Wilfred Lucas

Wilfred Van Norman Lucas

Picture from Photoplay Magazine (1915)
Born (1871-01-30)January 30, 1871
Norfolk, Ontario, Canada
Died December 13, 1940(1940-12-13) (aged 69)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor, Director and Screenwriter
Years active 1908–1940 (film)

Wilfred Lucas (January 30, 1871 – December 13, 1940) was a Canadian-born American stage actor who found success in film as an actor, director, and screenwriter.

Early life

Wilfred Van Norman Lucas was born in Norfolk County, Ontario on January 30, 1871,.[1][2] most likely in the township of Townsend where at the time his father served as a Wesleyan Methodist minister. He was the youngest of three sons to be raised by Daniel Lucas and the former E. Adeline Reynolds,[3] in Townsend and later Montreal, Quebec.[4] Lucas attended Montreal High School and McGill University[5] before immigrating to America in the late 1880s. His early career there was that of a baritone singer performing at church functions and at small venues.[6]


Wilfred Lucas eventually made a name for himself performing in light and grand opera in America and abroad.[7] He made his Broadway debut on April 4, 1904 at the Savoy Theater playing in both the curtain raiser “The Blue Grass Handicap” and The Superstition of Sue in which he played Sue’s brother, Percy Flage. Following his 1906 role in the highly successful play, The Chorus Lady,[8] Lucas was recruited to the fledgling Biograph Studios by D. W. Griffith. At the time, the film business was still looked down upon by many members of the theatrical community. In her 1925 book titled When the Movies Were Young, Griffith's wife, actress Linda Arvidson, told the story of the early days at Biograph Studios. In it, she referred to Lucas as the "first real grand actor, democratic enough to work in Biograph movies." [9]

In 1908 Lucas made his motion picture debut in Griffith's The Greaser's Gauntlet, appearing in more than 50 of these short (usually 17 minutes) films over the next two years. In 1910 while still acting, he wrote the script for Griffith's film Sunshine Sue, which was followed by many more scripts by 1924. Lucas also began directing in 1912 with Griffith on An Outcast Among Outcasts, directing another 44 films over the next 20 years. In early 1916 he starred as John Carter in Acquitted, about which Photoplay wrote, “No single performance in the records of active photography has surpassed his visualization of the humble book-keeper in “Acquitted”.[10]

Later in 1916 he appeared in D.W. Griffith’s film Intolerance.

Part of the group of Canadian pioneers in early Hollywood, Lucas became friends and sometimes starred with Mary Pickford, Sam De Grasse, and Marie Dressler. Canadian-born director Mack Sennett hired him to both direct and act in a large number of films at his Keystone Studios.

Wilfred Lucas made the successful transition from silent film to sound. While working in Hollywood, in 1926 he returned to the stage, performing in several Broadway plays. He later appeared as a foil for Laurel and Hardy, in their feature films Pardon Us and A Chump at Oxford. During his long career, Wilfred Lucas appeared in more than 375 films. Although for a time he was cast in leading roles, he became very successful as secondary and minor characters, making a good living in the film industry for more than three decades.

Personal life

On October 10, 1898 Lucas, by then a member of a stock company headed by actor James Durkin, wed fellow cast member Louise Perine at Elmira, New York.[11] The couple went on to have two sons, Wilfred "Irving" Lucas, Kirke LaShelle Lucas and one daughter, Alice Van Norman Lucas before their divorce sometime before 1910. Five years after he married Louise, Lucas became an American citizen at a ceremony held in San Bernardino, California.[12]

While working at Biograph Studios, Wilfred Lucas met and ultimately married actress/screenwriter Bess Meredyth (1890–1969) with whom he had a son. John Meredyth Lucas (1919–2002) became a successful writer and director including a number of episodes of Mannix and Star Trek. John Lucas wrote about his sometimes strained relationship with his father after his parents divorced in his book Eighty Odd years in Hollywood: Memoir of a Career in Film and Television (2004)[13]


Wilfred Lucas died on December 13, 1940, at Los Angeles and was interred at the Chapel of the Pines Crematory[14][15]

Partial filmography


  1. Norman Wilfred Lucas January 31, 1871 - Ontario, Canada Births, 1869-1913
  2. US Passport Application July 17, 1917 (Wilfred Lucas)
  3. 1871 Canadian Census Records
  4. 1881 Canadian Census Records
  5. Wilfred Lucas - Motion Picture Studio Directories, 1919 and 1921 (Ancestry.com)
  6. Musical Affairs - Sunday Herald, ( Syracuse, New York) October 03, 1897 pg. 10
  7. Wilfred Lucas - Motion Picture Studio Directories, 1919 and 1921 (Ancestry.com)
  8. Wilfred Lucas – Internet Broadway Database
  9. When the Movies were Young - By Linda A. Griffith, Linda Arvidso 1925 pg. 82
  10. Photoplay vol. 9 December 1915 pg. 104
  11. Stage Gossip - San Antonio Light - November 13, 1898 pg. 7
  12. US Passport Application July 17, 1917 (Wilfred Lucas)
  13. "Eighty Odd years in Hollywood: Memoir of a Career in Film and Television" (2004) John Meredyth Lucas pg.30-32
  14. Wilfred Lucas- Hartford, Courant December 15, 1940 (Obituary)
  15. Wilfred Lucas (1871-1940) Find a Grave Memorial
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