Frederick Richard Sullivan, Director, Actor, Writer, Reporter, Producer and Composer


Frederick Richard Sullivan

Frederick Richard Sullivan Born July 18; 1872-1937


Theater royalty! Not film royalty, but of stage royals, was Frederick Richard Sullivan (AKA: Frederic Sullivan, Fred Sullivan); son of Fred Sullivan, nephew of Sir Arthur Sullivan[1] of Gilbert and Sullivan comic-operetta fame! He was an actor both on stage and screen, a stock-company manager, writer, producer and he was a film and stage director. And for a candle on top of his birthday-cupcake, he was a composer; he set music to poems by Edgar Allen Poe.[2]

Prior to stage and film work, Sullivan was a newspaper reporter, before spending the better part of fifteen years as stage director. He began his first job in films was with the Reliance Company, in 1912. A large portion of his film résumé is missing, this according to Wid’s Daily, in 1921, in their Director’s edition.[3] That one paragraph notation makes reference to two-hundred-fifty, one and two reel short-subjects. Yet, if we combined all of his known (modern vantage) work (features and shorts, directing, acting, producing and writing), we come up with less than ninety titles, sound and silent. What a loss of film-history.

As an actor on stage Sullivan found himself on Broadway a few times: Fedora, 1905, The House of a Thousand Candles, 1908, The Grain of Dust, 1912, Room of Dreams, 1930, Midnight, 1931 and Greater Love, 1931.

In 1900-01, he was part of the supporting cast in Rosemary and The Lottery of Love, and The Gilded Fool, in successive weeks (beginning in December of 1900), at the Lafayette, in Washington, D. C…[4] 1903 had Frederick Sullivan appearing in the role of Sir Horace Plumley, in, When We Were Twenty-one, by H. V. Esmond; the production was staged at the Majestic theatre in Boston, Mass.[5] Staying in Boston, Sullivan supported Nance O’Neil in her company, in the first English performance of The Fires of St. John, by Hermann Sudermann.[6]

Although not listed on the Internet Broadway Data Base for The Reckoning, 1907, at the Berkeley Lyceum Theatre, New York City, yet from a playbill we see that he was indeed a co-director with Gustavo Von Seyffertitz. [7]Also he produced and directed, In the Bishop’s Carriage, 1907, which played at the Grand Opera House, NYC.[8]

Sullivan was a man with great attention to detail (much as, his uncle was), as is demonstrated on the serial, Zudora, 1914. Point one: Sullivan searched for a document (an integral plot device for the story) that was older and looked authentic; he combed New York City and could not find what he wanted. His solution was to look elsewhere, finally obtaining a portion of a will, which had been filed in Delaware County in 1876… an actual historic paper for a fictional letter. [9] Point two: even though the thread of his story-line involving a circus was but for one short scene, Sullivan, despite expense and time, hired an entire circus for the filming.[10]

Sullivan miscellany, in 1922, the Motion Picture Director’s Association, elected Sullivan to be their assistant director.[11]

During the week prior to Thanksgiving, in November of1914, while directing Zudora, Frederick Sullivan earned the title of workhorse and taskmaster, in one concerted effort, when he established a Thanhouser production record whilst shooting thirty long-scenes in one work-day![12]  I guess he wanted to work up an appetite for Turkey-day?


Sullivan partial Filmography as Director:

The Cat’s Paw, 1914

The Phantom Witness, 1916

The Cove of Missing Men, 1918

The Courtship of Myles Standish, 1923


Sullivan partial Filmography as Actor:

The White Terror, 1915

The Face on the Bar-Room Floor, 1923

Winds of Chance, 1925

Blind Adventure, 1933


By C. S. Williams


[1] Motography, October 31, 1914

[2] Moving Picture World, October 24, 1914

[3] Wid’s Daily, April 24, 1921

[4] The Washington Times (Washington, D. C.) December 11, 1900

The Washington Times (Washington, D. C.) December 18, 1900

The Washington Times (Washington, D. C.) January 1, 1901

[5] Boston Post (Boston, Massachusetts) December 2, 1903

[6] Boston Post (Boston, Massachusetts) January 22, 1904

[7] Belknap Playbill and Program Collection

[8] Thanhouser Films: An Encyclopedia and History, by Q. David Bowers

[9] Motography, October 31, 1914

[10] Moving  Picture World, November 21, 1914

[11] Variety (New York, New York) February 24, 1922

[12] Motography, November 28, 1914


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