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George K. Arthur Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (2)  | Trivia (4)

Overview (4)

Born in Littlehampton, Sussex, England, UK
Died in New York City, New York, USA
Birth NameArthur George Brest
Height 5' 6" (1.68 m)

Mini Bio (1)

The son of a travelling salesman and a department store merchandise demonstrator, Arthur was obliged to fend for himself from an early age, selling newspapers and working at starvation wages for a condiment manufacturer. Although underage, he escaped from this life by joining the Bugle Corps at the outset of World War One. His experience in army shows as a comedian and singer encouraged him to try for an acting career.

Again a civilian, Arthur took advantage of a government program to enroll at a dramatic school run by the wife of prominent Shakespearian actor/producer Sir Frank Benson. Deciding to adopt a stage name, he simply reversed his first and middle names, adding a meaningless initial 'K' in order to distinguish himself from another George Arthur. He made his professional debut as a spear-carrier in a production at the Memorial Theatre at Stratford-on-Avon, and soon was playing minor parts in Benson's West End Shakespearian productions.

Learning that American film director Harold M. Shaw was in London planning a cinematic adaptation of the novel "Kipps" by H.G. Wells, Arthur, with characteristic brashness and skillful self-promotion, managed to persuade Shaw that he was perfect for the title role - as indeed he was. Even before its release it was apparent to all that the film would be a hit, and Arthur found himself in demand as a film actor, and in a position to hobnob with visiting celebrities like Charles Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks.

The success of Kipps (1921) led to two films with visiting American star Mae Marsh and dreams of Hollywood. Leaving behind a newly-acquired wife (Milba Lloyd, later employed by Cecil B. DeMille in his art department), Arthur sailed to America and was received with profound indifference by American film makers. Arthur turned to Chaplin for help, and the latter found him a role in a John Gilbert film at Fox. Arthur was then able to persuade director James Cruze to give him a prominent part in his all-star production of Hollywood (1923), today one of the most eagerly sought-after 'lost' films of the silent era.

A five-year contract with producer Pat Powers in his pocket, Arthur was convinced that he was firmly established in Hollywood as a light comedian / juvenile, and brought the rest of his family over from England. Within a few months Powers's venture collapsed, and Arthur was reduced to operating a grocery store and remodelling houses to eke out a living. Having long nurtured plans of producing a film of his own, he managed to bluff his way into obtaining sufficient money to finance an ultra-low budget production. He turned to would-be director Josef von Sternberg to helm the film, and with a script by the latter and a largely non-professional cast, The Salvation Hunters (1925) was made. Arthur screened the film for Chaplin, who showed it to Pickford and Fairbanks, and it was decided that United Artists would distribute it. A critical success, Sternberg's career was launched, and Arthur obtained a contract with MGM.

Arthur now enjoyed his best days as a film actor. Separated from his first wife, he romanced Renée Adorée and Jean Arthur, and was a frequent visitor to San Simeon. MGM paired Arthur with Karl Dane in a very successful series of light comedies, which ended when the advent of sound revealed Dane's thick accent. The team was able to keep going for a while in vaudeville and short films for RKO and Paramount, and Arthur tried his hand as a singer / composer and novelist, but by 1933 he was pretty much desperate for work. He was able to obtain bit parts at MGM, but focussed his attention on a new career as theatrical producer. He opened a short-lived Grand Guignol theatre in Hollywood, followed by a much more ambitious venture in partnership with E.E. Clive, but after a final film appearance in Vanessa, Her Love Story (1935), he wound up working as a film salesman in Michigan, and then as a theatrical reviewer on Station WQXR. He also published a not-very-successful magazine guide to New York theatre and night life.

Following Pearl Harbor, Arthur, now a US citizen, joined the Air Force as a private. Shortly before being shipped overseas, he married again. He spent the war years organising shows for the troops.

On his return Arthur tried to revive his magazine, with little success. Once again he reinvented himself, this time as a producer and distributor of short films for television. This provided him with a comfortable living into the 1960s.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Richard Kukan

Spouse (2)

Milba Lloyd (? - ?)
Elaine (? - ?)

Trivia (4)

He and Karl Dane formed the early comedy team "Arthur and Dane".
Biography in: "Who's Who in Comedy" by Ronald L. Smith. pg. 28-29 (article titled 'Arthur and Dane'). New York: Facts on File, 1992. ISBN 0816023387
Arthur bequeathed his papers to Columbia University. Among these is said to be an unfinished autobiography.
According to the "Marriages Registered in July, August, and September, 1922" found in Ancestry.com, Milba Lloyd married Arthur G. Brest in the Marylebone Registration District in Middlesex, England.

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