In fact, as an actor, Ben Wilson started his movie career as an employee of Thomas Edison. Billed as "Benjamin Wilson," he made his film debut in Edwin S. Porter's Silver Threads Among the Gold (1911) for the Edison Co. From 1911 to 1913 Wilson appeared in 13 movies directed by J. Searle Dawley, including The Priest and the Man (1913), the first cinematic adaptation of a work by popular Canadian novelist and short-story writer Gilbert Parker. Wilson first directed himself as an actor in The Brass Bowl (1914).
He directed 88 movies in which he appeared as an actor, mostly in the period of 1915 to 1916. Wilson left Edison for the Nestor Co. and eventually started his own production company, with a distribution deal with the Universal Film Manufacturing Co., which was still headquartered on the East Coast He was popular enough as an actor by 1916 to be featured on his own "trading card" in an issue from Piedmont Cigarettes. Other honorees
included Florence Lawrence, Edward Klink Lincoln and Pearl White. The next year he appeared on a card issued by Egyptian Oasis cigarettes along with such other stars as King Baggot, Sidney Drew, Mrs. Sidney Drew, Marshall Neilan and Anna Q. Nilsson. In 1918, Wilson hooked up again with Universal, this time as a producer. He produced and directed the 18-part action-adventure serial The Brass Bullet (1918). Eventually, he served on the board of directors of the Motion Picture Directors' Association of America, a fraternal organization created by J. Searle Dawley and others in 1915 to promote the interests of movie directors. In addition to appearing in 168 films as an actor, Wilson directed 123 movies, produced 69 and wrote 11 screenplays. In the late 1920s, he was reduced to turning out flicks on Poverty Row, producing, directing and writing silent films up through 1930 for Morris R. Schlank Productions, the bottom of the barrel amongst Hollywood studios. He made the transition to sound as an actor only: Wilson's last film was an acting gig in the
Buck Jones western Shadow Ranch (1930) for Columbia Pictures, which was released in 1930. It remains his only sound picture, as his career was cut short by ill health. Ben Wilson died from complications of heart disease on August 25, 1930, in Glendale, California. He was 54 years old.
Alternate Names: B. Frank Wilson | B.F. Wilson | Benjamin F. Wilson | Benjamin Franklin Wilson | Benjamin Wilson | Ben F. Wilson
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