Saturday, August 5, 2017

Born Today August 5: Robert G. Vignola


Silent director and actor Robert G. Vignola was born Rocco Giuseppe Vignola in Trivignano, Italy on this day.  His family left for the U.S. when he was 3 years old.  They settled in upstate New York, where he grew up.  He made his stage acting debut at the age of 19 and entered the film business in 1906 at the age of 24.  Though, he would go on to be one of the most prolific directors in the silent age, he entered the business as an actor.  His first film was The Black Hand (1906) made for the Amercian Mutoscope and Biograph company--it would be one of the first fictionalized films actually based on true events.  For it's time, at 10 minutes long, it was one the longest films put out to date.  As a film actor, he has some 62 credits to his name, up through the year 1915.  Some of these, he directed himself in.  Indeed, he made his directorial debut early on in 1911, shadow directing Rory O'More.  He added writing credits to his in 1913, co-penning the scenario for The Vampire (widely believed to be the very first "Vamp" film).  He directed or co-directed 87 films, almost all of which were in the silent era, and included bit uncredited parts by the likes of Clark Gable and Rudolph Valentino in at least two titles. Some of his films have been lost, but a surprising number of them survive and are available widely for viewing.  A very large number of his earliest directed films were made under contract with the Kalem company.  Later on, he worked for a variety of different studios including Famous Players, MGM, and Paramount.  He directed 4 films in the 1930's, with Broken Dreams, starring Randolph Scott, being his very first sound film.  The last film that he directed was in 1937, A Girl From Scotland Yard.  He then retired from the industry, but continued to living in Hollywood.  He died there on the 25th of October 1953 at the age of 71.  He his buried near where in grew up, in Menands, New York in the Catholic cemetery of St. Agnes.  

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