Maurice Costello, where to start? There are a lots of interesting facts about this guy, the one they called Dimples!
Maurice George Costello was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on February 22, 1877. His parents are commonly regarded as Irish immigrants, but in the interview featured today, he specifies that his father is Spanish-Irish.
Tangent: I love reading these little interviews and tidbits from the actual time that things were happening. You can google and google all you want, but due to ‘common knowledge’ some of the actual facts get distorted. Yes, there were times that the interview facts were made up by the author of the article, but you can usually tell the difference. :End Tangent
He played on the stage for years before his film debut in 1905, which just happened to be the first true Sherlock Holmes film!
Here is a short background of his theater work, according to a caption paragraph on page 114 of the February 1911 edition of Motion Picture Story Magazine,
Maurice Costello, whose work as a local favorite for many years in Spooner’s stock company, the American stock company, at the Columbia Theatre, the Yorkville stock company of Manhattan and Boyle’s stock company of Nashville, Tenn., has brought him into eminence as a leading man both in juvenile and heavy characters, has distinguished himself as a star and feature of the “life portrayals” which have made him known in all quarters of the globe.
His characterizations always show a masterful appreciation of the requirements that bear the impress of genius peculiar to the moving picture star; noticeable instances of which are seen in his portrayals of the actor in “Through the Darkness,” “Orestes,” “Electra,” and “St. Elmo” in the “life portrayal” of the same name. He will perform a most wonderful impersonation of Sydney Carton in the production of “The Tale of Two Cities,” which is in process of construction.”
So, in 1902, he married Mae Altschuk (aka Mae Costello). They had 2 girls, Helene and Dolores Costello, who both became movie stars! That’s not the end of the famous family credits, because Dolores married John Barrymore, and they eventually became the grandparents of Drew Barrymore! So let’s just put this in a nutshell-Maurice Costello is the great grandfather of Drew Barrymore. Oh, my goodness, if your head is not reeling after trying to understand the family tree of the great Barrymores, then hats off to you, because I can’t stay sane after that.
So at the point that this interview was published, it was April 1912, Maurice Costello was a extremely well known figure in the film acting world. He had been married 9 years, and had 2 little girls, an almost 6 and an almost 9 year old. He has had major success, and is loved by all. Oh, and the Titanic sunk the month this article was published. Chew on that for a moment.
He was a cutie. In this picture, at least. I haven’t really found a better picture than this, Dimples, in his heyday.
Chats with the Players
MAURICE COSTELLO, OF THE VITAGRAPH COMPANY
If all I have been told by travelers in the Orient is gospel, trying to interview a famous picture player is about as discouraging as permission to salaam or kowtow, as etiquette may be, to the Gaikwar of Baroda or the Sublime Fuzzy of Bing.
It isn’t that the actors and actresses are stand-offish or reticent, when once you have crab-netted them. Not at all; I have always found them courteous, painstaking, and friendly to an interviewer. But the trouble lies in bearding one in his lair, or in catching her when her “Marcel” waves like the ocean.
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 humming of a motor sang to me hopefully. The sound came from a private garage in the grounds, 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 come up slowly even with mine.
“He was under there some time ago,” the mechanic said, pointing to the car; “must have got lost or 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 i 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 aything heroic, and known 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 up 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 roles 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 role 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 an 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 y 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 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 character 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 helpful, 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? Can’t 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 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.”