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George Berrell

Personal information
Birth date16 December 1849
Place of birthPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Date of death20 April 1933(age 83)
Death placeLos Angeles, California, USA

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George Berrell (16 December 1849 - 20 April 1933) was an American actor of both the 19th and early 20th Century stage and of the silent era. He appeared in numerous stage plays as well as 55 films over the course of a career that ran from 1850 to 1927.

He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and died in Los Angeles, California.

Little can be found about George Berrell beyond brief descriptions of his film career, however, he was an important though not famous actor, stage manager and director of the 19th Century American theater, and central to the growth of the theater in St. Louis. Born to a theatrical family, he first appeared as an infant on stage at the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia in 1850 . As a child he earned his keep and helped support his widowed mother, an actress, by carrying costume baskets for actors in any company of which she might be a member. John Wilkes Booth was one of those, and Berrell speaks affectionately of him in his unpublished autobigraphy, "Theatrical and Other Reminiscsences." In his late teens and early twenties he roamed the country, often afoot, with the goal of "growing up with the country," as he put it in the autobiography.

Shortly after leaving Dr. Barton's Military Academy outside of Philadelphia, he was walking south along the Missouri River when a rider approached him from behind. Dismounting, he introduced himself as Turner Tinnell and as they traveled on by walk and tie, Turner offered Berrell a job teaching school on Keg Island, a Missouri River mud flat island. Berrell accepted and taught there for a year, his students being the children of Confederate fugitives, many former members of Quantrill's Raiders and cohorts of Frank and Jesse James. Illness forced him to leave and he returned to Philadelphia where his mother nursed him back to health. Later he explored the frontier, living for a while in Laramie, Wyoming, where he describes his involvement in the arrest of a corrupt city policeman name Louis Roudepouch. For a number of years he alternated between traveling the country and working odd jobs, in lumber camps, on the railroad, in drug stores and post offices, doing whatever work he could find. In his late twenties or early thirties he returned to the theater and stayed there until around 1915 when he retired and started working in silent pictures, a job he did not consider on a par with acting in the theater. In 1917 he appeared in John Ford's first full-length film, "Straight Shooting."

The novel, "Shadows and Acts," by Wilson Roberts based in part on Berrell's unpublished autobiography, details his adventurous life and explores the conflicts engendered by his tempestuous relationship with Booth and his life-long friendship with the actress, Catherine Terrell, as well as his pursuit by Miranda Ives, the daughter of a serpent handling preacher he first encountered while teaching on Keg Island. The novel is due to be published in 2011.

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