Robert Frazer

 

Robert Frazer

 

Born :    29 Jun 1891   Worcester, Massachusetts

Died :     17 Aug 1944  Los Angeles, California

 

Biography

Robert Frazer was born on 29th June 1891 in Worcester Massachusetts as Robert William Browne. He gained some acting experience in his teens and appeared in some amateur stage plays before going onto the professional circuit. After some theatre experience he made his screen debut in 1912 and was considered by many to be the dashing young man of silent films. He first won note in the title role of Robin Hood (1912), a three-reel saga that still survives today. Frazer subsequently played rugged heroes in adventure films and was cast as a romantic lead opposite some of the silent era’s top female stars, among them Clara Kimball Young, Anita Stewart, Mae Murray, and Renee Adoree. Pola Negri, the Polish stage and film actress who appeared with him in Men (1924), claimed that Frazer was the greatest actor she had ever worked with. The fact that he spent most of his career in B pictures reflects either on his bad luck or Negri’s judgement.

He had moved to California in the early 1920’s with his stage actress wife Mildred Bright ( 1892-1967) In 1927, while shooting Back to God’s Country on location in the Sierras, Frazer and company were trapped in a blizzard and snowbound for nearly three weeks. The incident led to the suicide of the film’s director, Lynn Reynolds. Bad luck and as the movie business defines, being in the wrong place at the wrong time ?

When talkies came in he settled into character parts, often as heavies. The film he is probably most noted for is his portrayal of Charles Beaumont, the plantation owner who was in love with Madeleine, the films love interest and the victim of witch doctor Bela Lugosi. The film was White Zombie. This was a great film, but it was a vehicle that showcased the great Bela Lugosi. Everyone else merely helped. Again a chance came along with another 30’s horror, The Vampire Bat where he played Emil Borst, this time supporting Lionel Atwill and Fay Wray.

He did however chalk up over 200 film credits so was never short of work. He was a very busy guy during the silent era working for studios like Fox, Universal and MGM. Over his career his  films included Rob Roy (title role, 1913), Without Limit  (1921), The Foolish Virgin  (1924), Beyond the Law (1930), The Garden of Allah  (1936), Juarez (1939) and Captain America (1944  serial).

By the time the talkies came into their own Frazer was in his 40’s and could be considered to be a little too old for the male leading roles. He was born a little too early to have made the impact he could possibly have made had he been a little younger at that time in his career. It was not uncommon for support actors of this period to eventually find themselves appearing in the great arena of the chapter play serials. They were great fun but never a way to stardom, merely a way to keep the career going. He did these for Mascot and Republic. He is best noted here for what I always looked upon as the mastermind. Giving orders to his henchmen in his deep rich voice and only being found out in the final chapter.

As an amateur inventor my research also shows he patented an improved process for colour photography. He died of leukemia in 1944 when only 53, but still managed a long and varied career. One of the prolific actors of the screen and without who’s contribution we would be the worst off for.

Filmography

The Holy City (1912)

Robin Hood (1912)

Rob Roy (1913)

Duty (1914)

The Lone Star Rush (1915)

The Dawn of Love (1916)

Her Code of Honour (1919)

My Friend the Devil (1922)

After the Ball (1924)

Men (1924)

The Charmer (1925)

Miss Bluebeard (1925)

The White Desert (1925)

The Scarlet West (1925)

Why Women Love (1925)

Secret Orders (1926)

Desert Gold (1926)

Dame Chance (1926)

The City (1926)

Back to God’s Country (1927)

Burning Up Broadway (1928)

Out of the Ruins (1928)

Sioux Blood (1929)

The Drake Case (1929)

Two-Gun Caballero (1931)

White Zombie (1932)

The Three Musketeers (1933)

The Vampire Bat (1933)

The Fighting Pilot (1935)

Easy Money (1936)

We’re in the Legion Now! (1936)

Religious Racketeers (1938)

Cipher Bureau (1938)

Law of the Wolf (1939)

Roar of the Press (1941)

Pals of the Pecos (1941)

Gangs of Sonora (1941)

Black Dragons (1942)

Inside the Law (1942)

Seeing Hands (1943)

Forty Thieves (1944)

Law Men (1944)