Frank Daniels

Famous Actor

Frank Daniels

Television Personality

The Famous Frank Daniels

Frank Daniels was born on August 15, 1856, in Dayton, Ohio. After the start of the Civil War, his family moved to Boston, and so his career is generally associated with that city. For three years, Frank worked his way through college as a wood engraver, studying singing at the New England Conservatory of Music. His debut was to be in Salem, Massachusetts, as the sheriff in "The Chimes of Normandy" -- a comic operetta written by Jean Robert Planquette. The play had debuted in major venues in 1877; the production in which Frank appeared opened in 1879.

From there, Frank paid his dues as a performer, moving to Boston's Gaiety Theatre. Next, he joined the McCaull Opera Comique Company, which was in its early years. "Colonel" John A. McCaull had begun the company in 1879 in New York. After his first profitable production -- "The Pirates of Penzance" -- McCaull expanded his operations. At this time, I do not know exactly when Frank joined the company, but McCaull's production of "Olivette" in 1880 allowed him to operate more than one troupe at a time, and it is possible that Frank joined during this phase of the expansion. In 1881, the troupe enjoyed success together with "The Electrical Doll," and Frank's style in portaying John Bobble Twitt was regarded as a reason for that success.

The play was so successful that it toured for three years, both in America and in England, allowing Frank to assist in the development of a new one. When Charles H. Hoyt's play, "A Rag Baby," opened on April (or August?) 14, 1884, Daniels was in one of the starring roles as Old Sport -- a character that he had helped create. At first, the play lost money for Hoyt, but gradually the public came to enjoy it; it toured for another three years before Frank left for better things.

In 1887, Frank starred as Packington Giltedge in the resounding success, "Little Puck." At this time, he was billed as "The Funniest Man of Our Times," and Little Puck was reviewed as "the Success of the Season." The play ran for seven years, apparently prompting Hershey to introduce "Little Puck (chocolate) Cigars." Little Puck had been written by Archibald Clavering ("AC") Gunther, whose history to that point had been hit-and-miss. Gunther's works enjoyed some popular success but (until Little Puck) had been regarded as "railroad literature." For Little Puck, Gunther adapted for play the novel Vice-Versa (by "F. Anstey" aka Thomas Anstey Guthrie), and the adaptation yielded acclaim. Little Puck, starring Frank Daniels, was called "the most original comedy in existence," and it was Frank's own company who performed it.

As a result, Frank was included in The Marie Burroughs Art Portfolio of Stage Celebrities (1894), being called there "one of the most popular among the comedians devoting themselves to farce comedy." As Little Puck toured for seven years, Daniels continued to add new musical numbers and features, and Burroughs notes that it brought him "wealth as well as fame." The article about Frank in a 1909 compendium on stage actors notes that no one who was around during those years has forgotten his performance in Little Puck; that's ironic, since no one today has heard of him!

After a short run in 1894 as Shrimps in "Princess Bonnie," Frank followed the grand success of Little Puck in 1895 with an equally-memorable performance in Victor Herbert's "The Wizard of The Nile," which opened in New York in November that year. The play had been written especially for Frank's company, and was dubbed "a major success." In it, Frank played the part of Kibosh, a Persian magician. So popular were the role and the play that Frank coined his second English phrase.

You see, "Little Puck" contained the character of Jinks Hoodoo, referred to as "a curse to everybody, including himself." A "hoodoo" was already someone unlucky, but Harry Mack's performance of Jinks Hoodoo in Little Puck led to both names being used to indicate someone or something unlucky. By 1894, one newspaper indicated that Little Puck was "known in every household in the land." Then, in 1895, in a sporting column in Hawaii, a nervous man was referred to as "a genuine Jinks Hoodoo." Later, a Reno (NV) paper mentioned another man as "a child of misfortune" and "the only original 'Jinks Hoodoo.'" After that, the term "jinks" (later spelled "jinx") came into popular use to mean someone unlucky; that term originated with one of the most famous plays put forth by the famous Frank Daniels.

Now, "Wizard of the Nile" contained a tag line wherein Frank gestured, struck a funny face, and said, "Am I a Wiz?" This comedy line came to be quoted by just about anyone who saw the play. Historically, it appears to be the origin of using the term "wiz" (short for "wizard") to mean someone who is particularly adept at doing something. Alternatively, some now pronounce it "whiz," but the originator of the word was Frank Daniels.

These successes prompted L. Kahner & Son, a cigar company operating out of New York City, to issue the Frank Daniels Cigar. Kahner had financial troubles, so items related to the cigars are rare.

Frank continued to succeed on the stage, following "Wizard of the Nile" with plays like:
  • "The Idol's Eye" (1897, another Victor Herbert/Harry Smith play);
  • "The Ameer" (1899, music again by Herbert) -- Frank plays Iffe Khan, and sings;
  • "Miss Simplicity" (1901, written by R.A. Barnet with music by Harry Lawson Heartz) -- Frank plays My Man Blossom, and sings;
  • "The Office Boy" (1903-04, produced by Charles B. Dillingham, music by Ludwig Englander) -- Frank plays Noah Little, and sings;
  • "Sergeant Brue" (1905, another Dillingham production), in which Frank plays the title character and sings;
  • "The Tattooed Man" (1907, prod. Dillingham, with Herbert and Smith) -- Frank plays Omar Khayam, Jr., and sings;
  • "Hook of Holland" (1908, music by Billy Kent and Edwin Burch) -- Frank sings "Gee, I Certainly Hate These Trousers");
  • "The Dawn of a To-morrow" (1909, by Frances Hodgson Burnett);
  • "The Belle of Brittany" (1909, produced by Lee and JJ Shubert) -- Frank plays Marquis de St. Gautier, and sings;
  • "Bobby Burnit" (1910, adapted by Winchell Smith from a novel by George Randolph Chester);
  • "The Girl in the Train" (1911, by Harry Smith); and
  • "The Pink Lady" (1911, by Klaw & Erlanger)

As you can see, even when a play did not succeed, Daniels was never without work. From there, Frank's career began to change. Nineteen Twelve and 1913 saw him perform in two short-lived burlesque shows, "Roly Poly" (as Hiram Fitzsimmons) and "Without the Law" (as English Eddie), each of which was produced by the comedy team of (Joe) Weber and (Lew) Fields. Yet the growing popularity of motion pictures did not escape his notice, as Frank began to play various characters in silent film features and shorts -- particularly for Vitagraph Studios. His career in film began on July 12, 1915, with his portrayal of Crooky Scruggs in "Crooky." This was followed by...

  • Father in "What Happened to Father" (December, 1915) (feature)
  • Captain Jinks in the feature film "Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines" (January, 1916)
  • A group of Mr Jack shorts, based on a comic strip, including:
    "Mr. Jack, a Hall Room Hero" (February, 1916)
  • "Mr. Jack Wins a Double-Cross" (1916)
  • "Mr. Jack Ducks the Alimony" (March, 1916)
  • "Mr. Jack, the Hash Magnete" (1916)
  • "Mr. Jack Inspects Paris" (1916)
  • "Mr. Jack Trifles" (1916)
  • "Mr. Jack Inspects Paris" (April, 1916)
  • "Mr. Jack, a Doctor by Proxy" (1916)
  • "Mr. Jack's Hat and the Cat" (April, 1916)
  • "Mr. Jack's Artistic Sense" (1916)
  • "Mr. Jack Goes Into Business" (1916)
  • "Mr. Jack Hires a Stenographer" (1916)
  • "Mr. Jack Hires a Stenographer" (May 1, 1916)
  • "His Dukeship, Mr. Jack" (May, 1916)
  • A group of Kernel Nutt shorts, including: "Kernel Nutt, the Janitor" (May, 1916)
  • "Kernel Nutt Wins a Wife" (May, 1916)
  • "Kernel Nutt, the Footman" (May, 1916)
  • "Kernel Nutt in Mexico" (July, 1916)
  • "Kernel Nutt's Musical Shirt" (1916)
  • "Kernel Nutt's $100 Bill" (1916)
  • "Kernel Nutt and High Shoes" (1916)
  • "Kernel Nutt Flirts with Wifie" (1916)
  • "Kernel Nutt and Prince Tango" (1916)
  • "Kernel Nutt, the Piano Tuner" (1917)
  • Captain Jinks in shorts, including: “Captain Jinks Should Worry” (November, 1916)
  • “Captain Jinks' Evolution” (1916)
  • “Captain Jinks' Hidden Treasure” (1916)
  • “Captain Jinks, the Cobbler” (1916)
  • “Captain Jinks' Getaway” (1916)
  • “Captain Jinks' Widow” (1917)
  • “Captain Jinks' Nephew's Wife” (1917)
  • “Captain Jinks' Love Insurance” (1917)
  • “Captain Jinks' Dilemma” (1917)
  • “Captain Jinks' Partner” (1917)
  • “Captain Jinks' Stingy Spirit” (1917)
  • “Captain Jinks' Trial Balance” (1917)
  • “Captain Jinks' Better Half” (1917)
  • “Captain Jinks' Wife's Husband” (1917)
  • “Captain Jinks' Love Letters” (1917)
  • “Captain Jinks' Cure” (1917)
  • “Captain Jinks' Explosive Temper” (1917)
  • “Captain Jinks' Kids” (1917)
  • “Captain Jinks' Alibi” (1917)
  • “Captain Jinks, the Plumber” (1917)
  • “Captain Jinks' Great Expectations” (1917)
  • “Captain Jinks in and Out” (1917)
  • “Captain Jinks and Himself” (April, 1917)

Yes, it's interesting that the man who popularized the term "jinx" should appear as "Captain Jinks" in so many films. Later, Frank appeared in a few other films: "Flare-Up Sal" (January, 1918) and "Soft Money" (September 28, 1919) were among them. Frank may have been uncredited in "Soft Money." Then in October, 1919 -- in a short directed by Hal Roach -- Frank appeared in "Count the Votes." This was followed by "His Only Father" that same month. Frank's last film appearance was an uncredited spot in 1921's "Among Those Present."

After this, he appeared in one more stage show, "The Gingham Girl," in which he portrayed the character called He Who Paints. The show was on Broadway from August 28, 1922, until June 2, 1923. Daniels was 66 years old at the time.

Frank eventually retired to West Palm Beach (FL), dying on January 12, 1935 -- not quite reaching age 80, but leaving an illustrious career behind him. His name was often spoken together with the other greats of his day (such as the Barrymores). His face was plastered on advertising items. His name was a draw at each of his events. Although he could once make people laugh with a gesture or twitch of his eyebrows, the career of this illustrious actor, the famous Frank Daniels, now has almost been forgotten. What a small tribute this website in his honor must be!

Contents of this page © 2005, 2012 Frank Daniels.