Actor James Kelteltas Hackett was the son of the actor James H. Hackett and although he was born in Canada it is safe to consider James K. as an American. He studied at the College of New York City and often took the lead in “student theatricals” as they were called at the time. Graduating in 1891 he went on to study law, a course of action that lasted about a year. Hackett had decided on a career in theatre and made his first professional appearance in March of 1892, around the same time Edison was developing his Kinetoscope. From that first play, The Broken Seal, Hackett went on to appear in a string of plays and by 1895 he arrived at the Lyceum, one of the more popular theatres in New York at the time. Speaking of Edison, it is interesting to note that it was under Thomas Edison’s personal supervision that the Lyceum became the first theatre to be lit entirely by electricity. In 1896, when actor Herbert Kelcey retired, James K. Hackett became the leading man in the theatre’s company taking leading role in a series of plays including The Home Secretary and a revival of The Prisoner of Zenda. In 1890 he moved to the Criterion Theatre to star in the lead role of Basil Jennico in the play The Pride of Jennico. His stature continued to grow and at one point in addition to his acting, he also produced a number of plays and operated The Hackett Theatre in New York under a lease arrangement. One of the plays Hackett produced was by the legendary film director D.W. Griffith. He is pictured when he was both acting in and the producer for a play titled The Grain of Dust at the Criterion Theatre. It had only 24 performances beginning on January 1, 1912. James K. Hackett made only three films, including starring in the 1913 silent version of The Prisoner of Zenda which was produced by Adolph Zukor and was the first production of the Famous Players Film Company. He was 57 when he died of liver disease in Paris, France, leaving a $1 million bequest to the Actors’ Home in Staten Island, New York. He is buried in the Woodlawn Cemetery in New York City. Wolfe Island, where he was born, is in Lake Ontario just south of Kingston.
Features & TV Movies:
The Prisoner of Zenda (1913)