Theodore Roberts (1861-1928)

Theodore Roberts - Silent Movie Star

“The Grand Duke of Hollywood”

The wonderful silent screen character actor Theodore Roberts was born the son of a sea captain, in San Francisco, California on October 8th, 1861, the year the Civil War began. He was educated at the California Military Academy at Oakland. He became an actor at age seventeen, and played all kinds of roles in vaudeville, carnivals, stock, and Broadway throughout the remainder of the 19th century and into the 20th, including the roles of Svengali in “Trilby”, Simon Legree in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and Tabywana in “The Squaw Man.” While acting he also taught elocution lessons in his home to aspiring thespians, and he was a public school teacher for a time as well. Theodore Roberts entered films in 1914 with the picture “The Call Of The North.” He was not a featured player, but his self-assured acting style convinced film production officials that he was ideally suited to the work of the silent screen.

Often referred to as the “Grand Duke of Hollywood,” or just simply “Dad” Roberts or “Teddy”, he was put under contract to Famous Players-Lasky and worked with the Cecil B. DeMille team, appearing in twenty-three of his films. Among the many silent film productions of note for Roberts were “The Squaw Man” (1918), and “M’Liss” (1918) with Mary Pickford, “The Roaring Road” and “Hawthorne of the U.S.A.” (1919), opposite Wallace Reid, “Male and Female” (1919) with Gloria Swanson, “Something To Think About” (1920), “The Affairs Of Anatol” (1921), again opposite Reid, “Miss Lulu Bett” (1921), “Hail The Woman” (1921) opposite Florence Vidor and “The Old Homestead” (1922). In all these films his characters were completely different from one another, showing a broad range of acting talent; for instance in “M’Liss” he played an alcoholic father to Mary Pickford, and in “Hail The Woman” he played an autocratic, stern father to Florence Vidor. Today he is best remembered for his role as Moses in the 1923 Cecil B. DeMille silent version of “The Ten Commandments.”

Theodore Roberts and Florence Vidor in Hail, The Woman

Theodore Roberts with Florence Vidor in Thomas Ince’s “Hail, The Woman” (1921)

Theodore Roberts was married just once, to fellow actress Florence Smythe; she appeared with him in several early silent films. She passed away in 1925 and he was heartbroken. His own work pace in films began to slow after she died, and soon thereafter he died of uremic poisoning in Hollywood, on December 14th, 1928. A much loved actor in the industry, Roberts’ funeral was attended by nearly 2,000 people in the film professions. He was laid to rest next to his beloved wife Florence. It would have been interesting if Theodore Roberts had lived long to make his mark in sound films, so that future generations could have heard that beautiful voice which once gave elocution lessons to hopeful actors so many years before. ~ Copyright © 2004

Theodore Roberts Silent Films

Ned McCobb’s Daughter (1928) …. Ned McCobb
Masks of the Devil, The (1928) …. Count Palester
Cat’s Pajamas, The (1926) …. Sally’s Father
Forty Winks (1925) …. Adam Butterworth
Locked Doors (1925) …. Mr. Reid
To the Ladies (1923) …. John Kincaid
Ten Commandments, The (1923) …. Moses, the Lawgiver (prologue)
Stephen Steps Out (1923) …. Stephen Harlow Sr.
Racing Hearts (1923) …. John Kent
Prodigal Daughters (1923) …. J.D. Forbes

Signed Theodore Roberts portrait

An autographed publicity photograph of silent film actor Theodore Roberts

Grumpy (1923) …. Grumpy
Man Who Saw Tomorrow, The (1922) …. Captain Morgan Pring
Old Homestead, The (1922) …. Uncle Joshua Whitcomb
If You Believe It, It’s So (1922) …. Sky Blue (confidence Man)
Our Leading Citizen (1922) …. Colonel Sam De Mott, politician
Across the Continent (1922) …. John Dent
Saturday Night (1922) …. Uncle
Miss Lulu Bett (1921) …. Dwight Deacon
Hail the Woman (1921) …. Oliver Beresford
Exit the Vamp (1921) …. Old Man Shipley
Affairs of Anatol, The (1921) …. Gordon ‘Kewpie’ Bronson
… aka Prodigal Knight, A (1921) (UK)
Too Much Speed (1921) …. Pat MacMurran
Sham (1921) …. Jeriamiah Buck
Love Special, The (1921) …. President Gage
Forbidden Fruit (1921) …. James Harrington Mallory
Furnace, The (1920) …. General Archibald Foulkes-Brent
… aka Breach of Promise, or The Furnace (1920)
Sweet Lavender (1920) …. Professor Phenyl
Something to Think About (1920) …. Luke Anderson
Excuse My Dust (1920) …. J.D. Ward
Judy of Rogue’s Harbor (1920) …. Grandpap Ketchel
Double Speed (1920) …. John Ogden
Suds (1920) …. Undetermined Role
Only Way, The (1919)
Peg o’ My Heart (1919)
Everywoman (1919) …. Wealth

Theodore Roberts playing shipwrecked Lord Loam in Cecil B. DeMille’s film “Male and Female” (1919);
with him are Gloria Swanson, Mildred Reardon and Raymond Hatton

Male and Female (1919) …. Lord Loam
Hawthorne of the U.S.A. (1919) …. Senator Ballard
… aka Hawthorne, the Adventurer (1919)
What Every Woman Learns (1919) …. Peter Fortesque
Love Insurance (1919) …. Spencer Meyrick
Secret Service (1919) …. General Harrison Randolph
You’re Fired (1919) …. Gordon Rogers
Woman Thou Gavest Me, The (1919) …. Daniel MacNeill
Fires of Faith (1919) …. Salvationist
For Better, for Worse (1919) …. Hospital Head
Roaring Road, The (1919) …. J.D. Ward
Poor Boob, The (1919) …. Henry Platt
Winning Girl, The (1919) …. Major Milligan
Don’t Change Your Husband (1919) …. The Bishop
Squaw Man, The (1918) …. Big Bill
Arizona (1918) …. Canby
Such a Little Pirate (1918) …. Obadiah Wolf
Girl Who Came Back, The (1918) …. Michael Hartner, Lois’ Father
… aka Woman Who Came Back, The (1918) (USA: review title)
Source, The (1918) …. Big John Beaumont
We Can’t Have Everything (1918) …. The Sultan
Old Wives for New (1918) …. Berkeley
M’Liss (1918) …. ‘Bummer’ Smith
Wild Youth (1918) …. Joel Mazarine
Hidden Pearls, The (1918) …. John Garvin
Petticoat Pilot, A (1918) …. ‘Cap’n Shad’ Gould
All-Star Production of Patriotic Episodes for the Second Liberty Loan (1917)
Devil-Stone, The (1917)
Nan of Music Mountain (1917) …. Duke Morgan
Little Princess, The (1917) …. Cassim
Varmint, The (1917) …. A Roman
What Money Can’t Buy (1917) …. Madison Hale
Cost of Hatred, The (1917) …. Justus Graves
Child of the Wild, A (1917)
American Consul, The (1917) …. Abel Manning
Joan the Woman (1917) …. Cauchon
Plow Girl, The (1916) …. Undetermined Role
Unprotected (1916) …. Rufus Jamison
Storm, The (1916) …. Professor Octavius Raydon
Anton the Terrible (1916) …. Anton Kazoff
… aka Austrian Spy, The (1916)
Common Ground (1916) …. James Mordant
Dream Girl, The (1916) …. Jim Dugan
Thousand-Dollar Husband, The (1916) …. Uncle Sven Johnson
Sowers, The (1916) …. Boris Dolokhof
Trail of the Lonesome Pine, The (1916) …. Judd Tolliver
Pudd’nhead Wilson (1916) …. Pudd’nhead Wilson
Temptation (1915) …. Otto Mueller
Immigrant, The (1915) …. J.J. Walton
Unknown, The (1915) …. Capt. Destinn
Mr. Grex of Monte Carlo (1915) …. Mr. Grex, alias of Grand Duke Augustus Peter
Case of Becky, The (1915) …. Balzamo
Marriage of Kitty, The (1915) …. Undetermined Role
Secret Orchard, The (1915) …. Favereau
Fighting Hope, The (1915) …. Cornelius Brady
Arab, The (1915) …. Turkish Governor
Wild Goose Chase, The (1915) …. Horatio Brutus Bangs
Stolen Goods (1915) …. German surgeon major
Woman, The (1915/II) …. The Hon. Jim Blake
Captive, The (1915) …. The burgomaster
Unafraid, The (1915) …. Dual Empire Secret Agent
… aka Unexpected, The (1915) (USA: review title)
Governor’s Lady, The (1915) …. Senator Strickland
After Five (1915) …. Bruno Schwartz
Girl of the Golden West, The (1915) …. Jack Rance
Ghost Breaker, The (1914) …. Prince of Aragon
Circus Man, The (1914) …. Thomas Braddock
Man from Home, The (1914) …. The Grand Duke Vaseill
Ready Money (1914) …. Mike Reardon
What’s His Name (1914) …. Character Man
Where the Trail Divides (1914) …. Colonel Lander
Making of Bobby Burnit, The (1914) …. Sam Stone
… aka Bobby Burnit (1914) (review title)
Call of the North, The (1914) …. Galen Albert

To learn more about Theodore Roberts visit his profile on The Internet Movie Database


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