GARRETT, IND. (WPTA21)-It’s hard not to laugh out loud when we watch them..the never ending kisses, interminable reaction shots..the naive innocence that defined the silent movie era. But however silly they may seem now we owe these little black and white gems a debt of gratitude for the films we enjoy today. And one of silent films early pioneers and grandest stars owes his existance to 21 country.
“He performed in Vaudeville he performed on Broadway and eventually made his way to early Hollywood,” says Dekalb County Historian John Bry. “He was an incredibly popular actor of the time.”
He was born John Bowersocks in 1897 in this house on Cowen Street in Garrett, Indiana. The son of a railroad engineer Bowersocks was a student at Huntington Business College when he discovered the theatre, dumped his business studies, changed his name to John Bowers and ran off to New York to become an actor. By 1914 he’d moved to Hollywood and made his first picture, a western, starring Tom Mix.
“He was viewed as a very talented and gifted actor,” says Bry. “Handsome, popular with the ladies. He became one of the leading men in Hollywood in the early 20th Century.”
John Bowers would make more than 90 silent films during his career, playing opposite Hollywood’s leading ladies and marrying one of them, Margurite De La mont, in 1923. Unfortunately when the silent movie era died out with the introduction of sound John Bowers career died with it. Out of work, penniless and alcoholic he walked into the Pacific Ocean at Malibu Beach in November, 1936 and drowned at age 49. And though he’s all but forgotten today his little hometown remembers. Next year folks in Garrett will erect a historic marker in front of Bowers home on Cowen Street honoring his work and his memory.
“John Bowers work as an actor brought joy and emotion to millions of people on the screen and the stage,” says Bry, “and it all started here in Garrett, Indiana. It’s important we remember these stories especially here in small town Indiana of the people who have these contributions because it reflects us on the community and we need to remember these stories.”
A star of the silver screen whose star faded and died, remembered now by his friends back home in Indiana. This is Eric Olson reporting.