Charles Ashton and British Silent Films

British Silent Film Star – Charles Ashton

John Stuart

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Born John Alfred Louden Croall (1898-1979)

Born in Scotland as John Alfred Louden Croall in 1898, he became an actor in the 1920s, changing his name to John Stuart.  He began his stage and screen career directly after World War I service in The Black Watch and the Seaforth Highlanders. He was a very popular leading man in British silent films making a total including shorts of 55 films.  After his debut in Her Son (1920), his notable films included The School for Scandal (1923), The Loves of Mary, Queen of Scots (1923) with Irene Rooke, This Freedom (1923), Hitchcock’s first film The Pleasure Garden (1925), Mademoiselle of Armentieres (1926), Hindle Wakes (1927), Roses of Picardy (1927),  Sailors don’t care (1928), High Seas (1929) and one the earliest talking picture Kitty (1929) with Estelle Brody. He also starred in three German films: Venetian Lovers (1925), Bachelor Wives (1925) and Yacht of the Seven Sins (1928).

He was one of the few silent film actors to remain popular after the introduction of talking pictures. He remained a star in the British cinema of the 1930s, playing a richer variety of roles than he had done in the 1920s. His leading ladies included Benita Hume (Men of Steel), Elizabeth Allan (The Lost Chord), and the popular singing star Gracie Fields (The Show Goes On), while his co-stars included stage luminaries such as Sybil Thorndike, Owen Nares, Milton Rosmer, Irene Vanbrugh, and a young Peggy Ashcroft. He also starred in two major European films, Bella Donna with Conrad Veidt and Cedric Hardwicke, and Abdul the Damned with Fritz Kortner and Nils Asther.

After World War II he played a wide range of character parts. His film career lasted close on sixty years, during which time he appeared in 168 films. He worked extensively in the theatre, starring in several West End productions, heading a repertory company for three years, and touring widely. From 1948 onwards he also played many roles on television. His last film appearance was in Superman (1978). He died the following year at the age of 81, having spent his last months in Denville Hall, the actors’ retirement home in north London.

In 1971 he wrote a short memoir, Caught in the Act, published by The Silent Picture. In 2013 his son Jonathan Croall wrote his biography Forgotten Stars: My Father and the British Silent Film World, published by Fantom Publishing.

I am indebted to Jonathan for preparing this short biography of his father, John Stuart.

Films with Charles Ashton

Michael in The Woman Juror (1926)

Michael Rivven in We Women (1925)

Alex St George in Kitty (1929)

Written by anneramsden

April 28, 2010 at 12:06 pm

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