1893 – 1920
Who was Bobby Harron?
Born in New York City, Harron was second oldest child of nine siblings in a poor, working-class Irish Catholic family. Harron's younger siblings John, Mary and Charles also became actors while one of his younger sisters, Tessie, was an extra in silent films. Charles was killed in a car accident in December 1915. Tessie died of Spanish influenza in 1918.
Harron attended the Saint John Parochial School in Greenwich Village. At the age of fourteen, he found work as an errand boy at American Biograph Studios. In addition to cleaning duties, Harron also appeared as an extra in a few shorts.
Within a year Harron was noticed by newly hired director D.W. Griffith. Harron quickly became a favorite of Griffith and Griffith began to give the 14-year-old increasingly larger film roles. His first film for Griffith was the 1909 short crime drama The Lonely Villa. The teenaged Harron was often cast by Griffith in the role of the "sensitive" and "naïve" boy, who was overwhelmingly sympathetic and appealing to American film-goers and was not far removed from Harron's real-life persona. Harron garnered much public interest, especially amongst young female fans. In 1912 alone, Robert Harron appeared in nearly forty films.
Harron is probably best recalled for his roles in the three epic Griffith films: 1914's Judith of Bethulia; 1915's controversial all-star cast The Birth of a Nation; and 1916's colossal multi-scenario Intolerance. One of Harron's most popular roles of the era came in 1919 when he starred opposite Lillian Gish in the Griffith directed romantic film True Heart Susie.
Harron had a burgeoning off-screen romantic relationship with Dorothy Gish. By 1920, Harron had grown too old to continue playing the juvenile roles that had launched his career. He began losing leading man roles to Richard Barthelmess. Later that year, D.W. Griffith agreed to loan Harron to Metro Pictures for a four-picture deal. His first film for Metro, also the last film of his career, was the comedy Coincidence.
In late August 1920, Harron traveled by train from Los Angeles to New York City to attend the premiere of the film Way Down East and a preview of what would become his final film, Coincidence. Harron checked into the Hotel Seymour on September 1 with his friend, screenwriter and director Victor Heerman, with whom he was sharing a room. Harron and Heerman attended the preview for Coincidence later that day. Heerman later said that the preview went poorly as the film was not well received by the audience.
After the premiere, Harron returned to his hotel room alone. At some point, Harron sustained a gunshot wound to the chest after a gun in his possession discharged. According to published reports and Harron’s own account, he had the gun in a trunk along with his clothes and other possessions. As he was taking some clothes out of the trunk, the gun fell to the floor, discharged, hitting him in the chest and puncturing his lung. Harron was transported to Bellevue Hospital Center where he remained conscious but in critical condition. Shortly after the shooting, rumors arose that the shooting was not accidental and Harron had attempted suicide. There was speculation that Harron was despondent over being passed over for the leading role in Way Down East or due to the breakup of his relationship with Dorothy Gish. Victor Heerman rejected this theory because Harron, a teetotaler and virgin, was a devout Catholic. Actresses Miriam Cooper and Lillian Gish, both of whom were friends with Harron, agreed with Heerman’s reasoning. Cooper and Gish also believed Harron had not tried to kill himself as he was his family's major source of income and had plans to start shooting a new film with Elmer Clifton. Friends who visited Harron in the hospital were optimistic about his recovery as he appeared to be on the mend. However, on September 5, four days after he was shot, Harron died of his wound.
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"Bobby Harron." Biographies.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 26 Aug. 2019. <https://www.biographies.net/biography/bobby_harron/b/37871913>.