A distinguished stage actor who had toured with stock companies in Europe, South Africa, and South America, Josef Swickard lent a presence of old world charm to scores of silent films, dramas, and comedies alike, his iron-gray hair and noble bearing awarding him such roles as Rudolf Valentino's father in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921), the Duke Della Varnese in Don Juan (1926), and the Spanish land owner in In Old San Francisco (1927), all extant.
The brother of actor/director Charles Swickard and the husband of Broadway actress Margaret Campbell, Josef Swickard entered films with D.W. Griffith in 1912 and by 1914 was playing supporting roles for Mack Sennett. Swickard can be seen in Charles Chaplin's Laughing Gas (1914; as one of the patients) and Caught in a Cabaret (1914; as the father). He remained with Sennett until 1917, when the versatile actor settled into his long career of playing mostly aristocratic characters.
Swickard weathered the transition to sound but his films were mostly in the low-budget category and included several action serials. In 1939, the veteran actor suffered a terrible tragedy when his former wife, Margaret Campbell, was brutally slain by their son; Swickard, however, did not commit suicide by jumping from the Hollywood sign as reported by several unscrupulous scribes but died from natural causes the following year.