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 Maurice Costello

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Maurice Costello

  • Birth 22 Feb 1877 Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA
  • Death 29 Oct 1950 Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
  • Burial Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
  • Plot Section D, Lot 877, Grave 7
  • Memorial ID 5244

Actor. One of the cinema's earliest matinee idols. The son on Irish immigrants, he was born in Pittsburgh and took to performing in local vaudeville at age 17. By 1900 he was starring on Broadway in such plays as "Scotland Yard" and "The Kentucky Feud". While appearing in "The Cowboy and the Lady" (1902) he married his co-star, Mae Altschuk; they had two daughters, future actresses Helene Costello and Dolores Costello. Like most theatre performers of the time Costello considered movies a second-rate novelty, but with a family to support he found the extra income the "flickers" offered hard to resist. He made his film debut at the Edison studio in 1905 and moved to Vitagraph in 1907. Costello's distinguished presence gave considerable prestige to the new medium and he was one of the first actors to insist on screen billing. At first he specialized in Shakespearean roles and in one year (1908 to 1909) he starred in adaptations of "Richard III", "Antony and Cleopatra", "Julius Caesar", "The Merchant of Venice", "King Lear", and "A Midsummer Night's Dream". He then broadened his range to take in contemporary melodrama and sophisticated comedy, and later directed his films as well. But his forte remained the literary costume drama. His biggest hit was a three-reel version of "A Tale of Two Cities" (1911), in which he played Sydney Carton. Nicknamed "Dimples" by his colleagues, Costello was adored by early moviegoers. He won the cinema's first-ever popularity poll, conducted by Motion Picture Story magazine in 1912, with more than 400,000 votes cast in his favor; the results are rather suspect, however, since the magazine was owned by his home studio, Vitagraph. In 1915 he had a Broadway theatre named for him, an unheard-of honor for a movie star. Regrettably, success went to his head and he was known for playing as hard as he worked. He later recalled, "I had wealth and a volume of fan mail arriving daily - love notes, mash notes, telegrams asking appointments, telephone calls, gifts, flowers, offers of marriage, everything. I could not help it". Costello's philandering and drinking caused Mae to leave him in 1910 (though they did not divorce until 1927). Soon after completing a film called "The Man Who Couldn't Beat God" (1915), he suffered a nervous breakdown and was absent from the screen for a year. When he returned, suddenly aged and surrounded by bad publicity over his private affairs, he was demoted to supporting parts. By 1921 Costello was being referred to in the trade papers as an "old-timer", and with talkies he was seen only in occasional bit parts. Having squandered over $1 million during his salad days, Costello unsuccessfully sued daughter Dolores for support in 1938. A charitable Hollywood organization finally sponsored his admission to the Motion Picture Country Home in 1946. At his death he left his children $1 each.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 29 Apr 1999
  • Find A Grave Memorial 5244
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Maurice Costello (22 Feb 1877–29 Oct 1950), Find A Grave Memorial no. 5244, citing Calvary Cemetery, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .