Diasporational Part Ten: The Meath Brothers who Reigned in Early Hollywood


 

Matt, Owen and Tom Moore
Matt, Owen and Tom Moore

By Niall McArdle

The silent films of the early days of motion pictures are now by large forgotten, either because the films have not survived or because the melodramatic theatricality of the stories makes them difficult to watch except for the most ardent of fans. Of the early movie stars, only a handful of names persist in the public mind: Chaplin, Pickford, Fairbanks, Valentino, Keaton, and Arbuckle (the last more memorable for the scandal that destroyed his career than for his films.) During those early days, though, when audiences simply could not get enough of this exciting new medium, three brothers from County Meath were among the most popular stars of their day.

Tom, Owen and Matt Moore each carved out successful careers as romantic leads in films directed by the likes of D.W. Griffith. Between them they appeared in hundreds of films. The brothers grew up in Fordstown Crossroads, County Meath. Tom was born in 1885, Owen in 1886 and Matt in 1888. The family left Meath and emigrated to America in 1908.

Owen Moore
Owen Moore

Of the three, Owen was the first to go into movies. He made his debut in 1908 in The Valet’s Wife (produced by Biograph in New York.) in the early days of cinema, shorts and two-reelers were being turned out incredibly quickly to sate the public demand, and Owen made 10 films in 1909, and soon became a leading man.

mary_pickford_owen_moore_caricature_card-raeea3e6b9ea147e8be250df03b23456b_xvuak_8byvr_512Owen was Mary Pickford’s romantic partner onscreen and off (they were married secretly in 1910.) Their final film together was Mistress Nell

He was with Garbo in As You Desire Me and Mae West in She Done Him Wrong. His last film was in Selznick’s production of A Star is Born in 1937. Owen was also married to Kathryn Perry. He died in 1939.

Tom Moore
Tom Moore

Older brother Tom had an equally successful career in silent films, beginning in 1912 in A Daughter’s Sacrifice, but after two decades of leading-man status, he was one of many silent stars who did not transition well to talkies.

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He went into semi-retirement in 1933. He later attempted a comeback; it didn’t last. His final film was The Redhead and the Cowboy in 1950. Tom died in 1955. He had been married to Alice Joyce and Renee Adoree.

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Matt had the longest and probably the most successful career of the three. He too was a romantic lead, making his debut in 1913 in a short called Traffic in Souls. In later years he was a notable character actor, and can be seen in supporting roles in The Front Page, Rain (Joan Crawford), That Forsyte Woman (Greer Garson), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Plymouth Adventure (Spencer Tracy) His last film was the Cary Grant-Deborah Kerr tearjerker An Affair to Remember. Matt died in 1960.

The three brothers appeared together only once in Side Street.

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The film is also notable for an early appearance by a dancing George Raft!

Two more siblings – Joe and sister Mary –  went into Hollywood and had brief success in the silent days.

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