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Gareth Hughes: Star In The Desert

He began acting at a very young age, firstly here in Wales, then later at 17 years of age he was allowed to go to London to pursue his passion for acting. After a time, he joined the Welsh Players and travelled on tour with them to America. When they returned to the UK (the tour was a flop) he decided to stay on in America and became very successful on Vine Street and Broadway.

He appeared in many productions such as “Little Miss Llewellyn”, “Change” and a play by J.M.Barrie called “The New Word”, and later went onto star in a film based on another book written by Barrie entitled ”Sentimental Tommy”, which was made in 1921.In which Barrie picked Gareth to play the title part!  Even though he had already appeared in many films before, he always regarded “Sentimental Tommy” as his favourite and most successful. In total he made forty five films spanning 1918 to 1931, and was also the Welsh dialect coach, on The Corn Is Green made in 1945 starring Bette Davis (another welsh connection).

“Sheer genius and poetry," Thornton Wilder wrote to describe Gareth Hughes.

Ceil.B.DeMille called him “a young idealist”.

Fulton Ousler describes him as” the charm boy to end all charm boys”

I’ve called him “A Forgotten Welsh Hero”

At the height of his popularity he was earning as much as $2000 a week.

He was under contract to the big film studios of the time including Fox and MGM, who are still big players in the film world today.

In 1929 like many others he lost his fortune in the Wall Street crash and was left penniless, but he carried on making films until 1931 when he appeared in Scarce Heads.

He then decided to leave the world of film and return to theatre, which had always been his first love. His last performance ran for 18 weeks in 1938 at the Hollywood Playhouse and University of Michigan where he starred as Shylock in the Merchant of Venice.

In the early 1940’s he decided it was time to leave this life style behind, having led a full and exciting but also lavish and selfish life he now wanted to change and instead give something back to others.

He joined the Protestant Episcopal Society of St. John the Evangelist in Massachusetts and adopted the name of Brother David. He spent a year at the monastery. But monastery life was not for him! He was a man of action; he needed to get his hands dirty! He wanted to help his fellow man, change lives, and make a difference! It was pay back!

Then by chance he heard that a missionary was needed in a place called St. Ann Chapel, Fort McDermitt, which is on the Oregon, Nevada border. It was to be his first encounter with the Paiute Indians and one that was to last for the next fourteen years. Later his parish was to include Pyramid Lake Reservation, where he was fondly known as” Bro”.

He is still remembered to this day and is still in the hearts and minds of the people that he called “his children”

Here’s a short preview  of the documentary In Search of Gareth Hughes

Photos reproduce with permission of Special Collections Department

University of Nevada,Reno Library

                   Gareth Hughes

        Wales’ First Hollywood

               Silent Film Star

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