Actors and Authors
Updated: Aug 8
This is a continuation of the blog, "People You Should Know" about famous people with ties to Belmont County. Because there are so many athletes that have ties to the county, this blog will focus on the actors and authors (including a famous illustrator), with the next blog to be dedicated to famous athletes.
1. Mary Maurice
The "Grand Old Lady" of early silent films, veteran touring company actress Mary Maurice (born Birch on November 15, 1844 in Morristown, Ohio), spent nearly her entire 1910-1918 screen career with the New York-based Vitagraph company where, on and off the screen, she "mothered" everyone from the Taldmadge sisters to Jean, "the Vitagraph Dog." She was especially effective as James Morrison's mother in the studio's great preparedness film The Battle Cry for Peace (1915). She appeared in 139 films between 1909 and 1918.
2. William Boyd "Hopalong Cassidy"
William Boyd, who played serial cowboy hero “Hopalong Cassidy” was born in Hendrysburg, Ohio. Although he acted in many other films, he is best known for his role as "Hoppy" in the serial films. Later, he purchased the rights to those films and when TV became popular, he introduced a whole new generation of kids to the films. (They are even available on Hulu now). Boyd also became the first national TV star and "Hoppy" merchandise included everything from lunch boxes to bedroom furniture and wall paper. He also had a comic strip, comic book, and radio show. He grew up in nearby Guernsey County in Cambridge where a museum and a long-running festival in his honor were located (The festival was discontinued in 2015 and the museum suffered a fire in 2016). A display on Boyd from Laura Bates, who was the owner of the museum, is now on display in the Hendrysburg room of the Belmont County Heritage Museum in St. Clairsville. The display includes merchandise, historic photos, and memorabilia from the Hopalong Cassidy Festival.
3. Kenneth Donovan "Ken" Clark
(June 4, 1927 – June 1, 2009) was an American B-movie actor. He appeared in movies in the United States and Europe, including the Secret Agent 077 trilogy. Clark was born in Neffs, Ohio. Originally contracted to 20th Century Fox, Clark's most prominent role in American film was Stewpot in South Pacific (1958), in which Clark figures importantly in two musical sequences, "There Is Nothing Like a Dame"and an amateur Thanksgiving show in which he presents a strongman act.
Clark made many guest star appearances on a variety of American TV shows, including four appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. In 1959, he made an unsold private investigator TC pilot Brock Callahan. During this period Clark had the lead in Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959) and 12 to the Moon (1960).
During the 1960s like many other American actors Clark went to Italy appearing in several sword and sandal films, spaghetti westerns and Europsy films beginning with Re Manfredi (1961).
1. William Dean Howells
American author and journalist William Dean Howells was born on March 1, 1837, in Martinsville (now Martins Ferry), Ohio. In 1860, the Republican Party selected Howells to write a biography of their presidential candidate, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln won the election of 1860 and rewarded Howells by appointing him the United States Consul to Venice, Italy. Howells remained in this position until 1865, when he returned to the United States and became an assistant editor with The Atlantic Monthly. He became the editor-in-chief of the journal in 1871. Howells remained with The Atlantic Monthly until 1881. Howells became a well-known novelist during the late nineteenth century. He published his first novel, Their Wedding Journey, in 1872. He authored 35 novels over the next 50 years. One of those books, The Leatherwood God, was written about a mysterious, but real historical figure in Salesville, Ohio. He also published numerous short stories, plays, and poems.
2. James Wright
Poet James Wright was born in Martins Ferry in 1927. He was frequently referred to as one of America's finest contemporary poets. He was admired by critics and fellow poets alike for his willingness and ability to experiment with language and style, as well as for his thematic concerns. Wright won a Pulitzer Prize in 1972 for his Collected Poems. One of his most famous poems is "Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio".
For many years he was honored at the James Wright Poetry Festival in Martins Ferry. A biography on Wright was published in 2017. Wright and his son, the late Franz Wright, were the only father and son to have both won a Pulitzer for poetry.
3. William Francis "Frank" Ver Beck (June 1, 1858 – July 13, 1933) was an American illustrator known for his comedic drawings of animals. He illustrated over 20 books, including Frank L. Baums’ “A New Wonderland” published in 1900.
Ver Beck was born in Richland Township in Belmont County, the son of a shoemaker. He studied art and woodcarving under Mansfield, Ohio artist Robert R. "Railroad" Smith and worked as a wood engraver.
In 1881 or 1882, Ver Beck moved to New York City. There he studied art and became a freelance illustrator for magazines including Scribner's, The Ladies Home Journal, and Collier's.