Tom Ricketts: Actor (1853 - 1939) | Biography
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Tom Ricketts

Tom Ricketts

Tom Ricketts
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Actor
Was Actor Screenwriter Film director
From United Kingdom
Field Film, TV, Stage & Radio
Gender male
Birth 15 January 1853, London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
Death 20 January 1939, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California (aged 86 years)
Tom Ricketts
The details (from wikipedia)


Thomas B. Ricketts (January 15, 1853 – January 19, 1939), often credited as Tom Ricketts, was an English stage and film actor and director who was a pioneer in the film industry. He portrayed Ebenezer Scrooge in the first American film adaptation of A Christmas Carol (1908), and directed one of the first motion pictures ever made in Hollywood. After directing scores of silent films, including the first film to be released by Universal Pictures, Ricketts became a prominent character actor.


Thomas Ricketts in 1914

Thomas B. Ricketts was born in London January 15, 1853, and began his career on the stage. When he was 17 years old he emigrated to the United States, and directed plays on Broadway for Charles Frohman. He was a stage manager for the Shubert family, sang baritone with the Carleton Opera Company, and starred in his own play, Henri Duvar.

In 1906, after he had been with the Shuberts for four years, Ricketts was persuaded by a friend to join Essanay Studios in Chicago. He played Scrooge in A Christmas Carol (1908), the first American film adaption of the Dickens classic, then starred in The Old Curiosity Shop (1909). When Ricketts said he had toured with a comedy he had written, A Cure for Gout, the company asked him to make a 600-foot film of it—the length limit for a comedy at that time.

Ricketts became a director, taking over comedies and melodramas from Broncho Billy Anderson, who in turn took over Westerns. Ethel Clayton, Jack Conway, J. Warren Kerrigan and Bryant Washburn were among Ricketts's discoveries—along with Josephine Ditt, "the best-dressed woman on the screen", to whom Ricketts was married. Chief dramatic and general producer for two years at Essanay, he helped organize the American Film Manufacturing Company in 1910. He made six films for the Flying "A" before withdrawing and seeking another opportunity.

Thomas Ricketts (front row, right) in a group photo with the Nestor Motion Picture Company (1911)

In 1911 Ricketts moved to California, together with Canadian film pioneer Al Christie, with thoughts of creating a new film company. "We arrived in Los Angeles with no idea of where to establish our studio," Ricketts remembered. "A real estate man who happened to overhear our discussion of a studio site suggested Hollywood. The next day we found our way out to Sunset and Gower, to a defunct roadhouse. The owner, a woman, wanted $60 a month rent for the entire block. We thought it was too much, but we signed a lease." The Nestor Film Company opened its studio October 27, 1911.

Ricketts directed one of the first Hollywood-made motion pictures, The Best Man Wins (1911), photographed by Charles Rosher. Its stars were juvenile leading man Harold Lockwood, ingenue Dorothy Davenport, vamp Josephine Ditt, juvenile ingenue Victoria Forde, male heavy Gordon Sackville, and character actresses Eugenie Forde and Alice Davenport. Allan Dwan was Ricketts's assistant.

Nestor made between 50 and 60 films—half of them directed by Ricketts—over the next 18 months. On May 20, 1912, the company merged with the Universal Film Manufacturing Company, Nestor's distributor beginning with The Dawn of Netta (1912), directed by Ricketts.

In 1914, on an independent contract, Ricketts directed Richard Bennett in Damaged Goods. When flower girls were needed for a wedding scene, Bennett's three daughters—Joan Bennett, Constance Bennett and Barbara Bennett—began their film careers. "Its success made me a little egotistical," Ricketts recalled. "It cost about $25,000 to make and brought in a million and a half on its first run. I naturally thought it would put me in great demand as a director. But it didn't. I had to start all over again, this time going back to my old trade as an actor."

Returning to acting in 1919, in his mid-60s, Ricketts was almost always in demand for character parts. By 1935 he was described as "white-haired and bent with age … content with an occasional film role". His later films included Top Hat (1935), After the Thin Man (1936), Pennies from Heaven (1936), The Young in Heart (1938) and Son of Frankenstein (1939). He was regarded as the oldest working actor in Hollywood.

Ricketts died at Hollywood Hospital January 19, 1939, aged 86, of pneumonia, contracted the previous week when he went to work at Universal Studios despite a cold. "Mr. Ricketts left no funds," reported The New York Times, "and expenses of his funeral will be paid by the Motion Picture Relief Society." Josephine Ricketts, hospitalized in Santa Monica since suffering a stroke at Christmas, was not informed of her husband's death; it was reported that she would be told sometime before his funeral. Ricketts was buried in an unmarked grave at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Select filmography


Still from The Best Man Wins (1911)
Herald for Damaged Goods (1914)
Ad for The House of a Thousand Scandals (1915)
Year Title Notes
1909 Cure for Gout, AA Cure for Gout
1909 Game, TheThe Game
1909 Gratitude
1909 Justified
1909 Maud Muller
1909 Woman's Wit, AA Woman's Wit
1910 Adventuress, TheThe Adventuress
1910 Advertisement Answered, AnAn Advertisement Answered
1910 Fair Exchange, AA Fair Exchange
1910 Hand of Uncle Sam, TheThe Hand of Uncle Sam
1910 His Only Child
1910 Lure of the City, TheThe Lure of the City
1910 Stolen Fortune, TheThe Stolen Fortune
1910 Thief, TheThe Thief
1910 Vera, the Gypsy Girl
1911 Best Man Wins, TheThe Best Man Wins First motion picture made in Hollywood
1912 Dawn of Netta, TheThe Dawn of Netta First film distributed by Universal Pictures
1914 Damaged Goods
1915 Buzzard's Shadow, TheThe Buzzard's Shadow
1915 House of a Thousand Scandals, TheThe House of a Thousand Scandals
1915 End of the Road, TheThe End of the Road
1915 Lure of the Mask, TheThe Lure of the Mask
1915 Secretary of Frivolous Affairs
1915 Wily Chaperon, TheThe Wily Chaperon
1916 Other Side of the Door, TheThe Other Side of the Door
1916 Single Code, TheThe Single Code
1916 Secret Marriage
1918 Crime of the Hour, TheThe Crime of the Hour


Forrest Stanley, Vivian Martin and Tom Ricketts in His Official Fiancée (1919)
Clara Bow, Kate Lester and Tom Ricketts in Black Oxen (1923)
Year Title Role Notes
1908 Christmas Carol, AA Christmas Carol Ebenezer Scrooge
1909 Old Curiosity Shop, TheThe Old Curiosity Shop
1919 Girls Mr. Dennett
1919 His Official Fiancée Major Montressor
1919 Please Get Married Dr. Jenkins
1920 All of a Sudden Peggy Major Archie Phipps
1920 Desperate Hero, TheThe Desperate Hero Butler
1920 Great Lover, TheThe Great Lover Potter
1920 Paliser Case, TheThe Paliser Case Major Archie Phipps
1920 Parish Priest, TheThe Parish Priest Dr. Thomas Cassidy
1920 Spenders, TheThe Spenders Mr. Milbrey
1920 Willow Tree, TheThe Willow Tree The Priest
1921 Beating the Game Jules Fanchette
1922 Killer, TheThe Killer Tim Westmore
1921 Sham Uncle James
1922 Eternal Flame, TheThe Eternal Flame Vidame de Pameir
1922 Fools of Fortune Milton DePuyster
1922 Lavender Bath Lady, TheThe Lavender Bath Lady Simon Gregory
1922 Putting It Over Arnold Norton
1922 Shattered Idols The Reverend Doctor Romney
1922 Tailor-Made Man, AA Tailor-Made Man Anton Huber
1923 Alice Adams J. A. Lamb
1923 Black Oxen Charles Dinwiddie
1923 Dangerous Maid, TheThe Dangerous Maid John Standish Lane
1923 Strangers of the Night Lush
1923 Within the Law General Hastings
1924 Cheap Kisses The Old Man
1924 Circe the Enchantress Archibald Crumm
1924 Gaiety Girl, TheThe Gaiety Girl His Grace, the Duke
1925 Bobbed Hair Mr. Brewster
1925 Business of Love, TheThe Business of Love Noah Burgess
1925 Fate of a Flirt, TheThe Fate of a Flirt Uncle John Burgess
1925 Fight to the Finish, AA Fight to the Finish Cyrus J. Davis
1925 Girl Who Wouldn't Work, TheThe Girl Who Wouldn't Work The Rounder
1925 My Wife and I Valet
1925 Never the Twain Shall Meet Andrew J. Casson
1925 Oh Doctor! Mr. Peck
1925 Sealed Lips Joseph Howard
1925 Secrets of the Night Jerry Hammond
1925 Steppin' Out Henry Brodman
1925 Wages for Wives Judge McLean
1925 Was It Bigamy? Judge Gaynor
1925 When Husbands Flirt Wilbur Belcher
1926 Belle of Broadway, TheThe Belle of Broadway
1926 Cat's Pajamas, TheThe Cat's Pajamas Mr. Briggs
1926 Dancing Days Stubbins
1926 Going the Limit Mortimer Harden
1926 Ladies at Play Deacon Ezra Boody
1926 Ladies of Leisure Wadleigh
1926 Lily, TheThe Lily Jean
1926 Love's Blindness Marquis of Hurlshire
1926 Nut-Cracker, TheThe Nut-Cracker Isaac Totten
1926 Old Soak, TheThe Old Soak Roué
1926 Poker Faces Henry Curlew
1926 Stranded in Paris Herr Rederson
1926 When the Wife's Away
1927 Broadway Madness Lawrence Compton
1927 Children of Divorce Secretary
1927 In a Moment of Temptation Timothy Gage
1927 My Friend from India Judge Belmore
1927 Sailor's Sweetheart, AA Sailor's Sweetheart Professor Meekham
1927 Too Many Crooks Butler
1927 Venus of Venice Bride's father
1928 Dry Martini Joseph
1928 Five and Ten Cent Annie Adam Peck
1928 Freedom of the Press Wicks
1928 Interference Charles Smith
1928 Just Married Makepeace Witter
1928 Law and the Man Quintus Newton
1929 Glad Rag Doll, TheThe Glad Rag Doll Admiral
1929 Light Fingers Edward Madison
1929 Red Hot Speed
1930 Prince of Diamonds Williams
1930 Sea Legs Commander
1930 Vagabond King, TheThe Vagabond King Astrologer
1931 Ambassador Bill Littleton
1931 Man of the World Mr. Bradkin
1931 Side Show Tom Allison
1931 Surrender Gottleib
1932 Farewell to Arms, AA Farewell to Arms Count Greffi
1932 He Learned About Women
1932 If I Had a Million Guest at Mrs. Walker's dance
1932 Stepping Sisters "Stock Market"
1932 Thrill of Youth Grandpa Thayer
1933 Eleventh Commandment, TheThe Eleventh Commandment Henry
1933 Forgotten Old crony
1933 Good-bye Love Alimony jail inmate
1933 Mama Loves Papa Mr. Pierrepont
1933 Power and the Glory, TheThe Power and the Glory
1933 Women Won't Tell
1934 Broadway Bill Johnson
1934 Count of Monte Cristo, TheThe Count of Monte Cristo Cockeye
1934 Curtain Falls, TheThe Curtain Falls Hotel manager
1934 In Love with Life Bookstore proprietor
1934 Forsaking All Others Wiffens
1934 Friends of Mr. Sweeney Old gentleman
1934 It Happened One Night Prissy old man
1934 Man Who Reclaimed His Head, TheThe Man Who Reclaimed His Head Curly
1934 Manhattan Love Song Rich man
1934 No Greater Glory Old janitor
1934 One More River Barrister and clerk
1934 Pursued Tourist
1934 Sons of Steel Williams
1934 Springtime for Henry Bookstore clerk
1934 Stolen Sweets Stoner
1934 Viva Villa! Grandee
1934 Whom the Gods Destroy Charlie
1935 Clive of India Old member
1935 Cardinal Richelieu Agitator
1935 Escapade Old dandy
1935 George White's 1935 Scandals Old man
1935 Goin' to Town Eligible bachelor
1935 Great Impersonation, TheThe Great Impersonation Villager
1935 Hi, Gaucho! Don Salvador
1935 Let's Live Tonight Millionaire
1935 Music Is Magic Dancer, elderly man
1935 Now or Never
1935 Public Menace, TheThe Public Menace Old man
1935 Tale of Two Cities, AA Tale of Two Cities Tellson, Jr.
1935 Top Hat Thackeray Club waiter
1935 Vagabond Lady Department head
1936 Case Against Mrs. Ames, TheThe Case Against Mrs. Ames Juryman
1936 Crime of Dr. Forbes, TheThe Crime of Dr. Forbes Faculty doctor
1936 Daniel Boone Attorney General's associate
1936 Show Boat Minister
1936 Gold Diggers of 1937 Reginald
1936 Little Lord Fauntleroy Partygoer
1936 Gentle Julia Old man at dance
1936 Human Cargo Reporter
1936 After the Thin Man Henry, the butler
1936 To Mary - with Love Waiter
1936 More Than a Secretary Henry
1936 Pennies from Heaven Mr. Briggs
1936 Song and Dance Man Old theatrical couple
1936 We Went to College Pop
1937 Born Reckless Patient
1937 Maid of Salem Giles Cory
1937 Star Is Born, AA Star Is Born Servant
1937 Lady Escapes, TheThe Lady Escapes Uncle George
1937 Prince and the Pauper, TheThe Prince and the Pauper Sexton
1937 Toast of New York, TheThe Toast of New York Member of the board of directors
1937 Personal Property Elderly man
1937 Parnell Elderly man
1937 Rhythm in the Clouds Winter
1938 Young in Heart, TheThe Young in Heart Andrew
1938 Bluebeard's Eighth Wife Uncle Andre
1938 Baroness and the Butler, TheThe Baroness and the Butler Old man
1938 Young Fugitives Tom Riggins
1938 Gateway Old man
1938 Four Men and a Prayer Station master
1939 Son of Frankenstein Burgher
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