|Born||Robert Emmett Harron
April 12, 1893
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||September 5, 1920
Manhattan, New York City, New York, U.S.
|Cause of death||Self-inflicted gunshot wound (accident)|
|Resting place||Calvary Cemetery|
|Other names||Bobby Harron|
|Relatives||John Harron (brother)
Mary Harron (sister)
Robert Emmett "Bobby" Harron (April 12, 1893 – September 5, 1920) was an American motion picture actor of the early silent film era. Although he acted in over 200 films, he is known for his roles in the D.W. Griffith directed films The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916).
Early life and career
Born in New York City, Harron was second oldest child of nine siblings in a poor, working-class Irish Catholic family. He attended the Christian Brothers school in Greenwich Village and beginning at the age of thirteen found work as a messenger boy for American Biograph Studios to help support his family. Within a year of working for Biograph, Harron and Christian Brothers friend and classmate James Smith were noticed by newly hired director D.W. Griffith who put both young boys under contract and the pair began appearing in bit parts for the studio. His first film was the now lost 1907 Biograph short Bobby's Kodak. Harron quickly became a favorite of Griffith and Griffith began to give the 14-year-old increasingly larger film roles.
The teenaged Harron was often cast by Griffith in the role of the "sensitive" and "naïve" boy, who was overwhelmingly sympathetic and appealing to American film-goers in the very early years of American motion pictures and not far removed from Harron's real-life persona; Harron was often described as a quiet and soft-spoken youth. It was these traits that helped garner much public interest in the young actor, especially amongst young female fans. In 1912 alone, Robert Harron appeared in nearly forty films at Biograph.
Harron is probably best recalled for his roles in the three epic Griffith films: 1914's Judith of Bethulia, opposite Blanche Sweet, Mae Marsh, Henry B. Walthall and Dorothy and Lillian Gish, 1915's controversial all-star cast The Birth of a Nation, and 1916's colossal multi-scenario Intolerance opposite such popular stars of the era Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh, Miriam Cooper, Wallace Reid, Harold Lockwood, Carol Dempster and Mildred Harris. One of Harron's most popular roles of the era came in 1919 when he starred opposite Lillian Gish in the Griffith directed romantic film True Heart Susie.
Robert Harron's film career continued to flourish throughout the 1910s and he was occasionally paired with leading actresses Mae Marsh and Lillian Gish with romantic plots, often in roles that cemented his "sensitive boy" image. Harron had, in fact, a burgeoning off-screen romantic relationship with Dorothy Gish.
In 1920, D. W. Griffith cast Richard Barthelmess to star in Way Down East, and Harron signed a production deal with Metro Pictures. His first film for Metro, also the last film of his career, called Coincidence, was finished and then released the next year in 1921. Harron traveled from Los Angeles to New York by train to support Lillian Gish at the film premiere of Way Down East. He checked into the Hotel Seymour on September 1. He was also there for a preview of Coincidence and was sharing the hotel room with director Victor Heerman, who attended the preview and said it did not go very well.
While Harron was alone in his hotel room on September 1, a gun in his possession discharged and wounded him. According to published reports, Harron had a gun in a trunk along with other possessions. As he took some clothes out the trunk, the gun fell to the floor and discharged hitting him in the chest. He called the hotel desk for assistance and was still conscious when the hotel manager came to his room. Not realizing he was seriously wounded, Harron joked with the manager that he was in a "devil of a fix" having shot himself. Harron initially refused to let the manager call an ambulance, only wanting to be examined by a local physician. After a physician could not be found, Harron agreed to allow the manager to call an ambulance. Harron then insisted that he not be taken down by stretcher, but a chair. As Harron had lost a considerable amount of blood, he was finally convinced to be taken downstairs on a stretcher.
Harron was taken to Bellevue Hospital Center. While he was being treated, Harron was arrested for possessing a firearm without a permit under the Sullivan Act. On September 5, 1920, Harron died of his wound.
Even before his death, there were rumors that Harron's death was not accidental and that he had attempted suicide. There was speculation that he was despondent over being passed over for a leading role by Griffith or over the breakup of his relationship with Dorothy Gish. Victor Heerman, with whom Harron would double-date, said that Harron was a teetotaler and a virgin because he was a devout Catholic, and for those reasons Heerman rejected claims it was a suicide. Miriam Cooper and Lillian Gish agreed, largely because he was his family's major source of income and he was about to start filming with Elmer Clifton.
|1907||Dr. Skinum||Boy at Door|
|1907||Mr. Gay and Mrs.||Messenger|
|1908||The Snowman||A child|
|1908||A Calamitous Elopement||George Wilkinson|
|1909||Those Awful Hats||Theatre Audience|
|1909||At the Altar||On Street|
|1909||A Drunkard's Reformation||Theatre Usher|
|1909||The Lonely Villa|
|1909||The Hessian Renegades||Farmer|
|1909||To Save Her Soul||Stagehand/Usher|
|1911||The Broken Cross|
|1911||The White Rose of the Wilds||White Rose's Brother|
|1911||Enoch Arden||Teenage Arden Son||Part II|
|1911||Fighting Blood||The Old Soldier's Son|
|1911||A Country Cupid||Among Students|
|1911||The Last Drop of Water||In Wagon Train|
|1911||The Battle||A Union soldier|
|1911||The Miser's Heart||Bakeshop Assistant|
|1912||For His Son||At Soda Fountain|
|1912||The Transformation of Mike||At Dance|
|1912||Under Burning Skies||On Street/At Farewell Party|
|1912||A String of Pearls||In Tenement|
|1912||One Is Business, the Other Crime||Delivery Boy|
|1912||The Lesser Evil||In Smuggler Band|
|1912||A Temporary Truce||The Murdered Indian's Son|
|1912||Man's Lust for Gold||The Prospector's Son|
|1912||The Inner Circle||In Crowd/Accident Witness|
|1912||A Change of Spirit||Young Man on Street|
|1912||Two Daughters of Eve)||At Stage Door|
|1912||So Near, Yet So Far||The Rival/In Club|
|1912||A Feud in the Kentucky Hills||A brother|
|1912||The Painted Lady||Beau at Ice Cream Festival|
|1912||The Musketeers of Pig Alley||Rival Gang Member/In Alley/At Dance|
|1912||A Sailor's Heart||On Porch||Unconfirmed|
|1912||The New York Hat||Youth outside church|
|1912||My Hero||The Young Man|
|1912||The Burglar's Dilemma||Young Burglar|
|1912||A Cry for Help||Witness to Accident|
|1913||A Misappropriated Turkey||Union Member|
|1913||Brothers||The Father's Favorite Son|
|1913||Oil and Water|
|1913||Love in an Apartment Hotel||The Desk Clerk|
|1913||Broken Ways||In Telegraph Office|
|1913||Near to Earth||Gato's Brother|
|1913||The Sheriff's Baby||The Deputy|
|1913||A Misunderstood Boy||The Son|
|1913||The House of Darkness||Asylum Guard|
|1913||A Timely Interception||The Farmer's Adopted Son|
|1913||Death's Marathon||The Messenger|
|1913||The Sorrowful Shore||One of the Son's Friends|
|1913||The Battle at Elderbush Gulch||The father|
|1914||Brute Force||Harry Faulkner||Prologue - Weakhands (The Old Days)|
|1914||The Battle of the Sexes||John Andrews, the son|
|1914||Home, Sweet Home||The Easterner, Robert Winthrop|
|1914||The Escape||Larry Joyce|
|1914||The Rebellion of Kitty Belle|
|1914||The Avenging Conscience||The Grocer's boy|
|1915||The Birth of a Nation||Tod Stoneman|
|1916||Hoodoo Ann||Jimmie Vance|
|1916||Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages||The Boy (Modern Story)|
|1917||The Bad Boy||Jimmie Bates|
|1918||Hearts of the World||The Boy, Douglas Gordon Hamilton||Uncredited|
|1918||The Great Love||Jim Young|
|1918||Peacock Alley||Cleo of Paris|
|1918||The Greatest Thing in Life||Edward Livingston|
|1918||A Romance of Happy Valley||John L. Logan, Jr.|
|1919||True Heart Susie||William Jenkins|
|1919||The Greatest Question||Jimmie Hilton|
- Slide, Anthony (2002). Silent Players: A Biographical and Autobiographical Study of 100 Silent Film Actors and Actresses. The University Press of Kentucky. p. 173. ISBN 0-813-12249-X.
- Slide, Anthony (2002). Silent Players: A Biographical and Autobiographical Study of 100 Silent Film Actors and Actresses. The University Press of Kentucky. pp. 174, 175. ISBN 0-813-12249-X.
- "MOVIE STAR SHOOTS SELF BY ACCIDENT". The Milwaukee Sentinel. 1920-09-02. p. 1. Retrieved 10 December 2012.
- Staff report (September 2, 1920). Rob. Harron shot as his pistol falls. Film star in critical condition as result of accidental wound. Faces Sullivan Act charge. He is moved into prison ward at Bellevue after policeman places him under arrest. New York Times
- Staff report (September 6, 1920). Robert Harron dies; actor succumbs to wound received in pistol accident. New York Times
- Robert Harron at the Internet Movie Database
- Robert Harron at Silents Are Golden
- Robert Harron at Find a Grave