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July 4, 1876|
Boston, Massachusetts USA
|Died||June 5, 1953
Los Angeles, California USA
|Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale|
|Spouse(s)||Mabel Eaton (divorced)
Olive White (1906-1931; 1 daughter)
Isabelle Major (1932-19??)
One of three brothers, Farnum grew up in a family of actors. He made his acting debut at the age of ten in Richmond, Virginia in a production of Julius Caesar, with Edwin Booth playing the title character.
His first major success was as the title character of Ben-Hur in 1900 though replacing the original actor Edward Morgan who premiered the character in 1899. Later plays Farnum appeared in were the costume epic The Prince of India (1906), The White Sister (1909) starring Viola Allen, The Littlest Rebel (1911) co-starring his brother Dustin and a child actress named Mary Miles Minter (then nine years old) and Arizona (1913) with Dustin and stage beauty Elsie Ferguson. In The Spoilers in 1914, Farnum and Tom Santschi staged a classic movie fight which lasted for a full reel. In 1930, Farnum and Santschi coached Gary Cooper and William Boyd in the fight scene for the 1930 version of The Spoilers. Other actors influenced by the Farnum/Santschi scene were Milton Sills and Noah Beery in 1922 and Randolph Scott and John Wayne in 1942.
From 1915 to 1925, Farnum devoted his life to motion pictures. While becoming one of the biggest sensations in Hollywood, he also became one of the highest-paid actors, earning $10,000 a week. Farnum's silent pictures the western Drag Harlan (1920) and the drama-adventure If I Were King (1921) survive from his years contracted to Fox Films.
Married three times, Farnum had a daughter, Sara Adele, with his second wife, Olive White.
Farnum has a "Star" on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was the younger brother of major film actor Dustin Farnum. He had another brother, Marshall Farnum, who was a silent film director and died in 1917.
- Griffith, Richard, &Arthur Mayer, The Movies (Bonanza Books, 1957), pp. 98-99
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to William Farnum.|
- William Farnum at the Internet Movie Database
- William Farnum at Find a Grave
- William Farnum; IBDb.com
- William Farnum at Virtual History
- Bill Farnum at the end of his theater career and start of his movie career(moviecard)
- shipboard portrait of Mrs. William Farnum(Olive White) and daughter Adele Farnum(courtesy of eBay; scroll to bottom)