Catholics in the Movies: Maurice Costello (1877-1950)

This week McNamara’s Blog features the Catholic presence in American film during the silent and early sound era. A large amount of actors and actresses were Catholics, many of them Irish. Today we feature Maurice Costello, one of the first matinee idols of any kind. Born to Irish Catholic immigrant parents, Costello grew up in Pittsburgh. Between 1905 and 1950, he appeared in some 280 films, beginning with Sherlock Holmes. The first serious male cinematic idol, he became known as “the Dimpled Darling.” He set a precedent that exists to this day when he declared: “I will not build sets or paint scenery.” By the end of the silent era, his popularity had waned considerably. During the sound era he was a supporting character. Costello’s two daughters Helene and Dolores became film stars in the 1920’s. The latter married actor John Barrymore. The marriage marked the merger of two of the era’s great acting dynasties. Drew Barrymore is the great-grand-daughter of Maurice, who is buried in East Los Angeles’ Calvary Cemetery.

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