Wallace McCutcheon, Jr.

Born - Dec 23, 1880 in New York, NY  |   Died - Jan 27, 1928 in Los Angeles, CA  |  

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Wallace McCutcheon Jr. was the eldest of eight children born to pioneer dirctor and cinematographer Wallace "Old Man" McCutcheon, and indeed, the facts of their lives are often confused. The younger McCutcheon got his start as a atage actor who would, once in awhile, pick up a check for playing a part in one of his father's films. When "Old Man" McCutcheon came down with a serious illness in the spring of 1908, he suggested that his son be allowed to take his place as a Biograph director.

This proved to be an experiment that worked out poorly for Biograph, with the result being that Wallace McCutcheon Jr. was only in the job for about six weeks, directing perhaps only a dozen Biograph subjects (as compared to the hundreds made by his father). Scriptwriter and actress Gene Gauntier remembered "Wally did not take his position seriously. He was a good-looking frivolous musical comedy actor, with a great interest in boxing matches and pretty chorus girls and was not happy unless there were three or four Broadway beauties around the studio. He was always asking me to write in bits in which he could use them." Actress Kate Bruce was even more blunt- "(McCutcheon) made a picture called Over the Hills to the Poorhouse which nearly sent us all there."

Biograph executive Henry N. Marvin ultimately decided that, as long the company was experimenting with talent, to give recently arrived actor David Wark Griffith a chance to direct. When Griffith's first film, The Adventures of Dollie, proved a success, Biograph swept clean its slate of directors. Wallace McCutcheon Jr. was the first one out the door, and with Griffith on the staff, Biograph never looked back.

Wallace McCutcheon Jr. disappears from screen credits in the years 1908 to 1917, and during this time he may have returned to the legitimate stage. However, in the latter year McCutcheon won the heart of the daredevil Queen of Chapterplays, Pearl White, and married her just prior to his embarkation to the battlefields of World War I. McCutcheon sustained a head injury during battle and somehow neglected to return to White, who divorced him for desertion in 1921. He claimed to be suffering from amnesia, but managed to pick up three screen credits during this time, including one playing opposite White's arch-rival Juanita Hansen. After the divorce, McCutcheon drifted into rudderless, alcohol-soaked existence in Los Angeles. He was found dead by his own hand in a flea-bag hotel room in January 1928. Next to McCutcheon's body was a wooden stool on which was placed a half-empty bottle of bathtub gin and a note that read "Have a drink."