Theodore Roberts

Active - 1914 - 2004  |   Born - Oct 2, 1861   |   Died - Dec 14, 1928   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Adventure, Romance

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Towering, patriarchal American actor Theodore Roberts was already nearing 50 when he left the stage to appear as Simon Legree in a 1910 film version of Uncle Tom's Cabin. In deference to his age, experience and imposing screen presence, Roberts was dubbed "the grand duke of Hollywood" by his coworkers. Despite this veneration, Roberts was friendly and down-to-earth, always available to help younger actors through difficult scenes, and willing to work long hours to bring a picture in on time. With 1914's The Call of the North, Roberts began his long association with Cecil B. DeMille, appearing in 23 of the director's silent films. He landed the role of Moses in the 1923 version of The Ten Commandments, though he refused to let the character's historical significance go to his head; it is reported that Roberts had a hole cut in his crepe beard to accomodate his ever-present cigar. In 1928, Roberts was among the first silent actors to successfully weather the talking-picture ordeal; his bell-like tones recorded beautifully for his talkie debut, Pathe's Noisy Neighbors. The film would be released posthumously in 1929; Theodore Roberts died of uremic poisoning in December of 1928.

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