Actor. He is remembered as being a prolific American actor with his roles including the first Davy Crockett to appear on the screen. Born before the American Civil War as Charles Edward Krauss, his parents were Christian Krauss and Elizabeth Bond. It is not clear the date he changed his surname to “French”. On the East coast, his acting career started on stages decades before the first films. Old theater programs document his tours for the opening in August 1893 of “Old Kentucky” in Pittsburgh; then September of 1893 in New York; in September, 1894 in St. Louis, Missouri; and last in 1905 in Chicago, Illinois. In 1902 in Philadelphia, he appeared in “Huckleberry Finn” and “Under Southern Skies. He was in a New York City theater in 1899 with “We'uns of Tennessee;” in 1904, “The Girl from Dixie;” and in 1905, “Nancy Stairs.” At nearly 50 years old, he made his first movie, “The Cord of Life” in 1909. It was an one-reel film starring D.W. Griffith; sadly this reel has been lost. Before moving to California by the end of 1909, he produced for the Bison unit of the New York Motion Pictures. He was the star and screenwriter of “Davy Crockett-In Hearts United”, which is believe to be the first Crockett film; released June 4, 1909, it was directed by Fred J. Balshofer. The same year, he also directed “Romance of a Fishermaid” and “Charmed, I'm Sure.” The next decade was busy as the assistant manager, producer, director along with being an actor with the Western unit of Pathe Studios. By 1914, he was with Kay-Bee Company making films. Toward the end of the decade, he was director and general manager for the Navajo Film Manufacturing Company and the American Film Company. He directed the film “Thoughts of Tonight” in 1915. In the 1920s he was advertising himself under “Characters” and “Heavies” in casting directories. From the 1930's through his last movie in 1945, he did free lance work for various production companies. He usually played in B Westerns often in the role of a judge, lawman, doctor, politician, or other supporting characters. Counting the uncredited roles, he appeared in nearly 250 movies between 1909 and 1945. Without his name in the credits, he became the older man in the background. His 80th birthday was celebrated on the Universal Studio lot. Appearing in the February 17, 1940 “Showmen's Trade Review,” was a short article covering the event and stated that he was the first director to come to Hollywood. He was married and was a widower three times: Helen French died 1917, Isabelle Gurton died 1928, and Doris Herbert died 1948. He had no children. Some sources state that he was an ancestor of actors Ted French and his son Victor French, but since “French” was not his actual name, that statement is false. French was a member of professional organizations: American Male Screenwriters, Male Actors from Columbus, Ohio, and American Male Silent Actors. His death certificate documented his name as “Charles Ekrauss French” instead of Charles E. Krauss French.
Bio by: Linda Davis
Emil Lewis Krauss