||
|1915||Secretary of Frivolous Affairs|||
|1915||The Wily Chaperon|||
|1916||The Other Side of the Door|||
|1916||The Single Code|||
|1918||The Crime of the Hour|||
|1908||A Christmas Carol||Ebenezer Scrooge|||
|1909||The Old Curiosity Shop|||
|1919||His Official Fiancée||Major Montressor|||
|1919||Please Get Married||Dr. Jenkins|||
|1920||All of a Sudden Peggy||Major Archie Phipps|||
|1920||The Desperate Hero||Butler|||
|1920||The Great Lover||Potter|||
|1920||The Paliser Case||Major Archie Phipps|||
|1920||The Parish Priest||Dr. Thomas Cassidy|||
|1920||The Spenders||Mr. Milbrey|||
|1920||The Willow Tree||The Priest|||
|1921||Beating the Game||Jules Fanchette|||
|1922||The Killer||Tim Westmore|||
|1922||The Eternal Flame||Vidame de Pameir|||
|1922||Fools of Fortune||Milton DePuyster|||
|1922||The Lavender Bath Lady||Simon Gregory|||
|1922||Putting It Over||Arnold Norton|||
|1922||Shattered Idols||The Reverend Doctor Romney|||
|1922||A Tailor-Made Man||Anton Huber|||
|1923||Alice Adams||J. A. Lamb|||
|1923||Black Oxen||Charles Dinwiddie|||
|1923||The Dangerous Maid||John Standish Lane|||
|1923||Strangers of the Night||Lush|||
|1923||Within the Law||General Hastings|||
|1924||Cheap Kisses||The Old Man|||
|1924||Circe the Enchantress||Archibald Crumm|||
|1924||The Gaiety Girl||His Grace, the Duke|||
|1925||Bobbed Hair||Mr. Brewster|||
|1925||The Business of Love||Noah Burgess|||
|1925||The Fate of a Flirt||Uncle John Burgess|||
|1925||A Fight to the Finish||Cyrus J. Davis|||
|1925||The Girl Who Wouldn't Work||The Rounder|||
|1925||My Wife and I||Valet|||
|1925||Never the Twain Shall Meet||Andrew J. Casson|||
|1925||Oh Doctor!||Mr. Peck|||
|1925||Sealed Lips||Joseph Howard|||
|1925||Secrets of the Night||Jerry Hammond||: 50|
|1925||Steppin' Out||Henry Brodman||: 50|
|1925||Wages for Wives||Judge McLean|||
|1925||Was It Bigamy?||Judge Gaynor|||
|1925||When Husbands Flirt||Wilbur Belcher|||
|1926||The Belle of Broadway|||
|1926||The Cat's Pajamas||Mr. Briggs|||
|1926||Going the Limit||Mortimer Harden|||
|1926||Ladies at Play||Deacon Ezra Boody|||
|1926||Ladies of Leisure||Wadleigh|||
|1926||Love's Blindness||Marquis of Hurlshire|||
|1926||The Nut-Cracker||Isaac Totten|||
|1926||The Old Soak||Roué|||
|1926||Poker Faces||Henry Curlew|||
|1926||Stranded in Paris||Herr Rederson|||
|1926||When the Wife's Away|||
|1927||Broadway Madness||Lawrence Compton|||
|1927||Children of Divorce||Secretary|||
|1927||In a Moment of Temptation||Timothy Gage|||
|1927||My Friend from India||Judge Belmore|||
|1927||A Sailor's Sweetheart||Professor Meekham|||
|1927||Too Many Crooks||Butler|||
|1927||Venus of Venice||Bride's father|||
|1928||Five and Ten Cent Annie||Adam Peck|||
|1928||Freedom of the Press||Wicks|||
|1928||Just Married||Makepeace Witter|||
|1928||The Law and the Man||Quintus Newton|||
|1929||The Glad Rag Doll||Admiral|||
|1929||Light Fingers||Edward Madison|||
|1929||Red Hot Speed||: 64|
|1930||Prince of Diamonds||Williams|||
|1930||The Vagabond King||Astrologer|||
|1931||Man of the World||Mr. Bradkin|||
|1931||Side Show||Tom Allison|||
|1932||A Farewell to Arms||Count Greffi|||
|1932||He Learned About Women|||
|1932||If I Had a Million||Guest at Mrs. Walker's dance|||
|1932||Stepping Sisters||"Stock Market"|||
|1932||Thrill of Youth||Grandpa Thayer|||
|1933||The Eleventh Commandment||Henry|||
|1933||Good-bye Love||Alimony jail inmate|||
|1933||Mama Loves Papa||Mr. Pierrepont|||
|1933||The Power and the Glory|||
|1933||Secret Sinners||Pop, the stage doorman|
|1933||Women Won't Tell|||
|1934||The Count of Monte Cristo||Cockeye|||
|1934||The Curtain Falls||Hotel manager|||
|1934||In Love with Life||Bookstore proprietor|||
|1934||Forsaking All Others||Wiffens|||
|1934||Friends of Mr. Sweeney||Old gentleman|||
|1934||It Happened One Night||Prissy old man|||
|1934||The Man Who Reclaimed His Head||Curly|||
|1934||Manhattan Love Song||Rich man|||
|1934||No Greater Glory||Old janitor|||
|1934||One More River||Barrister and clerk|||
|1934||Sons of Steel||Williams|||
|1934||Springtime for Henry||Bookstore clerk|||
|1934||Whom the Gods Destroy||Charlie|||
|1935||Clive of India||Old member|||
|1935||George White's 1935 Scandals||Old man|||
|1935||Goin' to Town||Eligible bachelor|||
|1935||The Great Impersonation||Villager|||
|1935||Hi, Gaucho!||Don Salvador|||
|1935||Let's Live Tonight||Millionaire|||
|1935||Music Is Magic||Dancer, elderly man|||
|1935||Now or Never|||
|1935||The Public Menace||Old man|||
|1935||A Tale of Two Cities||Tellson, Jr.|||
|1935||Top Hat||Thackeray Club waiter|||
|1935||Vagabond Lady||Department head|||
|1936||The Case Against Mrs. Ames||Juryman|||
|1936||The Crime of Dr. Forbes||Faculty doctor|||
|1936||Daniel Boone||Attorney General's associate|||
|1936||Gold Diggers of 1937||Reginald|||
|1936||Little Lord Fauntleroy||Partygoer|||
|1936||Gentle Julia||Old man at dance|||
|1936||After the Thin Man||Henry, the butler|||
|1936||To Mary - with Love||Waiter|||
|1936||More Than a Secretary||Henry|||
|1936||Pennies from Heaven||Mr. Briggs|||
|1936||Song and Dance Man||Old theatrical couple|||
|1936||We Went to College||Pop|||
|1937||Maid of Salem||Giles Cory|||
|1937||A Star Is Born||Servant|||
|1937||The Lady Escapes||Uncle George|||
|1937||The Prince and the Pauper||Sexton|||
|1937||The Toast of New York||Member of the board of directors|||
|1937||Personal Property||Elderly man|||
|1937||Rhythm in the Clouds||Winter|||
|1938||The Young in Heart||Andrew|||
|1938||Bluebeard's Eighth Wife||Uncle Andre|||
|1938||The Baroness and the Butler||Old man|||
|1938||Young Fugitives||Tom Riggins||: 107|
|1938||Gateway||Old man||: 107|
|1938||Four Men and a Prayer||Station master|||
|1939||Son of Frankenstein||Burgher|||
- The Best Man Wins is a romantic comedy filmed in October and released December 25, 1911, promoted as a Christmas release. It is sometimes called the first Hollywood film. Also laying claim to that distinction is The Law of the Range, a Western directed by Nestor's Milton H. Fahrney that was released December 13, 1911.
- As part of its obituary, The New York Times reprinted a North American Newspaper Alliance interview with Thomas Ricketts conducted not long before his death.
- Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census [database online]. Provo, Utah: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2010. Retrieved 2016-02-06.
- Ellenberger, Allan R. (2001). Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. p. 146. ISBN 9780786409839.
- United Press (January 20, 1939). "Prominent Actor, Tom Ricketts, Dies, Age 86". The Bakersfield Californian.
- Thomas, Dan (Newspaper Enterprise Association) (November 7, 1935). "Pioneer Film Director Now Just an Extra". The Burlington Daily Times-News. Burlington, North Carolina.
- "Thomas Ricketts, Pioneer of Movies". The New York Times. January 21, 1939. Retrieved February 6, 2016.
- Smith, Michael Glover; Selzer, Adam (2015). Flickering Empire: How Chicago Invented the U.S. Film Industry. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 90. ISBN 9780786407385.
- "Thomas Ricketts (advertisement)". The Moving Picture World. December 3, 1910. p. 1322. Retrieved February 8, 2016.
- "Bronze Memorial Will Mark First Hollywood Studio Site." Los Angeles Times. September 25, 1940.
- "Independent Release Dates". The Moving Picture World. December 30, 1911. p. 1104. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
- "The Best Man Wins". BFI Film & TV Database. British Film Institute. Retrieved February 6, 2016.
- Slide, Anthony (2015). Britain Comes to Hollywood and Hollywood Comes to Britain. Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 9781628460872.
- Harleman, G. P. von (March 10, 1917). "Motion Picture Studios of California". The Moving Picture World. p. 1601. Retrieved February 12, 2016.
- "Advertisement". The Moving Picture World. June 22, 1912. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
- Hirschhorn, Clive (1985) . The Universal Story. New York: Crown Publishers. ISBN 0-7064-1873-5.
- Fidler, Jimmie (January 3, 1939). "Jimmie Fidler in Hollywood". Elyria Chronicle Telegram. Elyria, Ohio.
- Ancestry.com. California, Death Index, 1905–1939 [database online]. Provo, Utah: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2013. Retrieved 2016-02-06.
- United Press (January 21, 1939). "Raft is Released After Refusal on Gigolo Role". Galveston Tribune. Galveston, Texas.
- "A Cure for Gout". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved February 6, 2016.
- "Tom Ricketts". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved February 6, 2016.
- "Damaged Goods". American Silent Feature Film Survival Database. Library of Congress. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
- "The Buzzard's Shadow". American Silent Feature Film Survival Database. Library of Congress. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
- "The House of a Thousand Scandals". American Silent Feature Film Survival Database. Library of Congress. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
- "The End of the Road". American Silent Feature Film Survival Database. Library of Congress. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
- "The Lure of the Mask". American Silent Feature Film Survival Database. Library of Congress. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
- "Secretary of Frivolous Affairs". American Silent Feature Film Survival Database. Library of Congress. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
- "The Other Side of the Door". American Silent Feature Film Survival Database. Library of Congress. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
- "The Single Code". American Silent Feature Film Survival Database. Library of Congress. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
- "Secret Marriage". American Silent Feature Film Survival Database. Library of Congress. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
- "The Crime of the Hour". American Silent Feature Film Survival Database. Library of Congress. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
- "The Old Curiosity Shop". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved February 6, 2016.
- "Flashes from the Cinema Studios". The New York Times. October 16, 1932. Retrieved February 8, 2016.
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