The results of Motion Picture magazine's "Motion Picture Hall of Fame" published in December, 1918, listed the top six stars, in order, as Mary Pickford, Marguerite Clark, Douglas Fairbanks, Harold Lockwood, William S. Hart, and Wallace Reid. Unfortunately, by the time this issue was in the hands of its readers, Harold Lockwood was dead.
Born April 12, 1887, in Newark, N.J., Lockwood's father was a horse trainer and breeder. Being very athletic, he went on to become an expert horseman and excelled in swimming, track and football. At some point during these early years, he also developed an interest in the theatre, attending plays as often as possible. As a result, Lockwood was delighted when he and his family moved to Manhattan during his teens.
He was able to get some occasional employment on the stage in extra roles, but his father urged him to attend business college, which he did. After a brief period as a drygoods salesman, he convinced his father that he could only be happy acting and spent the next seven years working regularly in musical comedy, vaudeville and Eastern stock.
He soon married a fellow actress, and on June 3, 1908, Alma and Harold Lockwood's only child, William, was born.
In 1911, at the urging of Archie MacArthur of Moving Picture World, Lockwood took a letter of introduction to Edwin S. Porter at his Rex Company. Porter had made his name with films such as "The Life of An American Fireman" (1902) and "The Great Train Robbery" (1903) while directing for Edison. By the time Lockwood came to him, Porter was heading up his own company. Immediately recognizing this handsome young man's potential, the director regularly placed him in leading roles. After only a few months, Lockwood moved to Nestor who was also headquartered in New York. In the latter part of 1911 when Nestor opened a studio in California, Lockwood went with the troupe.
In the spring of 1912, Lockwood made the move to Thomas Ince's "101 Ranch" playing leads in westerns and Civil War stories. After nine months, he signed with Selig where he was guaranteed regular leading man status. His tenure with Selig contributed to his experience and popularity, as well as being very profitable, with Lockwood playing a variety of roles in everything from comedies to dramas and costume romances to action melodramas. In "Two Men and a Woman" (1913), he was a rich banker in a love triangle that included his wife and another man. In "The Millionaire Vagabonds" (1912), he was part of a comedic group of rich men who become "knights of the road." "Margarita and the Mission Funds" (1913) was a romance of Old Mexico, while in "The Tie of the Blood" (1913), he was "Deer Foot," an Indian brave.
By this time, Porter had moved to Famous Players, and when he needed a leading man for an upcoming Mary Pickford feature he was directing, he thought of Lockwood. Porter was able to gain Lockwood's release from Selig and co-starred him in two features opposite Pickford, "Hearts Adrift" (1914) and "Tess of the Storm Country" (1914).
Because of his success in the Pickford features, Porter recommended to Adolph Zukor that he hire Lockwood as a leading man for Famous Players. In addition to a third time co-starring with Pickford, in "Such a Little Queen" (1914), Lockwood also had his first co-starring role with May Allison, a pairing that proved to be more popular with the movie-going public than the Francis X.Bushman-Beverly Bayne team had been.
The first of these was "David Harum" (1915) where Lockwood plays a poor but honest clerk who loves the local schoolteacher. American Flying "A" director Thomas Ricketts saw potential in this first romantic match-up and hired the couple from Zukor to star in a series of features that caught fire with the public. In "The House of a Thousand Scandals" (1915), Lockwood is the owner of rich estate who falls in love with a poor farm girl (Allison). "The Gamble" cast Lockwood as a farmer who neglects his wife (Allison) for his farm. All were not dramas, either. In "The Man in the Sombrero" Lockwood is the son of a rich hatter who poses for a sombrero ad and wins Allison for his wife.
In the March, 1917 issue of Motion Picture magazine, an article entitled "On Location with Harold Lockwood and May Allison" recounts the writer's two days of tagging along behind the famous couple at the time of the filming of "Pidgin Island" around Monterey, California. Rather than relating some insight into the filming of the movie, the writer, instead, recounts a pleasant drive up the coast with the couple picture-taking, sightseeing, fishing, hiking and picnicking. Of course the "mishaps" add charm to the story with Lockwood changing a flat tire and later getting drenched by an unexpected wave. Certainly this is journalistic "fluff," but it indicates the popularity of the couple and how fans were eager for tidbits of information about the stars' activities offscreen. (At left is a candid photo of Allison and Lockwood taken for a fan magazine.)
In all, Lockwood and Allison made 22 consecutive features between 1915 and 1917, so it was natural the media would link the two romantically outside the studio. However, that was not the case. Lockwood had been estranged from his wife for quite some time, but the love of his son would not let him bring a sudden end to the marriage. In 1915, he and Alma were briefly reconciled, but the relationship was an "on again, off again" affair until they were finally divorced in 1917, very quietly. Lockwood's personal life was always beyond reproach, and, during the times he and his wife were not living together, he was living with his mother.
Although Lockwood and Allison made 22 pictures together, only the first 14 were made by American. In April, 1916, the couple began making pictures for Fred Balshofer's Yorke-Metro. Their popularity continued to rise, and, naturally enough, so did their salaries. However, one day Balshofer decided the couple was becoming too expensive as a team, and that each could carry a picture on his/her own. That was the end of one of the cinema's most popular romantic couples, and the two were never to appear on the screen together again.
Lockwood's popularity did not wane, however. He was co-starred with such popular actresses as Carmel Myers, Ann Little, Vera Sisson, Pauline Curley, Martha Mansfield, Rubye de Remer and Bessie Eyton, and the audiences still flocked to see his pictures.
In June of 1918, Motion Picture magazine began offering a monthly "column" by Lockwood entitled "Funny Happenings in the Studio and on Lockwood." Lockwood apparently drew on personal and related experiences that made movie-making appear to be very lighthearted and fun. He tells of the prop man who was ordered to get a safe, quickly, for an upcoming scene. It wasn't until the next day that everyone learned he had removed the safe from the studio owner's office. In another story, he tells of the cook who mistook the actors' cold crème for lard. He noted that the cast and crew wondered about the "remarkable" taste of the food.
Lockwood continued to work on into 1918 under Balshofer's direction. He was also very active in the Liberty Loan drives of the time doing what he could to help out on the homefront as World War I raged in Europe. Although stars such as Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and William S. Hart seem to be the best-remembered stars for their bond-selling efforts, Motion Picture magazine described Lockwood as an "ardent worker for the Fourth Liberty Loan" and said his "sale of bonds at the Morning Telegraph booth ws the greatest stimulus that booth had during the whole campaign."
Unfortunately, this was also at a time when influenza was running rampant and taking lives throughout the country. It is believed that Lockwood's work in the Morning Telegraph booth is what brought him in contact with the deadly disease.
It was early October, 1918, and he had just begun work in Manhattan on an espionage-aviation film entitled "The Yellow Dove." Lockwood became sick with what was intially believed to be "la grippe," but which later turned out to be influenza. On October 19, he died from pneumonia complications. He was just 30 years old. His funeral was held at Campbell's Funeral Parlor on Broadway and 66th Street, and he was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery.
The following January, Photoplay published a full page tribute to Lockwood. "In his profession, he was duly modest, a steady worker, and consistently progressive in the arts of acting . . . Away from the studio, Lockwood was a clean, wholesome, worthy young American citizen in the very best sense of the term." Motion Picture magazine also published a full page tribute stating, "Harold Lockwood, a man of sterling worth, a sincere worker, a lovable playfellow, a promising star, died at the Hotel Woodward, New York City, on Saturday, October 19, from pneumonia brought on by the Spanish influenza. . . One of the most obvious reasons for the success of Harold Lockwood was his unqualified willingness to place his own little whims entirely out of consideration and give first place in his thoughts to the making of successful pictures." The tribute goes on to refer to the "bigness, the simplicity, the light-heartedness and the lovableness of the man. Harold Lockwood has passed on to a larger field, but his memory will always be cherished in motion picture circles."
Lockwood's wife, Alma, tried unsuccessfully to establish an acting career. She remarried in 1919. Lockwood's son, William, who was only 10 when his father died, changed his name to Harold Lockwood,Jr., and worked briefly as an actor in the late 1920's. He showed up in a couple of extra parts in movies in the 1950's. May Allison continued a successful career throughout the twenties, although she never made what would be called a "big" movie. She voluntarily called it quits in 1927. She was married a total of four times, apparently living a comfortable life until she died in 1989. As for Lockwood's career on film, only a handful of films survive. At this writing, none of them are available on video or DVD. This, sadly, helps us understand why a star, who once rivaled Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks in popularity, is all but forgotten today.
"Tess of the Storm Country" (1914) - UCLA and Eastman House
"David Harum" (1914) - Eastman House
"The Masked Rider" (1916) - Eastman House
"Pidgin Island" (1917) - Turner
"The Promise" (1917) - Eastman House
"The Haunted Pajamas" (1917) - Turner and Eastman House
copyright 2002 by Tim Lussier, all rights reserved
Background images are scenes from several of the Harold Lockwood-May Allison features.
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