Tom Ricketts

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For other people named Thomas Ricketts, see Thomas Ricketts (disambiguation).
Tom Ricketts
Tom Ricketts in After the Thin Man (1936)
Born Thomas B. Ricketts
(1853-01-15)January 15, 1853
London, England
Died January 19, 1939(1939-01-19) (aged 86)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor, director
Years active 1882–1939
Spouse(s) Josephine Ditt

Thomas B. Ricketts (January 15, 1853 – January 19, 1939), often credited as Tom Ricketts, was an English stage and film actor and director who was a pioneer in the film industry. He portrayed Ebenezer Scrooge in the first American film adaptation of A Christmas Carol (1908), and directed the first motion picture ever made in Hollywood. After directing scores of silent films, including the first film to be released by Universal Pictures, Ricketts became a prominent character actor.


Thomas Ricketts in 1914

Thomas B. Ricketts[1] was born in London January 15, 1853,[2] and began his career on the stage. When he was 17 years old he emigrated to the United States, and directed plays on Broadway for Charles Frohman.[3] He was a stage manager for the Shubert family, sang baritone with the Carleton Opera Company, and starred in his own play, Henri Duvar.[4]

In 1906, after he had been with the Shuberts for four years, Ricketts was persuaded by a friend to join Essanay Studios in Chicago.[5][3] He played Scrooge in A Christmas Carol (1908), the first American film adaption of the Dickens classic,[6] then starred in The Old Curiosity Shop (1909). When Ricketts said he had toured with a comedy he had written, A Cure for Gout, the company asked him to make a 600-foot film of it—the length limit for a comedy at that time.[5]

Ricketts became a director, taking over comedies and melodramas from Broncho Billy Anderson, who in turn took over Westerns. Ethel Clayton, Jack Conway, J. Warren Kerrigan and Bryant Washburn were among Ricketts's discoveries—along with Josephine Ditt, "the best-dressed woman on the screen", to whom Ricketts was married.[5] Chief dramatic and general producer for two years at Essanay,[7] he helped organize the American Film Manufacturing Company in 1910. He made six films for the Flying "A"[5] before withdrawing and seeking another opportunity.[7]

In 1911 Ricketts moved to California, together with Canadian film pioneer Al Christie, with thoughts of creating a new film company. "We arrived in Los Angeles with no idea of where to establish our studio," Ricketts remembered. "A real estate man who happened to overhear our discussion of a studio site suggested Hollywood. The next day we found our way out to Sunset and Gower, to a defunct roadhouse. The owner, a woman, wanted $60 a month rent for the entire block. We thought it was too much, but we signed a lease."[5] Nestor Studios opened October 27, 1911.[8]

Ricketts directed the first Hollywood-made motion picture, The Best Man Wins (1911).[4][9][a] Its stars were juvenile leading man Harold Lockwood, ingenue Dorothy Davenport, vamp Josephine Ditt, juvenile ingenue Victoria Forde, male heavy Gordon Sackville, and character women Eugenie Forde and Alice Davenport. Allan Dwan was Ricketts's assistant.[5]

Nestor Studios made between 50 and 60 films over the next 18 months. In time the company was absorbed by Universal Film Manufacturing Company,[5] Nestor's distributor beginning with The Dawn of Netta (1912), directed by Ricketts.[11][12]:11

In 1914, on an independent contract, Ricketts directed Richard Bennett in Damaged Goods. When flower girls were needed for a wedding scene, Bennett's three daughters—Joan Bennett, Constance Bennett and Barbara Bennett—began their film careers.[4] "Its success made me a little egotistical," Ricketts recalled. "It cost about $25,000 to make and brought in a million and a half on its first run. I naturally thought it would put me in great demand as a director. But it didn't. I had to start all over again, this time going back to my old trade as an actor."[b][5]

Returning to acting in 1919, in his mid-60s, Ricketts was almost always in demand for character parts.[3] By 1935 he was described as "white-haired and bent with age … content with an occasional film role".[4] His later films included Top Hat (1935), After the Thin Man (1936), Pennies from Heaven (1936), The Young in Heart (1938) and Son of Frankenstein (1939). He was regarded as the oldest working actor in Hollywood.[13]

Ricketts died at Hollywood Hospital January 19, 1939, aged 86,[3][14] of pneumonia, contracted the previous week when he went to work at Universal Studios despite a cold. "Mr. Ricketts left no funds," reported The New York Times, "and expenses of his funeral will be paid by the Motion Picture Relief Society."[5] Josephine Ricketts, hospitalized in Santa Monica[3] since suffering a stroke at Christmas, was not informed of her husband's death;[5] it was reported that she would be told sometime before his funeral.[15] Ricketts was buried in an unmarked grave at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.[2]

Select filmography[edit]


Still from The Best Man Wins (1911)
Herald for Damaged Goods (1914)
Ad for The House of a Thousand Scandals (1915)
Year Title Notes
1909 Cure for Gout, AA Cure for Gout [5][16]
1909 Game, TheThe Game [17]
1909 Gratitude [17]
1909 Justified [17]
1909 Maud Muller [17]
1909 Woman's Wit, AA Woman's Wit [17]
1910 Adventuress, TheThe Adventuress [17]
1910 Advertisement Answered, AnAn Advertisement Answered [17]
1910 Fair Exchange, AA Fair Exchange [17]
1910 Hand of Uncle Sam, TheThe Hand of Uncle Sam [17]
1910 His Only Child [17]
1910 Lure of the City, TheThe Lure of the City [17]
1910 Stolen Fortune, TheThe Stolen Fortune [17]
1910 Thief, TheThe Thief [17]
1910 Vera, the Gypsy Girl [17]
1911 Best Man Wins, TheThe Best Man Wins First motion picture made in Hollywood[5][9]
1912 Dawn of Netta, TheThe Dawn of Netta First film distributed by Universal Pictures[12]:11
1914 Damaged Goods [17][18]
1915 Buzzard's Shadow, TheThe Buzzard's Shadow [17][19]
1915 House of a Thousand Scandals, TheThe House of a Thousand Scandals [17][20]
1915 End of the Road, TheThe End of the Road [17][21]
1915 Lure of the Mask, TheThe Lure of the Mask [17][22]
1915 Secretary of Frivolous Affairs [17][23]
1915 Wily Chaperon, TheThe Wily Chaperon [17]
1916 Other Side of the Door, TheThe Other Side of the Door [17][24]
1916 Single Code, TheThe Single Code [17][25]
1916 Secret Marriage [17][26]
1918 Crime of the Hour, TheThe Crime of the Hour [27]


Clara Bow, Kate Lester and Tom Ricketts in Black Oxen (1923)
Year Title Role Notes
1908 Christmas Carol, AA Christmas Carol Ebenezer Scrooge [17]
1909 Old Curiosity Shop, TheThe Old Curiosity Shop [5][28]
1919 Girls Mr. Dennett [17]
1919 His Official Fiancée Major Montressor [17]
1919 Please Get Married Dr. Jenkins [17]
1920 All of a Sudden Peggy Major Archie Phipps [17]
1920 Desperate Hero, TheThe Desperate Hero Butler [17]
1920 Great Lover, TheThe Great Lover Potter [17]
1920 Paliser Case, TheThe Paliser Case Major Archie Phipps [17]
1920 Parish Priest, TheThe Parish Priest Dr. Thomas Cassidy [17]
1920 Spenders, TheThe Spenders Mr. Milbrey [17]
1920 Willow Tree, TheThe Willow Tree The Priest [17]
1921 Beating the Game Jules Fanchette [17]
1922 Killer, TheThe Killer Tim Westmore [17]
1921 Sham Uncle James [17]
1922 Eternal Flame, TheThe Eternal Flame Vidame de Pameir [17]
1922 Fools of Fortune Milton DePuyster [17]
1922 Lavender Bath Lady, TheThe Lavender Bath Lady Simon Gregory [17]
1922 Putting It Over Arnold Norton [17]
1922 Shattered Idols The Reverend Doctor Romney [17]
1922 Tailor Made Man, AA Tailor Made Man Anton Huber [17]
1923 Alice Adams J. A. Lamb [17]
1923 Black Oxen Charles Dinwiddie [17]
1923 Dangerous Maid, TheThe Dangerous Maid John Standish Lane [17]
1923 Strangers of the Night Lush [17]
1923 Within the Law General Hastings [17]
1924 Cheap Kisses The Old Man [17]
1924 Circe the Enchantress Archibald Crumm [17]
1924 Gaiety Girl, TheThe Gaiety Girl His Grace, the Duke [17]
1925 Bobbed Hair Mr. Brewster [17]
1925 Business of Love, TheThe Business of Love Noah Burgess [17]
1925 Fate of a Flirt, TheThe Fate of a Flirt Uncle John Burgess [17]
1925 Fight to the Finish, AA Fight to the Finish Cyrus J. Davis [17]
1925 Girl Who Wouldn't Work, TheThe Girl Who Wouldn't Work The Rounder [17]
1925 My Wife and I Valet [17]
1925 Never the Twain Shall Meet Andrew J. Casson [17]
1925 Oh Doctor! Mr. Peck [17]
1925 Sealed Lips Joseph Howard [17]
1925 Secrets of the Night Jerry Hammond [17][12]:50
1925 Steppin' Out Henry Brodman [17][12]:50
1925 Wages for Wives Judge McLean [17]
1925 Was It Bigamy? Judge Gaynor [17]
1925 When Husbands Flirt Wilbur Belcher [17]
1926 Belle of Broadway, TheThe Belle of Broadway [17]
1926 Cat's Pajamas, TheThe Cat's Pajamas Mr. Briggs [17]
1926 Dancing Days Stubbins [17]
1926 Going the Limit Mortimer Harden [17]
1926 Ladies at Play Deacon Ezra Boody [17]
1926 Ladies of Leisure Wadleigh [17]
1926 Lily, TheThe Lily Jean [17]
1926 Love's Blindness Marquis of Hurlshire [17]
1926 Nut-Cracker, TheThe Nut-Cracker Isaac Totten [17]
1926 Old Soak, TheThe Old Soak Roué [17]
1926 Poker Faces Henry Curlew [17]
1926 Stranded in Paris Herr Rederson [17]
1926 When the Wife's Away [17]
1927 Broadway Madness Lawrence Compton [17]
1927 Children of Divorce Secretary [17]
1927 In a Moment of Temptation Timothy Gage [17]
1927 My Friend from India Judge Belmore [17]
1927 Sailor's Sweetheart, AA Sailor's Sweetheart Professor Meekham [17]
1927 Too Many Crooks Butler [17]
1927 Venus from Venice Bride's father [17]
1928 Dry Martini Joseph [17]
1928 Five and Ten Cent Annie Adam Peck [17]
1928 Freedom of the Press Wicks [17]
1928 Interference Charles Smith [17]
1928 Just Married Makepeace Witter [17]
1928 Law and the Man Quintus Newton [17]
1929 Glad Rag Doll, TheThe Glad Rag Doll Admiral [17]
1929 Light Fingers Edward Madison [17]
1929 Red Hot Speed [17][12]:64
1930 Prince of Diamonds Williams [17]
1930 Sea Legs Commander [17]
1930 Vagabond King, TheThe Vagabond King Astrologer [17]
1931 Ambassador Bill Littleton [17]
1931 Man of the World Mr. Bradkin [17]
1931 Side Show Tom Allison [17]
1931 Surrender Gottleib [17]
1932 Farewell to Arms, AA Farewell to Arms Count Greffi [17]
1932 He Learned About Women [17][29]
1932 If I Had a Million Guest at Mrs. Walker's dance [17]
1932 Stepping Sisters "Stock Market" [17]
1932 Thrill of Youth Grandpa Thayer [17]
1933 Eleventh Commandment, TheThe Eleventh Commandment Henry [17]
1933 Forgotten Old crony [17]
1933 Good-bye Love Alimony jail inmate [17]
1933 Mama Loves Papa Mr. Pierrepont [17]
1933 Power and the Glory, TheThe Power and the Glory [17]
1933 Women Won't Tell [17]
1934 Broadway Bill Johnson [17]
1934 Count of Monte Cristo, TheThe Count of Monte Cristo Cockeye [17]
1934 Curtain Falls, TheThe Curtain Falls Hotel manager [17]
1934 In Love with Life Bookstore proprietor [17]
1934 Forsaking All Others Wiffens [17]
1934 Friends of Mr. Sweeney Old gentleman [17]
1934 It Happened One Night Prissy old man [17]
1934 Man Who Reclaimed His Head, TheThe Man Who Reclaimed His Head Curly [17]
1934 Manhattan Love Song Rich man [17]
1934 No Greater Glory Old janitor [17]
1934 One More River Barrister and clerk [17]
1934 Pursued Tourist [17]
1934 Sons of Steel Williams [17]
1934 Springtime for Henry Bookstore clerk [17]
1934 Stolen Sweets Stoner [17]
1934 Viva Villa! Grandee [17]
1934 Whom the Gods Destroy Charlie [17]
1935 Clive of India Old member [17]
1935 Cardinal Richelieu Agitator [17]
1935 Escapade Old dandy [17]
1935 George White's 1935 Scandals Old man [17]
1935 Goin' to Town Eligible bachelor [17]
1935 Great Impersonation, TheThe Great Impersonation Villager [17]
1935 Hi, Gaucho! Don Salvador [17]
1935 Let's Live Tonight Millionaire [17]
1935 Music Is Magic Dancer, elderly man [17]
1935 Now or Never [17]
1935 Public Menace, TheThe Public Menace Old man [17]
1935 Tale of Two Cities, AA Tale of Two Cities Tellson, Jr. [17]
1935 Top Hat Thackeray Club waiter [17]
1935 Vagabond Lady Department head [17]
1936 Case Against Mrs. Ames, TheThe Case Against Mrs. Ames Juryman [17]
1936 Crime of Dr. Forbes, TheThe Crime of Dr. Forbes Faculty doctor [17]
1936 Daniel Boone Attorney General's associate [17]
1936 Show Boat Minister [17]
1936 Gold Diggers of 1937 Reginald [17]
1936 Little Lord Fauntleroy Partygoer [17]
1936 Gentle Julia Old man at dance [17]
1936 Human Cargo Reporter [17]
1936 After the Thin Man Henry, the butler [17]
1936 To Mary - with Love Waiter [17]
1936 More Than a Secretary Henry [17]
1936 Pennies from Heaven Mr. Briggs [17]
1936 Song and Dance Man Old theatrical couple [17]
1936 We Went to College Pop [17]
1937 Born Reckless Patient [17]
1937 Maid of Salem Giles Cory [17]
1937 Star Is Born, AA Star Is Born Servant [17]
1937 Lady Escapes, TheThe Lady Escapes Uncle George [17]
1937 Prince and the Pauper, TheThe Prince and the Pauper Sexton [17]
1937 Toast of New York, TheThe Toast of New York Member of the board of directors [17]
1937 Personal Property Elderly man [17]
1937 Parnell Elderly man [17]
1937 Rhythm in the Clouds Winter [17]
1938 Young in Heart, TheThe Young in Heart Andrew [17]
1938 Bluebeard's Eighth Wife Uncle Andre [17]
1938 Baroness and the Butler, TheThe Baroness and the Butler Old man [17]
1938 Young Fugitives Tom Riggins [17][12]:107
1938 Gateway Old man [17][12]:107
1938 Four Men and a Prayer Station master [17]
1939 Son of Frankenstein Burgher [17]


  1. ^ The Best Man Wins is a romantic comedy released December 25, 1911, and promoted as a Christmas release. The Law of the Range, a Western filmed by Nestor's California company, was released December 13, 1911, and is sometimes called the first Hollywood film.[10]
  2. ^ As part of its obituary, The New York Times reprinted a North American Newspaper Alliance interview with Thomas Ricketts conducted not long before his death.


  1. ^ 1920 United States Federal Census [database online]. Provo, Utah: Operations Inc., 2010. Retrieved 2016-02-06.
  2. ^ a b Ellenberger, Allan R. (2001). Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. p. 146. ISBN 9780786409839. 
  3. ^ a b c d e United Press (January 20, 1939). "Prominent Actor, Tom Ricketts, Dies, Age 86". The Bakersfield Californian. 
  4. ^ a b c d Thomas, Dan (Newspaper Enterprise Association) (November 7, 1935). "Pioneer Film Director Now Just an Extra". The Burlington Daily Times-News (Burlington, North Carolina). 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Thomas Ricketts, Pioneer of Movies". The New York Times. January 21, 1939. Retrieved 2016-02-06. 
  6. ^ Smith, Michael Glover; Selzer, Adam (2015). Flickering Empire: How Chicago Invented the U.S. Film Industry. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 90. ISBN 9780786407385. 
  7. ^ a b "Thomas Ricketts (advertisement)". The Moving Picture World. December 3, 1910. p. 1322. Retrieved 2016-02-08. 
  8. ^ "Bronze Memorial Will Mark First Hollywood Studio Site." Los Angeles Times. September 25, 1940.
  9. ^ a b "The Best Man Wins". BFI Film & TV Database. British Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-02-06. 
  10. ^ "Independent Release Dates". The Moving Picture World. December 30, 1911. p. 1104. Retrieved 2016-02-07. 
  11. ^ "Advertisement". The Moving Picture World. June 22, 1912. Retrieved 2016-02-07. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Hirschhorn, Clive (1985) [1983]. The Universal Story. New York: Crown Publishers. ISBN 0-7064-1873-5. 
  13. ^ Fidler, Jimmie (January 3, 1939). "Jimmie Fidler in Hollywood". Elyria Chronicle Telegram (Elyria, Ohio). 
  14. ^ California, Death Index, 1905–1939 [database online]. Provo, Utah: Operations Inc., 2013. Retrieved 2016-02-06.
  15. ^ United Press (January 21, 1939). "Raft is Released After Refusal on Gigolo Role". Galveston Tribune (Galveston, Texas). 
  16. ^ "A Cure for Gout". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-02-06. 
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn bo bp bq br bs bt bu bv bw bx by bz ca cb cc cd ce cf cg ch ci cj ck cl cm cn co cp cq cr cs ct cu cv cw cx cy cz da db dc dd de df dg dh di dj dk dl dm dn do dp dq dr ds dt du dv dw dx dy dz ea eb ec ed ee ef eg eh ei ej ek el em en eo ep eq er es et eu ev ew ex ey ez fa fb fc fd fe ff fg fh fi fj fk fl fm fn fo fp fq fr "Tom Ricketts". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-02-06. 
  18. ^ "Damaged Goods". American Silent Feature Film Survival Database. Library of Congress. Retrieved 2016-02-07. 
  19. ^ "The Buzzard's Shadow". American Silent Feature Film Survival Database. Library of Congress. Retrieved 2016-02-07. 
  20. ^ "The House of a Thousand Scandals". American Silent Feature Film Survival Database. Library of Congress. Retrieved 2016-02-07. 
  21. ^ "The End of the Road". American Silent Feature Film Survival Database. Library of Congress. Retrieved 2016-02-07. 
  22. ^ "The Lure of the Mask". American Silent Feature Film Survival Database. Library of Congress. Retrieved 2016-02-07. 
  23. ^ "Secretary of Frivolous Affairs". American Silent Feature Film Survival Database. Library of Congress. Retrieved 2016-02-07. 
  24. ^ "The Other Side of the Door". American Silent Feature Film Survival Database. Library of Congress. Retrieved 2016-02-07. 
  25. ^ "The Single Code". American Silent Feature Film Survival Database. Library of Congress. Retrieved 2016-02-07. 
  26. ^ "Secret Marriage". American Silent Feature Film Survival Database. Library of Congress. Retrieved 2016-02-07. 
  27. ^ "The Crime of the Hour". American Silent Feature Film Survival Database. Library of Congress. Retrieved 2016-02-07. 
  28. ^ "The Old Curiosity Shop". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-02-06. 
  29. ^ "Flashes from the Cinema Studios". The New York Times. October 16, 1932. Retrieved 2016-02-08. 

External links[edit]