Theodore Roberts

Theo Roberts
10/8/1861 - 12/14/1928

Theodore Roberts was a prominent stage and film actor whose career spanned from the 1880's to the 1920's. Roberts was born to Mary E. and Martin R. Roberts in San Francisco on October 8th, 1861. As a boy, Roberts was educated in public schools, and went on to attend the University of California, participating in amateur dramatics in his spare time and working as an usher at San Francisco's Baldwin Theatre.

Roberts' first appearance onstage occurred on May 1st, 1880, when he played the part of Baradas in a production of "Richelieu" performed as a benefit for James O'Neill. Roberts then spent one year with the Baldwin stock company and then joined Robson and Crane, joining them for their 1881-2 tour of the country. In 1883 Roberts joined the Nellie Boyd Dramatic Company, and traveled the western states for the next three years headlining in melodrama and comedies. On December 1st in 1884 on the opening night of the Frye Opera House, Roberts played "John Middleton, a self-made man" in the Nellie Boyd Dramatic Company production of "Forget Me Not." After his stint with Boyd's company, Roberts took a two-year break from acting to go sailing, returning to the stage in 1888 to play a supporting role in Fanny Davenport's production of "La Tosca." Roberts headlined in Davenport's productions until 1893, when he accepted the role of a Native American Sky Brow in the New York Empire Theatre's production of "The Girl I left Behind Me." From then on Roberts played the role of a Native American in many productions, and appeared in productions of "Arizona" both in the the United States and in England.

In July of 1890, Roberts married Miss Clyde O'Brien, known onstage as Clyde Harron. Roberts moved from stage to film acting relatively late in life in his fifties, appearing as Simon Legree in the silent film version of "Uncle Tom's Cabin." In 1914 he began appearing in many Jesse L. Lasky Feature Company Productions, and became very well-known for his cigar smoking as well as his character acting, almost always playing roles of powerful patriarchs, monarchs, and leaders. He was well received by the fledging film industry, which gave him the nickname of "the grand duke of Hollywood."

Roberts then became associated with Cecil B. DeMille, and appeared in 23 of his films. In 1923, he starred as Moses in DeMille's 1923 "The Ten Commandments," and reportedly cut a hole in his false beard in order to facilitate his cigar smoking (Culltion, 2016). Roberts was one of the early members of the Academy, and was one of the first silent film stars to successfully transition to "talkie" films. Roberts continued acting into his sixties when his health began to fail. Roberts died of uremic poisoning on December 14, 1928 at the age of 67 in Hollywood.

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John Middleton in Forget Me Not
Browne, Walter . Who's Who on the Stage: The Dramatic Reference Book and Biographical Dictionary of the Theatre, Containing Records of the Careers of Actors, Actresses, Managers and Playwrights of the American Stage. New York: Dodge, 1908. Print., Culltion, Joseph. "Theodore Roberts". (2016) The Life and Times of Joseph Haworth. web., Seattle Daily Times, 22 Sep. 1911, p.8,