Cinema’s Oldest “Baby” – Jack Totheroh 1914 – 2011

(Today I thank the 50,152 bold time travelers who have stopped by for a peek at Deadwrite’s Dailies over the past eleven months – 38,000 since January. Thank you all for helping us surpass this milestone. – Deadwrite.

We debut a new background today which we hope is easier on the eyes. It also gives a better view of the header, which in case you were wondering, was taken from a collage crafted a couple of years back using reprints of old film posters.)

You meet the greatest people through your passions.

Like Jack Totheroh, who we met because we love Charlie Chaplin, who was the employer of Jack’s father for 40 years.

I am sad to report that Jack passed away recently. He was a teacher, a husband, a father, a tremendous citizen, an athlete, an incredibly sweet man – and the holder of the world record for the longest film career in history.

Jack Totheroh began that career way back in 1915, at the ripe old age of nine-months, when he co-starred in The Bachelor’s Baby with “Broncho Billy” Anderson.

Broncho Billy was the world’s first cinema cowboy star, and had a cameraman named Rollie Totheroh who just happened to be Jack’s dad. Rollie was a baseball star who Anderson recruited to be a ringer on the baseball team at his Essanay Studios in the East Bay community of Niles, California. Within a short time, Rollie put down his mitt and picked up a camera and began cranking film at 16 frames per second for the flickers.

Soon after his film debut, Jack’s family moved to Hollywood so that Rollie could start rolling film for Charlie Chaplin – a partnership that would continue for the next 40 years.

As a young boy, Jack appeared in a few shorts for Fox, and then shelved his film career for the next 70 years until 1992 when he appeared in a cameo role in the bio-pic Chaplin, a film about his father’s old boss.

In 2007, Jack was back in Niles appearing in an independent film called Weekend King, which was shot within steps of where The Bachelor’s Baby was shot nine decades earlier. Jack’s 92-year film career earned him a spot in the Guinness Book of Records for having the world’s longest film career.

This tale, while certainly colorful, is only a sidebar to the true story of Jack Totheroh.

After graduating from Hollywood High School, Jack earned his bachelor’s degree in 1940 at Chapman College, where he met his wife Marian, who would be at his side for nearly 70 years. He began teaching in 1941, and moved to Santa Paula four years later, where he would teach generations of students until his retirement in 1984.

Jack and Marian would raise three sons in Santa Paula. It was his son David who informed me yesterday that his father had passed away on May 20th, at the age of 96.

I would never have met this wonderful man had I not fallen in love with Charlie Chaplin’s films as a child. A couple of years ago Kimi and I helped host an evening commemorating the 85th anniversary of the release of Chaplin’s film The Pilgrim, where I met Jack and the rest of the Totheroh family.

It was a tremendous honor for me to meet a man whose father was a member of Chaplin’s troupe.

It was even more of an honor to meet Jack Totheroh himself.


(BTW, Kimi and I happened to be at the Autry Center a few weeks ago and saw a clip from a Broncho Billy film that showed a scene where Anderson holds a young baby. We’re trying to find out from the Autry which film this scene was taken from, because The Bachelor’s Baby is thought to be a lost film, but certain scenes may have survived. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the baby turns out to be Jack Totheroh at nine-months. We’ll let you know what we find out.)



About deadwrite

Freelance writer, film historian, taphophile View all posts by deadwrite

One response to “Cinema’s Oldest “Baby” – Jack Totheroh 1914 – 2011

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