Francis X. Bushman (January 10, 1883 - August 23, 1966) was the first major male movie star, first starting in 1911 in the silent film His Friend's Wife. He was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Bushman, like many of his contemporaries, broke into film from stage. He was performing at Broncho Billy Anderson's Essanay Studios in Chicago, Illinois, where he was first noticed for his muscular, sculpted frame. He appeared in nearly 200 feature film roles - more than 175 films before 1920, 17 in his film debut year of 1911 alone.
In 1902, he married seamstress Josephine Fladume. By the launch of his film career, the couple had five children. In 1918, he was the subject of a huge scandal as his affair with longtime costar Beverly Bayne became a national scandal. Three days after his divorce with Josephine was final, Bushman and Bayne were married. His popularity waned when it was revealed that he was married. He was actually married four times.
His role as Messala in Ben-Hur in 1925 might have launched his career even further but for being blacklisted by Louis B. Mayer (of the then-fledgling Metro Goldwyn Mayer film studio). Film historians claim that when Mayer visited Bushman's home, Bushman's valet, unfamiliar with the studio head, refused him entrance, and this imagined insult fueled Mayer's wrath.
At the peak of his career, he was known as "the King of Photoplay" before that title went to Clark Gable, with whom it remains today.
Long after his film career waned, Bushman made his broadcasting mark on the CBS Radio network's long-running dramatic serial entitled: "Those We Love." In the program, which ran from 1938 to 1945, Bushman played the role of John Marshall, father of the twins, played by Richard Cromwell and Nan Grey. Robert Cummings also rounded out the cast of this popular soap opera.
In the 1960's Batman comedy series Bushman guest starred as a wealthy collector of Silent Pictures. Both Bushman and his The Grip of the Yukon co-star Neil Hamilton appeared in the episode, their first time in 28 years. Ironically this was Bushman's last appearance on film.
Francis X. Bushman died from a heart attack precipitated by a fall in Pacific Palisades, California in 1966. He was interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale.