Charles J. Brabin

Active - 1911 - 1934  |   Born - Apr 17, 1883   |   Died - Nov 3, 1957   |   Genres - Drama, Romance

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Biography by Hal Erickson

British-born director Charles J. Brabin came to the States as a stage actor, switching to films at the Edison Studios in New Jersey in 1908. Making the transition to director, Brabin guided such well-received productions as The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (1914) and The Raven (1914). Brabin gave a leg-up to the career of fellow director Rex Ingram, who was his assistant in several important films. In 1919, Brabin directed two of the last films of exotic actress Theda Bara, who married him in 1921. Gaining critical adulation for his independently produced Driven (1923), Brabin was assigned to MGM's mammoth Ben-Hur. Despite the support of the film's scenarist June Mathis, who regarded his technique as "perfect," Brabin was replaced for working too slow for the tastes of the studio's new administration (one close friend allowed that Brabin was better at describing a beautiful scene than actually filming it). Brabin responded by suing the studio for damages, but returned to the MGM fold in 1930 as a contract director. His early talkies The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932) and Beast of the City (1932) are masterpieces of gloomy morbidity, leading MGM to believe that Brabin could handle the melancholy aspects of the studio's Rasputin and the Empress (1933). Again, however, Brabin's work failed to impress the higher-ups, and again he was replaced, this time never to return to MGM. He spent the last quarter century of his life in retirement with his first and only bride, Theda Bara. In her declining years, Ms. Bara began affecting the high-toned British accent of her husband -- itself an affectation, since Brabin was born in Liverpool. Theda Bara died in 1955; Charles Brabin passed away two years later.

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