Fred Niblo

January, 2006: Kenneth Bedient “retired” to York after working as an exhibit designer in New York City for many years. One day a New York City friend looked Niblo up in a film encyclopedia after watching the silent “Ben Hur”. Seeing York, Nebraska listed as Niblo’s home town, the friend called Mr. Bedient to learn more. Mr. Bedient started researching. He found some materials at the York County Historical Association and in York’s Anna Bemis Palmer Museum, interviewed descendants of Niblo’s older brother Otto Liedtke, contacted Niblo’s descendants, and gathered materials from several archives. Mr. Bedient prepared a succinct exhibit summarizing Niblo’s life that was shown at York College in March 2000 and another displayed in the lobby of the Anna Bemis Palmer Museum in York in March-April 2001 (see Newsbank archive search for text of local news articles). In 2005 he proposed that Friends of the Library sponsor an expanded exhibit to be shown in the month leading up to the 2006 Academy Awards ceremony. The project grew during the course of development. It incorporated additional input from several family members and others, and financial support from Cornerstone Bank. Kilgore Memorial Library added some Niblo “ephemera” to its collections, including two books with some of his vaudeville routines, and a 1931 cookbook with a recipe submitted by Fred Niblo and Enid Bennett.

An opening program at 2:30 PM Sunday, February 5, 2006 introduced the exhibit. Several Niblo and Liedtke descendants attended, and shared stories about their family.

February 2009; February 2010: Much of the visual material gathered for the 2006 exhibit and garnered in subsequent research has been posted to a FLICKR(tm) collection of images with explanatory captions.

In addition, the following items scattered on the World Wide Web were available at the time they were posted:

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Fred Niblo Notes & Links

Reviewing web resources about Fred Niblo (and the print resources underlying the web entries) demonstrates how wonderfully myth, hearsay, “jokes taken literally,” and other flavors of mis-information and dis-information can mingle to distort and conceal facts. — Stan Schulz, Library Director, Kilgore Memorial Library

Kilgore Memorial Library has copy no. 42 of   The LIEDTKE, NIBLO, AND BENNETT FAMILIES, compiled by John E. Fishburn (1983 with 1984 updates). This is a family genealogy / history which starts with Fred Niblo’s parents, and also provides a comparable genealogy / history for Enid Bennett. John Fishburn married Fred and Enid’s daughter Judith.

Pgs. 110 - 149 of Joan Vale’s 1985 University of San Diego Master’s thesis, Tintype Ambitions: Three Vaudevillians in Search of Hollywood Fame provides a critical review of Niblo’s career beginning with his 1897 comedic appearance at the Keith Theater in Boston. The chapter’s title, “MANIPULATIONS - FRED NIBLO” is indicative of the author’s interpretation. The chapter supplies many details of Niblo’s professional life, with reference notes, bibliography, and photos of Niblo in 1904, 1910, and 1926.

Textual exerpts from web sites

(from MSN Entertainment :

Fred Niblo

Director
Also Known As: Frederico Nobile
Born: January 6, 1874
Died: January 11, 1948

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From older versions of: moviegallery.com. , Blockbuster.com , etc.

Name: Fred Niblo
Born: Tuesday January 6, 1874   @   York, NE
Died: Sunday January 11, 1948   @   New Orleans, LA
Years Active: 1918-1942
Decades Active: ‘10’s , ‘20’s ‘30’s

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When this page was first compiled, most of the film / DVD / Video sites linked to or quoted Hal Erickson’s “All Movie Guide” entry:

American director Fred Niblo was a vaudeville actor for two decades before setting foot in a movie studio. In his travelling-actor days, Niblo worked with some of the biggest acts in the business, including the Four Cohans; in fact, his first wife was George M. Cohan’s younger sister Josephine (this marriage was alluded to in the Cohan biopic Yankee Doodle Dandy, though Niblo’s second marriage to actress Enid Bennett was not). By the time he went to work at the Ince Studios in 1917, Niblo had deserted acting for directing and producing. As a film director, Niblo secured his reputation as an action specialist with a series of Douglas Fairbanks vehicles, among them The Mark of Zorro (1920) and The Three Musketeers (1921). He also guided Rudolph Valentino through his box-office hit Blood and Sand (1921), and was listed as sole director on MGM’s mammoth Ben-Hur (1926) — though in both instances, the bulk of the impressive second-unit work was done by others. Despite Niblo’s track record of blockbusters and his reputation as a loyal studio “team player,” he really wasn’t an inspired or imaginative director; this became evident in his talkie work, including such yawners as the John Gilbert starrer Redemption (1929) and the William Haines vehicle Way Out West (1930). After faltering in a comeback attempt in England, Niblo returned to Hollywood as a journeyman actor in B-films on the order of Life with Henry (1941). Fred Niblo’s credits are sometimes confused with those of his screenwriter son, Fred Niblo Jr. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

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WEB LINKS:

wikipedia’s Fred Niblo ; Fred Niblo on the IMDb™   and IBDB™ web sites.

MISCELLANEOUS LINKS:

The “google/books” digitization project and search capability provides many additional resources to fill out details of Niblo’s public life. British reviews of his summer 1906 and 1907 PALACE THEATRE (London) performances are one example.

A contact sheet of photos of Josephine Cohan and Fred Niblo from the White Studio is included in the digitized resources of the New York Public Library.

Niblo’s association with the Cohans including his short-lived business partnership with George M. is mentioned in a couple of chapters of David Collins’ George M. Cohan website. The Fred Niblo - Josephine Cohan marriage is noted in the 1900-1909   account.   (scroll down to the 9th paragraph, below the image of “Running for Office.” — “tripod” sites also are accompanied by “popups.” ) . Fred Niblo’s appearance in “Hit the Trail Holliday” and Josie’s death on July 12, 1916 appear in the 1910-1919 chapter. ( Scroll down to the 14th & 15th paragraphs — just below the photo “Cohan fiddles once again in 1914”s “Hellow Broadway.” ) The Cohan-Niblo association also appears on the doors of the family mausoleum George M. Cohan built for his parents (Jere & Nellie Cohan) and sister (Josie Cohan Niblo). Ben-Hur premiered at the Cohan Theater on Dec. 30, 1925. Searching the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America collection of digitized newspapers for the years 1900 - 1910 brings up hundreds of references to Niblo’s and Cohan’s vaudeville activities.

Niblo was active in the White Rats association of vaudeville performers, including their efforts to secure copyright protection for their routines, and a strike to secure better contract provisions from theatrical booking agents. He was the organization’s president in 1908.

Mr. Niblo supplied a fanciful account of his life for the 1923 Blue Book of the Screen. The part about his mother being French and his father wounded at Gettysburg is correct; he and his first wife, Josephine Cohan Niblo (1876-1916) had traveled around the world with touring theatrical productions in 1904-1908. Niblo shot still photos and motion pictures which he used in a series of “Travel Talks.” He copyrighted the film and still photos in 1908. He presented the travel talks in 1908-1910. In some places, they were billed as “ZigZag Journeys.” Family members have photos of Fred, Josephine and Fred, Jr. taken in Colorado, Egypt, Uganda, and South Africa. Fred and Josephine met Enid Bennett in Australia, and Fred’s first film direction was filming versions of plays they were presenting in Australia.

Niblo was one of those who actively worked to keep Beverly Hills from being annexed by Los Angeles in 1923. This account of Monument to the Stars   notes the event and a monument erected in 1959 to honor it.   A close-up photo of the monument has additional links.

Niblo’s role in the founding of the Motion Picture Academy and the Oscar is noted in this summary of 70 Years of the Oscar by Robert Osborne.

From OstrichInk.com:   The Walk of Relative Obscurity includes a note about & photo of Niblo’s “sidewalk star” at 7014 Hollywood Blvd., & also gives his “birth name” as Fred Liedtke.

This web site   records Niblo’s role as EmmCee at the opening of Grauman’s Egyptian Theater on October 18. 1922. The opening was also the “first Hollywood premier;” the film was Robin Hood, starring Douglas Fairbanks, with Enid Bennett as Maid Marian.

Niblo’s photo appears listed for 1946 on the Masquer’s Club Scrapbook page.   William Malin shared a copy of a February 1933 fund solicitation letter for the Motion Picture Relief Fund that includes Niblo as a member of the Executive Committee. This appeal is noted on pg. 36 of The Heart of Hollywood, by Bob Thomas (Price/Stern/Sloan, 1981)

The Fred Niblo - Enid Bennett connection is noted in this scholarly article about Australians in Hollywood 1915-1925 — scroll down to the 12th paragraph.

Findagrave” entry for Fred Niblo   (has photo of Fred Niblo & photo of Fred & Enid’s bronze plaque in mausoleum )

Silents Are Golden — Niblo / Bennett home — the entry is for Enid Bennett, and shows the circa 1923 Beverly Hills Enid Bennett / Fred Niblo home   (has current & historic photos of exterior & interior of home ). The semicircular home designed for the Niblos by Wallace Neff in 1926 is noted in the 7th paragraph of this article.

Fred Niblo’s father is mentioned as William Frederick Liedtke (1836-1914) in this description of Cottle County, Texas historical markers.

Those fortunate enough to have access to microfilm backfiles of major newspapers, or the newer digitized electronic databases that have evolved from those microfilm projects, will find Niblo, the Cohans, and Enid Bennett mentioned regularly in articles and advertisements for theater and film appearances. Vaudeville listings in the Boston Globe and New York Times first mention Niblo in 1898.

Page last updated: 10/30/2010