Robert Harron

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Robert Harron
Robert Emmett Harron.jpg
Born Robert Emmett Harron
(1893-04-12)April 12, 1893
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died September 5, 1920(1920-09-05) (aged 27)
Manhattan, New York City, New York, U.S.
Cause of death
Self-inflicted gunshot wound (accident)
Resting place
Calvary Cemetery
Nationality American
Other names Bobby Harron
Occupation Actor
Years active 1907–1920
Religion Roman Catholic
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).

Harron was the older brother of film actor John Harron and actress Mary Harron.

Early life and career[edit]

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.[1]

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.[2]


In 1920, 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. In September 1920, 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. Heerman attended the preview and said it did not go very well.[2]

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 the gun in a trunk along with other possessions. As he took some clothes out of 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.[3]

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.[4] On September 5, 1920, he died of his wound.[5]

Even before his death, there were rumors that Harron's death was not accidental and that he had attempted suicide.[2] 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.[2]

Harron was interred at Calvary Cemetery in Woodside, Queens, New York City.

Selected filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1907 Dr. Skinum Boy at Door
1907 Mr. Gay and Mrs. Messenger
1908 The Snowman A child
1908 A Calamitous Elopement George Wilkinson
1908 Monday Morning in a Coney Island Police Court
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
1910 Ramona
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 Friends Stableboy
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 Heredity Indian
1912 The Informer
1912 A Sailor's Heart On Porch Unconfirmed
1912 Brutality
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
1921 Coincidence Billy Jenks


  1. ^ 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. 
  2. ^ a b c d 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. 
  3. ^ "MOVIE STAR SHOOTS SELF BY ACCIDENT". The Milwaukee Sentinel. 1920-09-02. p. 1. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 
  4. ^ 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
  5. ^ Staff report (September 6, 1920). Robert Harron dies; actor succumbs to wound received in pistol accident. New York Times

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