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Edwards Davis

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Edwards Davis
Cader Edwards Davis

(1873-06-17)June 17, 1873
DiedMay 16, 1936(1936-05-16) (aged 62)
Magaret Kingore
(m. 1898; div. 1900)
(m. 1906; div. 1914)
Jule Power
(died 1932)

Cader Edwards Davis (June 17, 1873 – May 16, 1936) was an American actor, producer, and playwright of vaudeville and the silent film era, known as a character actor. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, he was an ordained Christian minister and first achieved prominence as a sensational orator and lecturer, becoming known as the "poet-preacher" and the "Talmage of the West", before leaving the pulpit for an acting career. He wrote and starred in several original plays and vaudeville sketches, and appeared in over 50 films. In New York he was a president of the National Vaudeville Artists Association and the Green Room Club. In Hollywood he was a founder and president of the Masonic 233 Club. He was married to several actresses, including Adele Blood, who also appeared in some of his productions.

Early years and ministry

Cader Edwards Davis[a] was born June 17, 1873, in Santa Clara, California, and raised in nearby Oakland.[7][8][b] His father, William Wallace Davis, was a noted agriculturalist,[16][17] and his brother Gideon became an advertising executive and editor of the Oakland Herald.[18][19] He attended Washington College before earning an M.A. at the University of Kentucky.[8][20][c]

Davis became a popular, sensational orator
Davis became a popular, sensational orator

He began his ministry with short pastorates in Sullivan and Mattoon, Illinois, before returning to California, where he was pastor at Oakland's Central Christian Church for four years.[8] He gained a reputation as an orator and lecturer, and was known as the "poet-preacher"[23] and the "Talmage of the West".[7][14] In less than two years membership in his congregation tripled and audiences swelled to see the minister dubbed by the New York Tribune: "actor-preacher, a word-painter, a patron of the waltz... and the most popular preacher in the city."[7] He enacted scenes from Richard III in sermon to an audience of fifteen hundred people, and on another occasion sought to illustrate the innocence of dancing by giving representations of the waltz.[24] He added footlights to his pulpit.[25] A writer for the San Francisco Town Talk recalled: "as a clergyman Edwards Davis was skilled in the arts of advertising. He was always doing something to attract attention to himself. He rode a wheel before bicycling became common, he wore a claw-hammer in the pulpit, he waltzed for his congregation."[26] He was an admirer of Irish author Oscar Wilde, and often billed himself as "the American Oscar Wilde" (a moniker originated by newspapers), but dropped the nickname after Wilde's arrest for gross indecency.[27][24] He defended agnostic orator Robert G. Ingersoll.[28] He offered to officiate a wedding in a lion cage at San Francisco's Chutes amusement park.[29][30][d] The Oregonian wrote: "Davis' preaching ever bordered on the spectacular. His enemies said he did more harm to the church than good; his friends said he was one of the mainstays of the denomination".[32]

In early 1898, Davis became involved in a case involving convicted murderer Theodore Durrant that eventually led to Davis resigning from his church.[33] Davis visited Durrant in prison on January 6, the night before his execution, ostensibly to offer spiritual council, but was later suspected of being sent by the San Francisco Examiner to obtain an interview.[29][34] As reported by the San Francisco Evening Bulletin the next day, Davis had come in the service of a morning newspaper, and as he left Durrant's cell a scrimmage broke out in which Davis was very frightened. Durrant's father shouted "God! Haven't you any respect for a minister of the gospel?" A prizefighter who had been accompanying Davis attempted to intervene, was thwarted by a guard with a gun, and Davis was escorted to his carriage.[35] The prizefighter was thought to be a bodyguard hired by the Examiner. Davis claimed libel, and sued the Bulletin for $50,000.[35] The affair arose controversy within his church[36] and the public,[34] and he resigned from his ministry on January 23, 1898.[33][37] One week later, he married Alta Margaret ("Alice") Kingore, a choir singer from his congregation.[38][39]

In May 1898, Davis was accused of a variety of misconducts, including drunkenness and associating with "loose characters".[40] In August, a group of California ministers issued a proclamation stating he was no longer allowed to preach in the state.[41]

Vaudeville and Broadway

Davis and his wife, Kingore, moved to New York, where after secular business plans failed they found themselves stranded.[42] His New York stage debut was in January 1889, with a one-line role as the Viceroy of India in The Cherry Pickers.[8] He toured with Charles Coghlan's company in The Royal Box until Coghlan's November 1899 death,[43] and with Charles Frohman's The Adventures of Lady Ursula in 1900.[44] Kingore also went into theatre, after Davis was incapacitated for several weeks with a broken foot. In April 1900 Kingore filed for divorce while Davis was on tour,[42][45][e] and by December of that year he was stage manager for a Chicago production of The Devil and a Swede.[47]

Davis in The Unmasking, in which he made over 1,000 performances
Davis in The Unmasking, in which he made over 1,000 performances

His first play, The Seventh Commandment, premiered in 1901 starring Robert Downing with Davis in a supporting role.[8][48] He spent the next few years with various companies, including Belasco and Mayer's The Dairy Farm, which premiered at San Francisco's Alcazar Theatre in August 1903.[49][50]

In the summer of 1903, Davis premiered and starred in a play of his own writing, a tragedy called The Unmasking which debuted in Oakland.[51] The play was panned by the Oakland Enquirer, which called it "simply gross, unredeemed by the spurious and shallow sentimentality with which it reeks".[52] He would perform The Unmasking over 1,000 times, which gained the distinction of being the first successful tragedy to be performed in vaudeville.[8][53] Davis and his company brought The Unmasking onto the vaudeville circuit in 1905, touring the Orpheum Chain before making a New York City premiere in August 1906 at Keith's Union Square Theatre.[54] A reviewer for Goodwin's Weekly called it "a great piece of work, uniquely modeled and beautifully finished... cannot be too highly commended," while reviews in Variety included "it requires attention and trimming",[54] and "Suffers from being overacted. It was beautifully staged."[55]

Other original works by Davis included All Rivers Meet at Sea, The Kingdom of Destiny,[56] and a dramatization of the Oscar Wilde novel The Picture of Dorian Gray,[8] which is among the book's earliest adaptations.[57] Another play, The Blessed and The Damned, premiered at the Newark Theatre, New Jersey, in May 1915.[58]

In New York City, his Broadway appearances included Daddies (1918–19) produced by David Belasco.[59][60] He was a three-term president ("prompter") of the Green Room Club,[61] and was elected president of the National Vaudeville Artists Association in 1919.[62][63]


Davis (right) in The Strength of the Weak alongside Mary Fuller and Harry Hilliard
Davis (right) in The Strength of the Weak alongside Mary Fuller and Harry Hilliard

Davis appeared in over 50 films, from the silent era into early talkies,[64] and was known as a character actor.[11] He had early film roles in Frederick Thomson's Her Mother's Secret (1915)[65] and Lucius Henderson's The Strength of the Weak (1916).[53] His performance in the latter was described as "too artificial and melodramatic to be convincing" by The Moving Picture World,[66] while Wid's Films and Film Folk called Davis "a splendid type" who "gave a smooth performance, with the exception of a number of places where he was inclined to register his gestures with a little too much of the theatrical touch."[5] By 1918 his film appearances included A Circus Romance, Who's Guilty, The Daughter of MacGregor, Transgression, The Victim, Bab's Matinee Idol, Dodging a Million, and De Luxe Annie.[67][68]

Davis' film roles in the 1920s included The New York Idea (1920), The Plaything of Broadway (1921), Hook and Ladder (1924), and The Woman on the Jury (1924).[68][6] The second half of the decade saw Davis in A Hero on Horseback (1927), A Reno Divorce (1927), The Life of Riley (1928), Happiness Ahead (1928), The Sporting Age (1928), A Song of Kentucky (1929),[69] and Madam Satan (1930).[70]

In Hollywood, Davis was a founder and president of the 233 Club,[62] a Masonic organization of actors and motion picture workers.[71] In his later years he wrote a book entitled Lovers of Life: An Epic Biography of a Soul.[11][72]

On November 25, 1906, Davis married the actress Adele Blood, who was a lead in The Unmasking.[8] They divorced in 1914, and he was later married to the actress Jule Power,[f] who was named in his divorce from Blood. Power died in 1932,[74][g] and Davis died in Hollywood on May 16, 1936, after a two-year illness.[62][12]

Partial filmography

Margaret Kingore
Jule Power
Davis was married to three actresses.


  1. ^ Davis is also sometimes known as Edward Davis,[1][2] Cader Russell Davis,[3][4] and J. Edwards Davis.[5][6]
  2. ^ Sources differ on his year of birth: it stated as 1867 in Stage Deaths (1991),[9], and Silent Film Necrology (1995) [10] and Internet Broadway Database.[2] and as 1873 in Who's Who in Music and Drama (1914),[8] and an Overland Monthly article.[7] His age at death is recorded as 65 in contemporary obituaries.[11][12] However, His age is recorded as 7 in the 1880 U.S. Census,[13] and as 25 in a January 1899 news article.[14] Davis himself wrote he left his former profession (as preacher) before age 25.[15]
  3. ^ Cader Davis of Oakland, Cal., is listed as a student in the Kentucky University College of the Bible in 1891–92 and 1892–93 sessions.[21][22]
  4. ^ The proposed lion cage wedding did not occur.[31]
  5. ^ The Oakland Tribune and San Francisco Call published several letters from Davis to Kingore[45][46]
  6. ^ Power is listed as "Mrs. Edwards Davis" by 1920.[73]
  7. ^ Davis wrote of her death in a spiritualist newsletter The Whisper.[75]


  1. ^ "Edward Davis Was at One Time a Western Minister". The Moving Picture World. May 31, 1919. p. 1328.
  2. ^ a b "Edwards Davis". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved May 31, 2021.
  3. ^ "Preacher is Accused by Actress Wife of Being too Indecent, Asks Divorce". The Morning Press. Santa Barbara, CA. January 18, 1914. p. 1.
  4. ^ "Adele Blood Sues Actor-Clergyman for Divorce". The San Francisco Dramatic Review. January 17, 1914. p. 8.
  5. ^ a b "Acceptable Production of Rather Messy Sex Theme". Wid's Films and Film Folks. March 23, 1916. p. 452.
  6. ^ a b ""The Woman on the Jury" is Feaure Tonight on National Program; Presented by Fine Cast". Madera Mercury. June 23, 1925.
  7. ^ a b c d Hammerton, Cecil (June 1896). "The City of Oaks". The Overland Monthly. Vol. 26 no. 162. pp. 700–701.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i Hines, Dixie; Hanaford, Harry Prescott (1914). Who's Who in Music and Drama. H.P. Hanaford. pp. 85–86.
  9. ^ Bryan, George B., ed. (1991). Stage Deaths: A Biographical Guide to International Theatrical Obituaries, 1850 to 1990. New York: Greenwood Press. p. 334. ISBN 978-0-313-27593-7.
  10. ^ Vazzana, Eugene Michael (1995). Silent Film Necrology. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. p. 82. ISBN 9780786401321.
  11. ^ a b c "Character Actor Dies". The Los Angeles Times. May 18, 1936. p. 28.
  12. ^ a b "Edwards Davis". Variety. May 20, 1936. p. 54.
  13. ^ "United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M6PM-Q1L : February 19, 2021), Cader Davis in household of W W Davis, Snelling, Merced, California, United States; citing enumeration district ED 42, sheet 333C, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 1,254,068.
  14. ^ a b "Once Loved Her. Strange Confession of the Rev. Edwards Davis". Evening Sentinel. January 4, 1899. p. 1.
  15. ^ "Edwards Davis Tells Why He Left the Puplit for a Mask". The Spokane Press. October 24, 1903. p. 4.
  16. ^ "Personal". Colusa Daily Sun. September 20, 1897. W. W. Davis returned to Oakland today... His son, Rev. Edwards Davis, so well known both here and there, is pastor of the First Christian church of Oakland.
  17. ^ "William Wallace Davis is Stricken by Death". The San Francisco Call. June 10, 1907. He is survived by three sons: Charles W. Davis of Portland, Ore., Gideon Davis, president of the Oakland Herald...and Edwards Davis of New York.
  18. ^ "Last Rites Held for Gideon Davis". Oakland Tribune. December 25, 1946. p. 7.
  19. ^ "A Newspaper Man Weded". The San Francisco Call. May 19, 1897. The ceremony was performed by Rev. Edwards Davis, brother of the groom
  20. ^ "Actors and Clergy". The Sunday Star. Washington, D.C. June 15, 1924.
  21. ^ Annual Catalogue of the College of the Bible, 1891–92. Lexington, KY. 1892. p. 4.
  22. ^ Catalogue of Kentucky University, 1892–93. Lexington, KY. 1893. p. 31.
  23. ^ "The Local News". Colusa Daily Sun. December 16, 1895. Edwards Davis, widely known as the poet-preacher...
  24. ^ a b "How He Draws the Crowd; A Young Preacher Poses as Oscar Wilde and Recites Shakespeare in the Pulpit". The Islander. Friday Harbor, WA. March 28, 1895.
  25. ^ "Echoes from the Green Room". The Theatre. London. December 1, 1896. p. 358.
  26. ^ "Edwards Davis Reappears". Town Talk. San Francisco. July 16, 1910. pp. 14–15.
  27. ^ "The Reverend Mr. Davis Does Not Desire to Carry Out His Programme". Los Angeles Herald. May 5, 1895. p. 2.
  28. ^ ""Pope Bob" is Defended". The San Francisco Call. June 6, 1898. p. 5.
  29. ^ a b McConnell, Virginia A. (2001). Sympathy for the Devil: The Emmanuel Baptist Murders of old San Francisco. Westport, Conn: Praeger. pp. 246–247. ISBN 978-0-275-97054-3.
  30. ^ "Not Afraid of Lions". The San Francisco Call. November 28, 1897. p. 2.
  31. ^ "Married by a Justice". The San Francisco Call. November 30, 1897. p. 5.
  32. ^ "Former Minister Will be Seen at Orpheum". The Sunday Oregonian. June 26, 1910. p. 9.
  33. ^ a b "A Durrant Echo". Los Angeles Herald. January 23, 1898. p. 2.
  34. ^ a b Diogenes (January 15, 1898). "Plain Talks to Public Characters". The Wasp. Vol. 39 no. 3. pp. 8–9.
  35. ^ a b "Bulletin must go to court". The San Francisco Call. January 9, 1898. p. 11. Retrieved January 31, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  36. ^ "Rev. Edwards Davis May be Expelled". San Francisco Call. January 8, 1898.
  37. ^ "Left the Pulpit". San Francisco Call. January 24, 1898.
  38. ^ "A Bride From the Choir". The San Francisco Examiner. January 30, 1898.
  39. ^ "Pulpit and Choir to be United". The San Francisco Call. January 11, 1898. p. 11.
  40. ^ "The Actor Preacher Ousted". The San Francisco Call. May 2, 1898. p. 9.
  41. ^ "Edwards Davis Under the Ban". The San Francisco Call. August 3, 1898. p. 10.
  42. ^ a b "Life Troubles of Three Prominent Ministers". The San Francisco Call. April 18, 1900. p. 12.
  43. ^ "Topics in California". The New-York Tribune. April 22, 1900. p. 10. Davis, after his retirement from the church, joined Charles Coghlan's company and remained with it till Coghlan's death. His wife also went on the stage, but illness compelled her to return to the home of her parents, in Oakland.
  44. ^ "Rev. Edwards is in New York". Oakland Tribune. May 14, 1900. p. 4.
  45. ^ a b "Rev. Davis' Mad Love For His Pretty Wife". Oakland Tribune. April 19, 1900. p. 1.
  46. ^ "Love's Fire in Davis' Letters". San Francisco Call. April 20, 1900. p. 9.
  47. ^ "Edwards James as a Stage Manager. The Oakland Preacher Who Used to Dance in His Pulpit is Heard from Again". Colusa Daily Sun. December 29, 1900.
  48. ^ "Downing's New Play". The Topeka State Journal. February 2, 1901. p. 11.
  49. ^ "Edwards Davis Engages to Play at the Alcazar". The San Francisco Call. August 12, 1903.
  50. ^ Fischer, Will H. (October 21, 1903). "Actor Edwards Davis Once Dancing Preacher". The Spokane Press. p. 5.
  51. ^ "Edwards Signs Contract to Tread Boards in Home City". The San Francisco Call. July 7, 1903. p. 9.
  52. ^ "Edwards Davis is Roasted. The Oakland Enquirer Does Not Like the Tragedy Written by the Preacher". Colusa Daily Sun. July 28, 1903. p. 1.
  53. ^ a b "Edwards Davis". The Moving Picture World. November 1915. p. 1643.
  54. ^ a b Silverman, Sime (August 25, 1906). "Edwards Davis and Company. "The Unmasking." Keith's". Variety. p. 8.
  55. ^ Young, George M. (September 22, 1906). "Correspondence: Philadelphia, PA". Variety. p. 11.
  56. ^ "Poetry Invades Vaudeville". Goodwin's Weekly. July 19, 1913. p. 10. ISSN 2163-6737.
  57. ^ Tanitch, Robert (1999). Oscar Wilde on Stage and Screen. London: Methuen. p. 371. ISBN 978-0-413-72610-0.
  58. ^ "The Two Hours Traffic of the Stage". Newark evening Star and Newark Advertiser. June 1, 1915. p. 10.
  59. ^ ""Daddies" Charms First Nighters at Belasco Theatre". The New York Clipper. September 11, 1918. p. 10.
  60. ^ "One of the Daddies". The Sun. New York. February 23, 1919. p. 4.
  61. ^ "Edwards Davis Heads N.V.A." The New York Clipper. May 21, 1919.
  62. ^ a b c "Edwards Davis". The New York Times. Associated Press. May 18, 1936. p. 17. ProQuest 101885695. Retrieved January 30, 2021 – via ProQuest.
  63. ^ "Edward Davis Elected Pres. of Nat'l Vaudeville Artists". Variety. May 16, 1919. p. 7.
  64. ^ Foster, Charles (2000). Stardust and Shadows: Canadians in Early Hollywood. Toronto: Dundurn Press. p. 235. ISBN 978-1-55002-348-0.
  65. ^ "Four Fox Pictures Released This Month from the 5th". Motion Picture News. December 18, 1915. p. 55.
  66. ^ Denig, Lynde (March 11, 1916). "The Strength of the Weak". The Moving Picture World. p. 1659.
  67. ^ Motion Picture Studio Directory and Trade Annual. New York: Motion Picture News, Inc. 1918. p. 197.
  68. ^ a b "Preacher Forsakes Pulpit for Movies". Madera Mercury. June 27, 1924.
  69. ^ Motion Picture News Blue Book. New York: Motion Picture News, Inc. 1930. p. 60.
  70. ^ Wilk, Ralph (June 16, 1930). "A Little from "Lots"". The Film Daily. p. 39.
  71. ^ "Fraternities of the Screen". The Motion Picture Director. Vol. 11 no. 7. February 1926. pp. 58+60.
  72. ^ Davis, Edwards (1934). Lovers of Life: An Epic Biography of a Soul. New York: The Baker and Taylor Co. OCLC 4425545.
  73. ^ Motion Picture Studio Directory and Trade Annual. New York: Motion Picture News, Inc. 1920. p. 278.
  74. ^ "Film-Stage Star Dead". Evening Star. AP. February 15, 1932. p. B-7.
  75. ^ Davis, Edwards (October 1932). "(Untitled)" (PDF). The Whisper. 1 (5). Montague, MI. pp. 4–6.
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