Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A-Z Challenge 2015: X is for Francis X. Bushman!

I became a film buff at a pretty early age - and as a very young man I was even watching silent movies when they would be shown on my local PBS station on the weekends. So it's possible I first encountered Francis X. Bushman watching some of those old flicks. If it wasn't there, it was one of two other shows he worked on - both of which I'll get to in a moment.

Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ  (1925)

Francis X. Bushman - the X stood for Xavier - was born in Baltimore, Maryland January 10, 1883. That officially makes him the oldest person profiled in these 26 posts. He got started in film in 1911 - appearing in dozens of shorts before making his first feature appearance in 1913. All through the silent period he was called The King of the Movies, and was hugely popular. He lost that title - King of the Movies - to Clark Gable eventually - but it's still inscribed on Mr. Bushman's headstone.

Looking dashing in a tuxedo.

He transitioned into sound easily - and continued working - though more sporadically from that point forward. He moved into television appearances in the 1950's - and keep in mind he would have been 67 in 1950 - so when others his age headed into retirement, he kept working.

Staying in shape old school.

In 1957 he played Moses for producer Irwin Allen in the big flop The Story of Mankind. Four years later - he played another guy leading his people to safety - in outer space - in The Phantom Planet. As a nod to his earlier role - his character was called Sesom. (Spell it backwards...)

Ben-Hur - ready to roll.

So, I might have first seen Francis X. Bushman in that movie on the Late Show one night. If not there - then almost certainly on a rerun of Batman - his last or next to last appearance in his long career - as Mr. Van Jones - a silent film aficionado plagued by The Riddler in the two parter "The Riddler's False Notion/Death in Slow Motion."

As Sesom in The Phantom Planet (1961).

Francis X. Bushman racked up more than 200 credits in his 55 year career - but most of them are no longer available to us as so many silent films are lost. Still, he can certainly be seen in The Phantom Planet, which is considered to be in the public domain and is therefore available on scads of cheapie DVDs - and on Batman, which is now available on disc and streaming video.

Until next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!


  1. Silent film stars! I've only heard of the well-known ones like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and Mary Pickford. It's nice to read about the lesser-known actors of the period. Sesom! LOL I love the photo of Francis with the medicine ball!

    1. That's a corker photo - I only knew him because of those two latter day appearances - but I'm pretty sure I've seen him in something else since...