Francis X. Bushman was one of the great lovers of the silent screen.
Bushman's rugged good looks and expansive, eye-catching gestures made him the "King of the Movies" in an era that knew many film greats, including Charlie Chaplin, William S. Hart and Douglas Fairbanks.
For nearly a decade prior to 1920, Bushman held sway over female emotions from coast to coast, and national contests to determine the most popular male star fell to him without serious opposition.
He received more than a thousand letters a week from women during those years, and crowds jammed theaters whenever he made a personal appearance.
At the peak of his Hollywood career he affected a lavender image — riding around in long, low lavender automobile, attended by servants in lavender livery, and smoking lavender, monogrammed cigarets.
He was reputed to have made $6 million in five years , and he spent much of it during the same period. His 280-acre estate sported 300 Great Dane dogs.
But women are fickle and they began turning their attentions elsewhere. Some blame it on the public announcement that Bushman was married — a fact that had been kept secret for some time.
In any event, his film career declined sharply. He enjoyed a brief revival in Hollywood — as the Roman Messala in one of the early film epics, "Ben-Hur" — but by the end of the 1920s was out of movies once more.
He claimed a "misunderstanding" with film executives led to his temporary "blacklisting" in the movie industry.
In 1932, he turned to radio and a new and successful career. In 1943, he finally made another movie, "Wilson," disproving, he said, the predictions of old-time movie makers that his voice was unsuitable for talkies. In the 1950s and 1960s, he became a mainstay on television with frequent guest appearances.