King of the Movies (ebook)

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KING OF THE MOVIES: FRANCIS X. BUSHMAN by Lon and Debra Davis

Francis X. Bushman had a life like no other.

Most people remember him today as the villain, Messala, in the first full-length version of Ben-Hur (1925), but he had been in hundreds of silent movies before.

He was the screen's first great romantic idol in more than 300 silent films made at Essanay in Chicago, Illinois. He went from being a bodybuilder and an artist's model to a Broadway and stock company actor. He was a husband (four times), a father (six times), and a dog breeder. He signed with Metro Pictures, the forerunner of MGM, and embarked on a lucrative career as one of Hollywood’s A-list stars in an era characterized by Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, and Lon Chaney, but then his affair with actress Beverly Bayne became known by the public, and his carrier toppled. He was allegedly blacklisted by Louis B. Mayer at MGM.

He transitioned to talkies, but an equally prominent career in sound films eluded him. He found work during the Great Depression as a businessman, a songwriter, a Vaudeville headliner, and an Old Time Radio performer on the CBS Radio network's long-running dramatic soap opera serial entitled Those We Love with Robert Cummings.

In later years, he made guest appearances on television, playing roles on Peter Gunn, Make Room for Daddy, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, and Dr. Kildare. In 1956, Bushman appeared in a Burns and Allen episode where he played himself. He made three guest appearances on Perry Mason, and he appeared in two science fiction films, 12 to the Moon (1960) released by Columbia Pictures and The Phantom Planet (1961) released by American International Pictures. He also appeared as a villain in two episodes of the Batman television series (1966).

He lived an exaggerated life, both as a free-spending multi-millionaire star and a bankrupt has-been. After all the accolades and criticisms, he was that rare kind of man who had no regrets.

Lon Davis and Debra Davis’ richly researched book features many photographs and illustrations that capture the glamour and excitement of Hollywood ’s Golden Years. 368 pages, including a Filmography.