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William Farnum (July 4, 1876 – June 5, 1953) was an American stage and film actor. He was a star of American silent film cinema and became one of the highest-paid actors during that time.

William Farnum
William Farnum.jpg
Farnum in 1917
Born(1876-07-04)July 4, 1876
DiedJune 5, 1953(1953-06-05) (aged 76)
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
Years active1900–1952
Spouse(s)Mabel Eaton (divorced)
Olive White (1906-1931 divorced, 1 child)
Isabelle Major (1932-1953, his death, 3 children)


One of three brothers, Farnum grew up in a family of actors. He made his acting debut at the age of ten in Richmond, Virginia in a production of Julius Caesar, with Edwin Booth playing the title character.

His first major success was as the title character of Ben-Hur in 1900 though replacing the original actor Edward Morgan who premiered the character in 1899. Later plays Farnum appeared in were the costume epic The Prince of India (1906), The White Sister (1909) starring Viola Allen, The Littlest Rebel (1911) co-starring his brother Dustin and a child actress named Mary Miles Minter (then nine years old) and Arizona (1913) with Dustin and stage beauty Elsie Ferguson. In The Spoilers in 1914, Farnum and Tom Santschi staged a classic movie fight which lasted for a full reel. In 1930, Farnum and Santschi coached Gary Cooper and William Boyd in the fight scene for the 1930 version of The Spoilers. Other actors influenced by the Farnum/Santschi scene were Milton Sills and Noah Beery in 1923 and Randolph Scott and John Wayne in 1942.[1]

From 1915 to 1952, Farnum devoted his life to motion pictures. While becoming one of the biggest sensations in Hollywood, he also became one of the highest-paid actors, earning $10,000 a week. Farnum's silent pictures: the western Drag Harlan (1920) and the drama-adventure If I Were King (1921) survive from his years contracted to Fox Films.

Personal lifeEdit

Married three times, Farnum had a daughter, Sara Adele, with his second wife, Olive White. He had three children with his third wife, Isabelle, named Isabelle, Elizabeth, and William Farnum Jr.[2]

Farnum died from uremia and cancer on June 5, 1953 at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital.[3][4] He is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.[5]

On February 8, 1960, Farnum received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to the motion pictures industry at 6322 Hollywood Boulevard.[6][7]

He was the younger brother of major film actor Dustin Farnum. He had another brother, Marshall Farnum, who was a silent film director who died in 1917.


William Farnum at a piano in 1915
The Man Hunter (1919)




  1. ^ Griffith, Richard, &Arthur Mayer, The Movies (Bonanza Books, 1957), pp. 98-99
  2. ^ "The Times-News - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 2016-06-26.
  3. ^ "The Evening Gazette - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 2016-06-26.
  4. ^ "The Times-News - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 2016-06-26.
  5. ^ Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries
  6. ^ "William Farnum | Hollywood Walk of Fame". Retrieved 2016-06-26.
  7. ^ "William Farnum". Retrieved 2016-06-26.
  8. ^ Wenzell, Nicolette (April 3, 2016). "1919 movie 'The Lone Star Ranger' shot in Palm Springs". The Desert Sun. Gannett.

External linksEdit