There are fashions in acting. Often what seems fresh and exciting to one generation, seems laughably mannered to the next. The fashion for George Arliss didn't last long.
He was a Londoner by birth. Though he started his working life in his father's printing business he was soon on the stage. In 1901 he went to America with Mrs Patrick Campbell's company and decided to stay. His first big hit was in 1908 with The Devil and the successes continued throughout the teens. Several of his hits were filmed in the early twenties, but it was with the coming of sound that his film career really took off.
His first sound picture, a remake of Disraeli, got him an Oscar and for a while he was regarded as The Finest Actor on the Screen. Gradually, though, the critics began to carp that his Disraeli was awfully similar to his Alexander Hamilton who was awfully similar to his Voltaire who was ... etc. etc. A lot of this was down to his manager Maude Howell who had very fixed notions of what an Arliss vehicle should be.
His career got a shot in the arm with The House of Rothschild though it wasn't enough to overcome Howell's influence. So he did what a lot of actors at the end of their careers would do - go to England. He obtained a lucrative two-year contract with Gaumont-British despite the misgivings of Michael Balcon who thought Arliss's career was over.
His British career was just a continuation of his Hollywood one. To Gaumont-British's disappointment, his films didn't appeal to the US audience. With the end of this contract his career drew to a close.
|1921||The Devil (US)|
|1922||The Ruling Passion (US)|
|1922||The Man Who Played God (US)|
|1923||The Green Goddess (US)|
|1924||Twenty Dollars a Week (US)|
|1930||The Green Goddess (US)|
|1930||Old English (US)|
|1931||The Millionaire (US)|
|1931||Alexander Hamilton (US)|
|1932||The Man Who Played God (US)|
|1932||Successful Calamity (US)|
|1933||The King's Vacation (US)|
|1933||The Working Man (US)|
|1934||The House of Rothschild (US)|
|1934||The Last Gentleman (US)|
|1935||Cardinal Richelieu (US)|
|1935||The Iron Duke|
|1936||East Meets West|
George Arliss at Amazon UK
George Arliss at Amazon US