Frank DanielsFamous Actor
Frank DanielsTelevision Personality
The Famous Frank DanielsFrank Daniels was born on August 15, 1856, in Dayton, Ohio. After the start of the Civil War, his family moved to Boston, and so his career is generally associated with that city. For three years, Frank worked his way through college as a wood engraver, studying singing at the New England Conservatory of Music. His debut was to be in Salem, Massachusetts, as the sheriff in "The Chimes of Normandy" -- a comic operetta written by Jean Robert Planquette. The play had debuted in major venues in 1877; the production in which Frank appeared opened in 1879.
From there, Frank paid his dues as a performer, moving to Boston's Gaiety Theatre. Next, he joined the McCaull Opera Comique Company, which was in its early years. "Colonel" John A. McCaull had begun the company in 1879 in New York. After his first profitable production -- "The Pirates of Penzance" -- McCaull expanded his operations. At this time, I do not know exactly when Frank joined the company, but McCaull's production of "Olivette" in 1880 allowed him to operate more than one troupe at a time, and it is possible that Frank joined during this phase of the expansion. In 1881, the troupe enjoyed success together with "The Electrical Doll," and Frank's style in portaying John Bobble Twitt was regarded as a reason for that success.
|The play was so successful that it toured for three years, both in America and in England,
allowing Frank to assist in the development of a new one. When Charles H. Hoyt's play,
"A Rag Baby," opened on April (or August?) 14, 1884, Daniels was in one of the starring roles
as Old Sport -- a character that he had helped create. At first, the play lost money for Hoyt,
but gradually the public came to enjoy it; it toured for another three years before Frank left
for better things.|
In 1887, Frank starred as Packington Giltedge in the resounding success, "Little Puck." At this time, he was billed as "The Funniest Man of Our Times," and Little Puck was reviewed as "the Success of the Season." The play ran for seven years, apparently prompting Hershey to introduce "Little Puck (chocolate) Cigars." Little Puck had been written by Archibald Clavering ("AC") Gunther, whose history to that point had been hit-and-miss. Gunther's works enjoyed some popular success but (until Little Puck) had been regarded as "railroad literature." For Little Puck, Gunther adapted for play the novel Vice-Versa (by "F. Anstey" aka Thomas Anstey Guthrie), and the adaptation yielded acclaim. Little Puck, starring Frank Daniels, was called "the most original comedy in existence," and it was Frank's own company who performed it.
As a result, Frank was included in The Marie Burroughs Art Portfolio of Stage Celebrities
(1894), being called there "one of the most popular among the comedians devoting themselves
to farce comedy." As Little Puck toured for seven years, Daniels continued to add new
musical numbers and features, and Burroughs notes that it brought him "wealth as well as
fame." The article about Frank in a 1909 compendium on stage actors notes that no one
who was around during those years has forgotten his performance in Little Puck; that's ironic,
since no one today has heard of him!|
After a short run in 1894 as Shrimps in "Princess Bonnie," Frank followed the grand success of Little Puck in 1895 with an equally-memorable performance in Victor Herbert's "The Wizard of The Nile," which opened in New York in November that year. The play had been written especially for Frank's company, and was dubbed "a major success." In it, Frank played the part of Kibosh, a Persian magician. So popular were the role and the play that Frank coined his second English phrase.
You see, "Little Puck" contained the character of Jinks Hoodoo, referred to as "a curse to everybody, including himself." A "hoodoo" was already someone unlucky, but Harry Mack's performance of Jinks Hoodoo in Little Puck led to both names being used to indicate someone or something unlucky. By 1894, one newspaper indicated that Little Puck was "known in every household in the land." Then, in 1895, in a sporting column in Hawaii, a nervous man was referred to as "a genuine Jinks Hoodoo." Later, a Reno (NV) paper mentioned another man as "a child of misfortune" and "the only original 'Jinks Hoodoo.'" After that, the term "jinks" (later spelled "jinx") came into popular use to mean someone unlucky; that term originated with one of the most famous plays put forth by the famous Frank Daniels.
|Now, "Wizard of the Nile" contained a tag line wherein Frank gestured, struck a funny
face, and said, "Am I a Wiz?" This comedy line came to be quoted by just about anyone
who saw the play. Historically, it appears to be the origin of using the term "wiz"
(short for "wizard") to mean someone who is particularly adept at doing something.
Alternatively, some now pronounce it "whiz," but the originator of the word was Frank
These successes prompted L. Kahner & Son, a cigar company operating out of New York City, to issue the Frank Daniels Cigar. Kahner had financial troubles, so items related to the cigars are rare.
|Frank continued to succeed on the stage, following "Wizard of the Nile" with
As you can see, even when a play did not succeed, Daniels was never without work.
From there, Frank's career began to change. Nineteen Twelve and 1913 saw him perform
in two short-lived burlesque shows, "Roly Poly" (as Hiram Fitzsimmons) and "Without the Law"
(as English Eddie), each of which was produced by the comedy team of (Joe) Weber and (Lew)
Fields. Yet the growing popularity of motion pictures did not escape his notice, as Frank began to play various characters
in silent film features and shorts -- particularly for Vitagraph Studios. His career in film began on July 12, 1915, with his portrayal
of Crooky Scruggs in "Crooky." This was followed by...
Yes, it's interesting that the man who popularized the term "jinx"
should appear as "Captain Jinks" in so many films. Later, Frank appeared
in a few other films: "Flare-Up Sal" (January, 1918) and "Soft Money"
(September 28, 1919) were among them. Frank may have been uncredited in
"Soft Money." Then in October, 1919 -- in a short directed by
Hal Roach -- Frank appeared in "Count the Votes." This was
followed by "His Only Father" that same month. Frank's last film appearance was
an uncredited spot in 1921's "Among Those Present."|
After this, he appeared in one more stage show, "The Gingham Girl," in which he portrayed the character called He Who Paints. The show was on Broadway from August 28, 1922, until June 2, 1923. Daniels was 66 years old at the time.
Frank eventually retired to West Palm Beach (FL), dying on January 12, 1935 -- not quite reaching age 80, but leaving an illustrious career behind him. His name was often spoken together with the other greats of his day (such as the Barrymores). His face was plastered on advertising items. His name was a draw at each of his events. Although he could once make people laugh with a gesture or twitch of his eyebrows, the career of this illustrious actor, the famous Frank Daniels, now has almost been forgotten. What a small tribute this website in his honor must be!