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William Gillette Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trivia (6)

Overview (3)

Born in Hartford, Connecticut, USA
Died in Hartford, Connecticut, USA  (pulmonary hemorrhage)
Birth NameWilliam Hooker Gillette

Mini Bio (1)

Handsome American actor, playwright and stage director/producer William Gillette was born in Hartford, CT, in 1853. His father Francis was a former United States Senator and crusader for women's suffrage and the abolition of slavery; his mother Elisabeth Daggett Hooker is a descendant of Rev. Thomas Hooker, who either wrote or inspired the first written constitution in history to form a government.

In 1873 William left Hartford to begin his apprenticeship as an actor, briefly working for a stock theatre company in New Orleans and then returning to New England. He made his debut at the Globe Theatre in Boston with Mark Twain's play "The Guilded Age" in 1875. His first major Civil War drama, "Hold by the Enemy", was a major step forward to modern theatre in that it abandoned many crude devices of Victorian melodrama and introduced realism into the sets, props, costumes, sound effects and performances; it was a critical and commercial success in America and Britain.

Gillette is probably best remembered, however, as the first actor to be universally acclaimed for portraying Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famed detective Sherlock Holmes, playing the role first on stage in 1899 and continuing for more than 35 years. He also wrote many stage versions from Doyle's Sherlock Holmes novels and even starred in the film version, Sherlock Holmes (1916), directed by Arthur Berthelet for the Essanay Film Co. He had previously appeared in two other films, his debut being in J.P. McGowan's The Battle at Fort Laramie (1913) and the following year he played support as Jack Lane in The Delayed Special (1914), both of which starred Helen Holmes and were made for the Kalem Film Co. Gillette also became popular on radio, performing the first radio serial version of Sherlock Holmes in 1930 and in 1935. His last stage appearance was in Austin Strong's "Three Wise Fools" in 1936. He wrote 13 original plays, seven adaptations and some collaborations, encompassing farce, melodrama and novel adaption. He also wrote two pieces based on the US Civil War, "Held the Ememy" and "Secret Service", which were highly acclaimed. In 1882 he married Helen Nichols, who died in 1888 from peritonitis; he never remarried.

Gillette died from pulmonary hemorrhage in Connecticut in 1937 at age 83.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Paul Rothwell-Smith (qv's & corrections by A. Nonymous)

Spouse (1)

Helen Nichols Gillette (1 June 1882 - 1 September 1888) (her death)

Trivia (6)

Cousin of writer Clare Kummer.
Was the first actor to be universally acclaimed for portraying Sherlock Holmes, having staged the first authorized play in 1899.
In one of his productions of "Sherlock Holmes," he gave a young unknown actor the supporting role of Billy, the messenger boy. That actor was the later famous comedian Charles Chaplin.
As Holmes, he smoked a curved Meerschaum pipe, rather than the more accurate straight clay pipes that Holmes always smoked in the stories. Gillette did this because it was nearly impossible for him to do believable "business" with the clay pipes. Because of this, one of the stereotypical Holmes trademarks is a Meerschaum.
His home in East Haddam, CT, is known as Gillette's Castle and is now a state park. The castle was built for him and contains many ingenious and unique items designed by him; for example, no two of the 47 interior doors are alike.
Performed his "Sherlock Holmes" character around 1,300 times.

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