John Cossar, An Actor Nearly Forgotten.

John Cossar

John Cossar

John Cossar immigrated to the United States in 1866 (eleven years old), he became a naturalized citizen in 1879. Cossar and Fanny Cohen (AKA Fannie Cohen, Fannie Cossar) were married on June 15, 1896.

John Cossar was a well established actor long ere he first graced the silver-screen; as early as 1883 (he was 18), Cossar appeared in Pique, in the role of Arthur Standish,[1] which toured the Midwest. Then in 1885 he had good supporting work in Little Ferret, (playing, Howard, the detective) which played in Sedalia, Missouri.[2] While in 1886 Cossar was on a North American tour of Michael Strogoff (having replaced Frank C. Bangs, when he fell ill with severe bronchial trouble[3]), appearing in the title role.[4] By the time 1887 rolled around, audiences accepted Cossar as Michael Strogoff, with the production’s initial leading man Frank Bangs all but forgotten.[5] John Hay Cossar was considered a well-known actor, especially in the east, and in 1889, he was prominent in the touring company that presented Beacon Lights,[6] receiving accolades for his characterization.

By the middle of the next decade, Cossar was so well known that when local New York newspaper reports related that he and Miss Fanny Cohen were married, his replay (“simply engaged”) was printed in the New York Dramatic Mirror[7]; this a whole year prior to their nuptials and it speaks volumes to the popularity of the young actor in 1895.

He was in the tour of The Great Ruby in 1902;[8] The Great Ruby was written by Cecil Raleigh and Henry Hamilton, produced by Augustin Daly, at Daly’s Theatre, in New York. The original cast included Blanche Bates, Ada Rehan, Laura Burt, May Cargill, White Whittlesey, Marcia Von Dresser (replaced Miss Ada Rehan), which had a successful run on Broadway: February 9, 1899-.? That question-marked closing date need not be completely in the dark, for the play was still going strong (“unprecedented business”), as of April 8, 1899.[9] The play was scheduled to close on Sunday, June 18, but with the passing of Augustin Daly, on June 7, 1899, the manager of Daly’s Theatre, Richard Dorney, immediately closed the show; so the end date was either June 8 or June 9, bringing the total performances to over one-hundred-forty. [10] Also he appeared in Her Marriage Vow, in 1904,[11] and then we see the Cossar couple playing vaudeville in Montana, in early 1907; their act revolved around comedy-skits. For this trip to Anaconda, Montana the couple was included in a large advertisement.[12] On to Spokane for their next vaudeville stop, headlining the program;[13] moving south, they appeared at Empire Theatre, in Los Angeles, California. By September of the same year they had made the trek to Pennsylvania,[14] where they received a very warm welcome by the audiences for their interpretation of the skit Our Honeymoon (written, conceived, and originally performed by John C. Rice and Sally Cohen; the Cossars acquired the exclusive rights from Rice and Cohen, for their western-state tour).[15] By February 1909 and for the next two years, it was not uncommon to see the husband and wife team of Cossar and their sketch Our Honeymoon, at or near top bill;[16] John Cossar is made mention of in Variety-Weekly, more than 60 times from 1907-1912… a very busy man he was.


John Cossar The_Anaconda_Standard_ Anaconda Montana Sun__Jan_27__1907_

John and Fanny Cossar appearing at the Family Theater in Anaconda, Montana


It was not John who first saw Cossar in flickering light, but Fanny who made the family’s first appearance in film, with The Love of Beauty, 1913 (Lubin Manufacturing Company). Fanny Cossar was only to make a handful of pictures and those numbered years apart; her last two movies were talkies: Girl Grief, 1932 and Opened by Mistake, 1934.

When John Cossar made his film debut he was fifty-nine years old, not exactly matinee-idol material, yet, he quickly gained admirers for his realistic portrayals. In 1914, after J. H. Cossar’s eighteenth role (A Gentleman of Leisure), he made another picture with Francis X. Bushman (their tenth time working together), The Plum Tree, which Cossar is not credited with, another of those missing links.[17]

Late summer through late autumn of 1915, causes us a little name identity problem for a Cossar film: The Whirlpool, which was released on September 4, 1915. But by December of 1915, Essanay had changed the title to The Vortex, with half-page advertising bought in Pictures and the Picturegoer magazine. Ah, the vagaries of AKA, one-hundred years removed.

John Cossar co-starring in The Vortex (AKA The Whirlpool)

John Cossar co-starring in The Vortex (AKA The Whirlpool)


Cossar often appeared along side of Bryant Washburn (who acted well into the sound era and had nearly four-hundred roles), especially during Cossar’s early years in film. The pair were first seen together in  The Mystery of Room 643, in 1914 and the last time that they worked on the same project was, Love Insurance, 1919, although Cossar was nothing more than a bit player in the film. In 1915 John Cossar was riding high on the seas of celebrity, as we can see from this full page ad seen a Hollywood trade-magazine.

John Cossar co-starring in The Alster Case

John Cossar co-starring in The Alster Case (from a full page Hollywood trade magazine)


Another autumn, proved important to Cossar, this in November of 1916 saw the Cossar name upon the silver-screen six times in five productions; the last of these five short-subjects was released on November 21, a week ahead of Thanksgiving: Unto the Least of These. The film is special for the reason that Fanny Cossar appears (uncredited, unlisted) in the film. As far as we know, this is the only time they were on the screen together; what a change after such a strong vaudeville presence, that saw the husband and wife team, together on hundreds of occasions. John Cossar appeared in more than one-hundred-fifty motion pictures, his last role was The Fire Detective.

Fanny Cossar in the role of the maid in Unto the Least of These. (combing the hair of the young star of the film, Mary McAllister)

Fanny Cossar in the role of the maid in Unto the Least of These. (combing the hair of the young star of the film, Mary McAllister)


Further Cossar Films:

The Adventures and Emotions of Edgar Pomeroy, which was a series of twelve-two-reel comedies, 1920-1921 (status of these films is considered unknown)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1923 (appeared in the role of the Judge of the Court)

The Sap, 1926


By C. S. Williams

[1] The Lawrence Journal (Lawrence, Kansas, October 23, 1883

[2] The Sedalia Weekly (Sedalia, Missouri) January 27, 1885

[3] The New York Mirror (New York, New York) December, 1886

[4] The New York Clipper (New York, New York) November 13, 1896

[5] The Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin) March 22, 1887

[6] The Pittsburg Dispatch (Pittsburg, Pennsylvania) March 24, 1889

The World (New York, New York) April 2, 1889

[7] The New York Dramatic Mirror (New York, New York) June 8, 1895

[8] The Washington Times (Washington, D.C.) October 16, 1902

[9] The National Police Gazette (New York, New York) April 8, 1899

[10] Logansport Daily Journal (Logansport, Indiana) June 17, 1899

New York Times (New York, New York) June 11, 1899

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) June 4, 1899

The New York Times (New York, New York) June 4, 1899

[11] Motion Picture Magazine, December, 1914

[12] The Anaconda Standard (Anaconda, Montana) January 27, 1907

[13] The Spokane Press (Spokane, Washington) February 4, 1907

[14] Daily Gazette and Bulletin (Williamsport, Pennsylvania) September 16, 1907

[15] Daily Gazette and Bulletin (Williamsport, Pennsylvania) September 17, 1907

The Reading Times (Reading, Pennsylvania) June 6, 1912

Portland, Oregon, (newspaper unknown) March 1, 1907

Variety (New York, New York) August 10, 1907

[16] Evening Herald (Huntington, Indiana) February 15, 1909

The Eau Claire Reader (Eau Claire, Wisconsin) October 11, 1910

The Daily Journal-World (Lawrence , Kansas) April 18, 1911

Springfield Republican (Springfield, Missouri) April 30, 1911

The Reading Times (Reading, Pennsylvania) June 6, 1912

[17] Daily East Oregonian (Pendleton, Oregon) January 12, 1915


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