Biography

Mature, reliable silent-film leading man Thomas Meighan attended St. Mary's College with the intention of studying medicine. His acting career began when he was hired for Henrietta Crossman's touring company when it played his home town of Pittsburgh. In 1900, he made his first Broadway appearance, breaking through to stardom eight years later in George Ade's The College Widow. He married his leading lady, Broadway favorite Blanche Ring, thereby eventually becoming the brother-in-law of actor Charles Winninger and actress Charlotte Greenwood. He made his first film, Dandy Donovan, the Gentleman Cracksman (1914) in London; this led to a long-term contract with the Hollywood company which later became Paramount. With strong leading roles in such Cecil B. DeMille productions as Male and Female (1919) and Why Change Your Wife? (1919), Meighan became a popular Hollywood star, exuding such intangibles as dependability and quiet courage (so many people inside the industry liked Meighan personally that they conspired to keep secret his ongoing liquor problem). When sound came to motion pictures, the 50-year-old Meighan sensed that his popularity might wane, and he vowed to leave films before his public tired of him. Nonetheless, he was coaxed back before the cameras for good character roles in films like Skyline (1931) and Peck's Bad Boy (1932); he also essayed the leading role of the thief-turned-sleuth "The Lone Wolf" in 1932's Cheaters at Play. Thomas Meighan died of pneumonia at the age of 57. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi