Thomas Meighan

Thomas Meighan

Infobox actor
bgcolour =
name = Thomas Meighan

imagesize =
caption =
birthname =
birthdate = birth date|1879|04|09
location = Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
deathdate = death date and age|1936|07|8|1879|04|09
deathplace = Great Neck, New York
occupation = actor
spouse = Frances Ring (1909-1936)

Thomas Meighan (April 9, 1879 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - July 8, 1936, Great Neck, New York) was an American actor of silent films and early talkies. He played several leading man roles opposite popular actresses of the day including Mary Pickford and Gloria Swanson. [ © Thomas Meighan, Silent Movie Star - ] ] At one point he commanded $10,000 a week. [ THOMAS MEIGHAN, MOVIE ACTOR, OBITUARY, NEW YORK TIMES, 1936 ] ]

Early life

Meighan was born to John and Mary Meighan in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His father was the president of Pittsburgh Facing Mills and his family was well off.

Meighan's parents encouraged him to go to college but he refused. At the age of 15 his father sent him to work shoveling coal which quickly changed his mind. He attended St. Mary's College studying pharmacology. After 3 years of study Meighan decided he wished to pursue acting.

Early Theatre Career

After dropping out of college in 1896 Meighan became a juvenile player in the Pittsburgh Stock Company headed by Henriette Crosman. He was paid $35 a week.

Meighan soon found success. He first appeared on Broadway in 1900. In 1904 Meighan appeared in "The Two Orphans". His breakthrough role came in 1908 appeared with William Collier Sr. in "The Dictator". which led to a leading role in "The College Widow" which had a successful run on Broadway for the 1907-1908 season. It was during this run he met his wife Frances Ring. [ [ Thomas Meighan ] ]

Despite his film career Meighan remained devoted to the theatre during his life.

Film career

In 1914 he abandon theatre for the new movie industry; which was still in its infancy at the time. His first film was shot in London, titled "Dandy Donovan, the Gentleman Cracksman". This film led to a contract with Famous Players-Lasky. His first US film was in 1915, "The Fighting Hope". During the next 2 years Meighan's career would take off. In 1918 he made a propaganda film for World War 1 titled, "Norma Talmadge and Thomas Meighan in a Liberty Loan Appeal". He then played oppiosite Mary Pickford in "M'Liss".


In 1919 Meighan hit stardom. One of his best known films at the time was the 1919 "The Miracle Man" which featured Lon Chaney Sr.. Unfortanitly it is now lost minus small fragments. This was followed with Cecil B. DeMille's "Male and Female" which starred him oppiosite Gloria Swanson and Lila Lee. Most of the cast returned for the 1920 film, "Why Change Your Wife?" which also co-starred Bebe Daniels.

His popularity continued through the Roaring Twenties with him starring in several pictures. In 1924 he played in, "The Alaskan" oppiosite Anna May Wong. In 1927 Meighan starred in "The City Gone Wild" oppiosite Louise Brooks. His final silents were noteworthy. Both produced by Howard Hughes in 1928. "The Mating Call" which was critical of the KKK and "The Racket" which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. Both were thought lost until rediscovered in private collections in 2006.


His first talkie was "The Argyle Case" (1928). Meighan was nearing 50 and feared his popularity might wane, and decided to go into real estate. It took until 1931 for him to return to the screen with "Young Sinners". He would go on to make only four additional talkies until his illness sidelined him from acting. His last film was "Peck's Bad Boy" in 1934.

Personal life

Meighan commanded a salary of $5,000 a week for much of his career. At one point it reached $10,000 a week.


Meighan met Frances Ring during his stint on Broadway. She was the sister of popular singer Blanche Ring. The pair became inseparable and soon married. They remained married until his death in 1936. Their marriage was considered a strong one prompting one writer to remark, "Thomas Meighan and Rin Tin Tin were the only Hollywood stars who had never seen a divorce court". The couple had no children.

Hollywood Scandals

Meighan was involved in some of the more scandalous moments of silent film history; albeit as a helping hand. On October 25, 1916 in New Jersey he was the sole witness to Jack Pickford and Olive Thomas' secretive wedding. []

In March 1923, Douglas Gerrad, in need of help bailing his friend Rudolph Valentino out of jail for bigamy, called up a fellow Irishman named Dan O'Brien who happened to be with Meighan at the time. Meighan barely knew Valentino but put up a large chunk of the bail money, and with the help of June Mathis and George Melford, Valentino was eventually freed. [Leider, Emily W., "Dark Lover: The life and death of Rudolph Valentino", p. 211]


In the mid- 1920s, Meighan became obsessed with Florida after talks with his realtor brother James E. Meighan. He bought property in Ocala, Florida in 1925. In 1927, he built a home in New Port Richey, Florida where he would spend his winters. He intended to shoot his film "We're All Gamblers" there, however, filming was moved to Miami.

The Meighans' hoped to draw other celebrities to the area. [ History of the Meighan/Richey Suncoast Theatre ] ] On July 1, 1926, The Meighan Theatre opened with a screening of Meighan's movie "The New Klondike". Meighan himself was not present but sent a congratulatory telegram.

In 1930 sound was added to the theatre. Meighan himself appeared this time, pushing the button to start the sound. The theatre closed in 1934, a victim of the Depression. It reopened in 1938 under the name "The Newport Richey Theatre". The theatre is still open as a community playhouse under the name "Richey Suncoast Theatre". [ [ Silent Era : Theaters : USA : Florida : New Port Richey : Thomas Meighan Theatre ] ]


In 1934 Meighan was diagnosed with cancer. In 1935, he underwent surgery at the Doctors Hospital in Manhattan. He finally succumbed to cancer at 9:10pm on July 8, 1936, passing away at his home in Great Neck, New York. Many of his family were present.

Meighan was buried at Saint Mary's Cemetery in his hometown of Pittsburgh.


Meighan was a large donater to various Catholic charities and the "Federation for the Support of Jewish Philanthropic Societies". Many of his later films survive and have been released on DVD.

elected filmography

* "The Racket" (1928)
* " The Mating Call" (1928)
* "Manslaughter" (1922)
* "Why Change Your Wife?" (1920)
* "The Miracle Man" (1919)
* "The Forbidden City" (1918)
* "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine" (1916)
* "Kindling" (1915)

External links

* [ The Meighan Theatre]
* [ Photographs and literature]


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