|Born||William John Hughes
23 August 1894
Dafen, Carmarthenshire, Wales
|Died||1 October 1965
Motion Picture Country Home, Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California
|Occupation||Stage actor, Silent Screen actor, Missionary|
Gareth Hughes (23 August 1894 – 1 October 1965) was a Welsh stage and silent screen actor. Usually cast as a callow, sensitive hero in Hollywood silent films, Hughes got his start on stage during childhood and continued to play youthful leads on Broadway.
Born William John Hughes into a working-class family in Dafen, Carmarthenshire, after undertaking some local amateur roles aged 15 he walked to London and joined a West End theatre based group of Welsh players. The group took a tour to the United States, and although not successful Hughes was spotted in New York, and left the group to take a series of minor roles on Broadway. Seen by the right people, they persuaded Hughes to get involved in the new-fangled picture business.
Hughes' earlier screen work was with Clara Kimball Young in Eyes of Youth (1919) and with Marguerite Clark in Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch (1920). He was teamed with Viola Dana in The Chorus Girl’s Romance (1920), and signed with Paramount Pictures for Sentimental Tommy (1921), the picture which attracted attention to his ability.
Even though he had already appeared in many films before this, he regarded Sentimental Tommy as his favorite and most successful. He made forty-five films from 1918 to 1931. He was also the Welsh dialect coach on The Corn Is Green (1945) starring Bette Davis. Cecil B. DeMille called him “a young idealist”, and Fulton Oursler described him as ”the charm boy to end all charm boys”.
Return to theatre
In 1929 like many others he lost his fortune in the Wall Street crash and was left penniless, but he carried on making films until 1931 when he appeared in Scarce Heads. He then decided to leave the world of film and return to theatre, which he had always been his first love. His last performance ran for 18 weeks at the Hollywood Playhouse in 1938, where he starred as Shylock in the Merchant of Venice.
In the early 1940s Hughes decided it was time to leave his full and exciting but also lavish and selfish lifestyle. Adopting the name of Brother David, in 1944 he became a missionary to the Paiute Indians on the Pyramid Lake Reservation of Nevada. Hughes spent almost 14 years with his “children” as he liked to call them.
In 1958 Hughes decided to return to Llanelli to spend his final years. But he longed for the sunshine of the West Coast, and after five months he returned to California. Later Hughes moved into the Motion Picture Country Home in Woodland Hills where he had his own cottage. He baptised silent film actress Clara Kimball Young prior to her death. He died in 1965 of complications from byssinosis, a lint-born respiratory disease he contracted from years of sorting donated clothing at Pyramid Lake, and his cremated remains were buried at the Masonic Memorial Gardens cemetery in Reno, Nevada.
In 2000 the first TV documentary on Hughes's life was produced by Nant Films in collaboration with Stephen Lyons, Hughes's biographer. The programme, in Welsh, was broadcast on S4C. In 2008, his relative Kelvin Guy made a film In Search of Gareth Hughes, which has received only limited release. It has not been broadcast and the film has not been made available for public viewing.
In 2010, a bronze plaque to Gareth's memory was mounted in Parc Howard Museum (Llanelli) by Stephen Lyons and Gareth's niece; later the same year, a blue plaque at Hughes' boyhood dwelling on Princess Street in Llanelli was unveiled by members of his family. Stephen Lyons, Llanelli Community Heritage and relative Kelvin Guy are responsible for these tributes to this star of the silent film.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gareth Hughes.|
- Gareth Hughes Site run by official biographer Stephen Lyons
- Gareth Hughes at the Internet Movie Database
- Brother David A site set up by Kelvin Guy, a relative of Gareth Hughes
- William John Hughes a Forgotten Welsh Hero Llanelli Community Heritage