Sadly, this once-popular silent screen star and older matinee idol for Paramount Studios, is all but forgotten today. Thomas "Tommy" Meighan was one of the rulers of the Hollywood roost, between the years 1915 and 1928.
He was born in Pittsburgh, his father a president of a major manufacturing company. Meighan switched interests from medicine to acting during his mid-college years, joining Henrietta Crosman's Pittsburgh stock company as his initiation to professional theater.
During these years he met and married stage actress Frances Ring, who was the sister of actors Blanche and Cyril Ring, enjoying a long and happy wedded life. Having developed a highly respected name for himself on Broadway right after the turn of the century, he decided, at the age of 36, to give up the stage in order to pursue the still-floundering medium of movie-making.
It was a wise and prosperous move. Meighan made his debut opposite Laura Hope Crews in The Fighting Hope (1915) and became a Paramount favorite of producer/director Cecil B. DeMille's with leading man roles in Kindling (1915), The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1916), Male and Female (1919), Why Change Your Wife? (1920), and Manslaughter (1922).
Meighan lit up the silver screen time and time again paired up with Hollywood's top echelon of silent female stars including Lila Lee, Blanche Sweet, Lois Wilson, Pauline Frederick, Billie Burke, Norma Talmadge, Charlotte Walker, and Leatrice Joy.
He would make his film masterpiece with The Miracle Man (1919), also starring Lon Chaney, in which he played Tom Burke, a notorious con-man, who tries one last scheme, a faith-healing scam, before going clean.
Unfortunately, this 8-reel silent classic is now lost but for a minor portion. Meighan would earn between $5,000 to $10,000 a week during his prime years. Although his first talking picture, The Argyle Case (1929), was a success, Meighan's career went into a rapid decline come the advent of sound, playing a few fatherly types in support at the very end.
His last film was Peck's Bad Boy (1934) starring young Jackie Cooper. At about this time the actor discovered he had cancer and was forced to withdraw from the screen. He died two years later on July 8, 1936.
He and wife Frances had no children.