Edwin August was born (let me take a deep breath before saying this) Edwin August Philip Von der Butz on November 10, 1883 in St. Louis Missouri, and died on March 4th, 1964. His mother was Sarah Mykins, and his father’s name was August Butz.
Edwin August was one of the players of the legitimate stage who jumped head first into the film industry. He was a jack-of-all trades. He seems to have done everything! He acted in at least 152 films (IMDB says 176 films). He directed 55 films from 1912-1919. He has 12 writing credits from 1911-1919. August even had his own production company, Eaco, whose founders also included Essanay cowboy G. M. Anderson‘s brother, Edward E. Anderson. The name was picked for the initials in both Anderson and August‘s names, since their initials were the samel.
This company was created in September 1914, and only lasted a few months; August left the company in December 1914.
Edwin August was a stage actor at very first. His first appearance was at the ripe-old age of eight in Little Lord Fauntleroy. He even starred in a show on Broadway in February 1910, performing in the Hackett Theater. This show was named Mr. and Mrs. Daventry, and was written by Oscar Wilde. It only had four performances. It may be of interest that this particular theater had a few re-namings, until becoming Anco Theater, a grindhouse movie theater, and closed in 1940. It became a retail space in 1988, and finally was demolished in 1997.
It might interest the reader to know that Edwin August ran for president in 1916. Obviously, he did not get very far.
For a few weeks, August was with Edison, and quickly moved to Biograph. After that he was with Lubin, and this is where we find him at the point of this interview. He was just thirty-one years old. Let’s honor this actor on his birthday who was once a household name.
This interview is from the December 1912 issue of Motion Picture Story Magazine.
Chats with the Players
EDWIN AUGUST, OF THE LUBIN COMPANY
Father calls me William,
Sister calls me Will,
Mother calls me Willie,
But the fellers call me Bill!
So sang one of Mr. Riley’s small boys, and I think Mr. Edwin August must have a kindred feeling for this youngster. For his real, truly name is—just take it slowly—Edwin August Phillip Von der Butz, and “the fellers” call him Jack! But this is not all of the story about his names. In London he is known to the great, picture-loving public as Montague Lawrence; in Australia, as Wilkes Williams; in Ireland as John Wilkes; in France, as Karl Von Busing, and in the Orient as David Cortlandt. All this is due to the fact that, before going to the Lubin Company, he was leading man with the Biograph Company, which, as everyone knows, refused to reveal the identity of any players; hence, the different exchanges abroad fitted names to his pictures to suit themselves.
When Mr. August was a very small boy he started stage life in “Little Lord Fauntleroy,” but cruel destiny took him from the stage and put him in school until he graduated from the Christian Brothers’ College in St. Louis—the town where he was born. For a time he was leading man in stock at the Imperial Theater, St. Louis; then he went with Otis Skinner and afterwards with Mrs. Leslie Carter and Digby Bell. He was with the revival of “Shore Acres” in New York, and in the original cast of “Going Some.” “The Climax” came next, following “William Lewers” at Weber’s, in New York.
One day Mr. August was walking down Broadway when he met Robert Carness, and they stopped to chat. During the conversation Mr. Carness put the query, “Why dont you do something in Motion Pictures?” It was a new idea to Mr. August, and he was inclined to look at it as a joke, but, finally, he was persuaded to go up to the Edison studio and meet Mr. Plimpton. An immediate engagement followed, and for some time he alternated the pictures with his regular stage work. Then came a season when he was rehearsing with an all-star cast for “Diplomacy.” Regardless of the play’s suggestive title, all the stars got into a fight, and the play was abandoned. It was then that, attracted by the big salary offered, Mr. August went to the Biograph Company, where he was leading man until he went to the Lubin’s six weeks ago. His first release from Lubin’s will be “His Life,” to be followed by “A Bond of Servitude,” “At the Rainbow’s End,” “The Players” and “The Good-for-nothing.”
Mr. August is a student, reading constantly the best things in literature. He has written many scenarios, among them “The Bearded Youth,” “The Sorrowful Child” and “The Mender of Nets,” released by the Biograph, and “The Song of a Soul,” one of the most beautiful productions of the Edison Company.
“Do you like Philadelphia?” I asked him.
“Well—it’s only a little way from New York,” he replied. “I can run over every week, you see.”
Unlike many of the photoplay stars, Mr. August makes no attempt to conceal his profession in his private life. In the fashionable neighborhood where he lives, he is known and pointed out to the visiting stranger. He is very fond of society, and loves dancing, so it is small wonder that he is a bit stiff and tired after his weekly visits to New York. He is fond of baseball, also, but his great hobby is chicken breeding, and he owns an up-to-date chicken farm in California, where he is experimenting with the problem of featherless chickens.
In appearance, Edwin August is the rather quiet, self-possessed type of gentleman, with a courteous ease of manner that makes even the inquisitive interviewer feel comfortable. He has very dark hair and a pair of fine, constantly changing eyes, which keep one guessing about their color. As nearly as I could determine, they are hazel—when they are not black or brown or gray or some of the shades between. He has a splendid voice, strong and well-modulated, and his enunciation is perfect. It seems a pity that his pictures cannot talk! His clothing is absolutely correct, and “matched up” to the last detail.
No, I did not ask whether he is married. What’s the use?