Maurice Costello, of the Vitagraph Company


New York 1912. It’s rather easy to get about Brooklyn (so the inhabitants said), and I made three little journeys to the home of Maurice Costello, with the same result: “Not in.” The druggist on the corner seemed to be full of misinformation about him, but it was not until I was warming up in a nearby garage that  I got a direct clue. His hobby is automobiling. I was told, and he keeps his machine looking like an instalment piano.

As I neared his house, now grown quite familiar, from its outer side, the humgrounds, and as I entered it, I found the auto, with hood off, and engine complacently running. But Look where I could, no owner could I find.

“Can it be, I thought, “that he’s such a bug that the chatter of his engine puts him to sleep? – I’ve known such extreme cases.”

I was about to walk out when a pair of woodman’s shoes slid out from the rear axle, and wiggled violently. These were followed by a length of overalls. “That’s it! I knew it. He does sleep under it, ” my thoughts went on, and then an arm with a spanner wrench and a tousled head of hair followed, making for the open.

“Beg pardon, ” I shouted, as he sat staring at me. “Can you tell me where Mr. Costello is?”

The woolen undershirt and shock of hair came up slowly even with mine.

“He was under there some time ago.” the mechanic said, pointing to the car; “must have got lost something.”

Then his identity slowly dawned upon me.

When he had shut off the nerve.racking noise, and I had made my business plain to him, he smiled like a schoolboy. “Have a chair,” he said. “No? Oh, there aren’t any, I see. Well, climb up in the car, and let’s have our little say.”

“To begin with,” he said, “I’ve been reading your writeups in The Motion Picture Story Magazine, and cannot qualify on a lot of your pet questions; so let’s get them out of the way. I have never gone to college, haven’t any favorite flower, never did anything heroic, and know all my neighbors.”

“Thanks,” I interposed, “that’s very clear, but I’m afraid it isn’t interesting. But since you like the categorical method, suppose we commence.”

Q. Have you a nickname?

A. Yes, known everywhere as “Dimples.”

Q. It isn’t necessary to ask you how you came by this?

A. No, I was born with it.

Q. Where were you born, and when?

A. In Pittsburg, and I wasn’t old enough to remember the date, at that time.

Q. What nationality are your parents?

A. There is a good deal of misunderstanding on this point, but not on their part, for my mother is Irish, and father, Spanish-Irish.

Q. What interests you most?

A. Loving Dolores and Helen Costello.

Q. Then you are married?

At this rude question, the infernal motor started uo again, and was like to have shook me from my perch. In the interests of a lot of my young lady friends I kept the question balanced on the tip of my tongue, and when the racket subsided, put it again.

A. “I suppose I’ll save your inquiry man a lot of bother,” he said, laughingly, “if I told you, but my answer is, ‘Guess.’

I’m still guessing,

Q. Are you interested in politics?

A. Judging by my mail, I’m a leading suffragette.

Q. Do you ever personally appear before theater audiences?

A. Yes, to oblige personal friends, not otherwise.

Q. Have you ever been featured in the newspapers because of an heroic deed?

A. Certainly; I was arrested once for speeding my auto. Otherwise my heroic rôles more than satisfy me.

Q.  About how many parts have you played?

A. I should judge between four and five hundred.

Q. Can you name some Photoplays in which you think you were at your best?

A. Off-hand, I should say as Sidney Carton, in a “Tale of Two Cities,” and as St. Elmo, in the picture of that name. As Sidney Carton, the English press compared me very favorably with Martin Harvey, a creator of the rôle in regular drama.

“Tell me all about yourself, physically?” I asked.

“I am  five feet ten inches tall, and weigh one hundred and sixty pounds, tho this varies a little. In summer, we do a good deal of out-door work, and then I feel like a prince. In fact, the more I can get of life in the open, the better I like it; whether it be walking, swimming, motor-boating, or any out-door sport. Speaking of working out-of-doors, I had and experience last summer which called up all my physical fitness – and kept calling for more. We were making a picture  entitled, ‘On the Wings of Love,’ in which it was my duty to climb to the top of a thirty-foot windmill and rescue a woman supposedly in deadly peril. As a matter of fact, after I had climbed out on the frail wheel and taken her in my arms, the danger became very real, and not stage business. The iron pipe axle of the revolving wheel slowly bent, and tho I knew we were due for an ugly fall, I did not let go of her. We fell, all right – it seemed a mile. But we got off with a few nasty bruises. First time I’ve been a fallen hero.

“I am sorry to say that I am not musically gifted,” he continued; “dont sing or play, but I’m very fond of good music, and even poor music, if it’s well executed. And,” he added, “I think I like to hear the old engine singing smoothly better than anything else.

“It’s hard to give you my stage career in a few words, but I played, among others, with the Grand Opera Stock Company of Pittsburg, the Nashville, York, and Columbia Stock Companies, respectively, and here in Brooklyn with the Spooner Stock Company. Before coming to the Vitagraph Company – my only Motion Picture connection, by the way – I played in ‘Strong Heart’ with Maud Fealy.

“I would like to say that stage  art has changed very much in Motion Pictures in the past three years. Then, the principal object was to work out the plot – let the characters take care of themselves. As a result, they were all very much alike. Now that we have character parts, much more careful study is required; an ability to express the part distinctly, briefly, truly, and eloquently or with appeal. These things – and each part requires a different shading of them – I endeavor to do as well as I can; for if a man, or woman, does not take absolute and feeling interest in the work, it would show itself as poor to the most uncritical.

“I think I owe a good deal  of my success to criticism, and I feel that appreciation is hepful, too. But I want appreciation only after the sternest kind of effort – perfunctory applause does not interest me. My oldest friend, and director, Mr. Van Dyke Brooke, is, I am glad to say, my most severe critic. It was he that first showed me the possibilities of Motion Pictures, and since then we have always worked together. But I feel that his harshest criticism is his friendliest.

“What’s that? Cant use so much theory?” And here he brought the spanner down on the harmless bonnet with a thump. “Well, some day, I want to get it all down for you – an article on the Motion Picture from an actor’s standpoint. Something new, eh? I tell you, I feel a lot of things that haven’t been in print.”

(The Motion Picture Story Magazine, April 1912)

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