William Duncan (actor)

William Duncan (December 16, 1879 – February 7, 1961), born in Dundee, Scotland was an actor, producer, writer, and director of film serials. He was a leading star, becoming one of the highest paid actors in the early film industry. Many of the films he starred in did not survive to the present day.[1] Duncan, who was Hollywood's first Scottish movie star, worked with the major studios of the day including the Selig Polyscope Company and Vitagraph.

William Duncan
The Silent Avenger (1920) - 1.jpg
Duncan in 1920
BornDecember 16, 1879
DiedFebruary 7, 1961(1961-02-07) (aged 81)
Resting placeInglewood Park Cemetery
Film director
Years active1911 - 1940
Spouse(s)Edith Johnson
(married 1921–1961)


Born in the Lochee area of Dundee in 1879,[1] Duncan came to the United States in 1890. He played football and participated in track at the University of Pennsylvania but left after two years. He worked as physical director at the McFadden Physical Culture Health Home and wrote for a magazine about physical culture. He also operated a gymnasium in Philadelphia and was a professional wrestler. Duncan debuted in vaudeville in 1906, after which he acted in stock theater companies in Memphis, Tennessee; Rochester, New York; and Philadelphia.[2]

He had a role in hundreds of serial episodes in a career spanning from 1911 to 1940, many of them Westerns. When William Duncan joined Vitagraph, his contract was worth $1,000,000 a year, which made him better paid than Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. Mr. Duncan is interred at Inglewood Park Cemetery, Inglewood, California, USA. He appeared in films with Olympic swimmer Buster Crabbe (who played Flash Gordon in the 1930s).[1]


His second wife was silent film actress Edith Johnson who sometimes costarred with him on screen. He and his wife had two sons and one daughter. The couple remained married until Duncan's death in 1961.[3]

Selected filmographyEdit

The Man of Might (1919)


  1. ^ a b c Ferguson, Brian (March 9, 2019). "Dundee honours William Duncan, Hollywood's first Scottish star". The Scotsman. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  2. ^ Katchmer, George A. (2015). A Biographical Dictionary of Silent Film Western Actors and Actresses. McFarland. p. 102. ISBN 978-1-4766-0905-8. Retrieved January 28, 2020.
  3. ^ King, Brian (21 April 2011). Understanding Dundee. Black and White Publishing. ISBN 9781845028466. Retrieved 25 July 2019.

External linksEdit