New York Times Thursday, July 9, 1936


Star of the Silent Pictures Succumbs at Home in Great Neck at Age of 57.


'The Miracle Man' His Greatest Success--Had Appeared in Scores of Roles.

Special to the New York Times.

GREAT NECK, L. I., July 8.--Thomas Meighan, motion-picture star, one of the great favorites of the silent screen, died here at 9:10 o'clock tonight at his home in Grenwolde. After lapsing into a coma at 7 o'clock, he never regained consciousness. He was 57 years old. At his bedside were his wife; a brother, James E. Meighan; a sister, Miss May Meighan, and Mrs. Leon Errol, wife of the comedian, an intimate friend of the family.

Other near relatives surviving are two other brothers, John A. Meighan of Pittsburgh and William J. Meighan of Hagerstown, Md. a, and another sister, Mrs. M. C. Schneider of Pittsburgh.

The actor's death was due to cancer, from which he had suffered intermittently for two years. In July, 1935, he underwent a serious operation in the Doctors Hospital, Manhattan.

Leading Man of Films For Decade.

"Tommy" Meighan was one of the screen's most popular leading men for a period of more than ten years. And for fifteen years before that he had come fairly close to the not always enviable rating of "matinee idol" on the stage.

From 1916 to 1927 he was one of the cinema's top men, both in record of box-office success and popular vote. His star declined with the talkies, but that may have been due in part to his decision to go into the real estate business in Florida, which began booming just about that time. He made a few pictures after 1927, then "retired" in 1929, returned again in 1931, retired once more in 1932 but came back in 1934 with a picture that proved he still was a box office "draw" and a name to conjure with.

Mr. Meighan was born in Pittsburgh of comparatively well-to-do parents. His father, John, was president of the Pittsburgh Facing Mills, engaged in the manufacture of foundry facings. There, when young Tom refused to go to college, he was set to work shoveling coal. One week of this convinced the 15-year-old of the wisdom of higher education and he consented to study medicine.

Began With Stock Company

After three years of this schooling, he decided he had enough of medicine and too good a memory to waste on pharmacology. He became a $35-a-week juvenile in a Pittsburgh stock company headed by Henrietta Crosman.

Followed then two seasons in stock in Pittsburgh, an appearance with William Collier Sr. in "The Dictator," an engagement in the all-star cast of "The Two Orphans" in 1904 and the leading role in "The College Widow," which had a great success on Broadway in 1907-08.

In the company was Frances Ring, who previously had figured in "Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford" and who was a sister of Blanche Ring, whose rendition of "Yip, Aye Addy, Aye Ay!" had the whole town talking. When the company embarked for a London engagement, Miss Ring was known in private life as Mrs. Thomas Meighan. The marriage safely weathered all the vicissitudes of fame and fortune, a fact which prompted one Hollywood writer to remark a few years ago that "Thomas Meighan and Rin Tin Tin were the only Hollywood stars who had never seen a divorce court."

In 1916 he abandoned the stage for the fledgling movie industry. His first picture appearance was opposite Laura Hope Crew in "The Fighting Hope." Soon after he made what was probably his greatest movie success, "The Miracle Man," the picture with which his name is always associated.

This was followed by "Male and Female," a title scarcely recognizable as Cecil B. DeMille's file version of Sir James Barrie's "Teh Admirable Crichton," but it carried Mr. Meighan to an assured position in the cinema firmament.

Appeared in Scores of Movies

From 1916 to 1926, when he was at the peak of his popularity, he appeared in scores of pictures. Among his leading ladies were Billie Burke, Pauline Frederick, Norma Talmadge, Mary Pickford and Elsie Ferguson. In the subordinate roles of many of the pictures he made in the Twenties were such now prominent players as Myrna Loy, William Powell, Lynn Fontanne and Victor Moore. His reported weekly salary during his best years was $5,000, and it is known he had one contract at $10,000 a week.

Among his pictures were "The Prince Chap," "The Easy Road," "The City of Silent Men," "A Prince There Was," "The Bachelor Daddy," "Homeward Bound," "Manslaughter," "Woman Proof," "The Man Who Found Himself," "Irish Luck," "Tin Gods," "The Argyle Case," "The Racket," "Young Sinners," "Skyline," "Madison Square Garden" and "Peck's Bad Boy." This last, with Jackie Cooper, was released in October, 1934, and marked Mr. Meighan's final screen appearance.

He never lost interest in the stage and, in 1924, was elected Shepherd of the Lambs. He was re-elected the next year, even after his introduction of a suggestion which caused a serio-comic split in the club. That was his proposal to permit film actresses to appear in the Lambs Gambol. The die-hards evoked Rule 2, which forbids the admission of women into the club, and the measure failed.

Genial and charitable, he contributed large sums alike to Catholic charities and the Federation for the Support of Jewish Philanthropic Societies.


Notes: Thomas Meighan was a friend of the writer Ring Lardner and is mentioned in Lardner's short story "Haircut".