"SHSI Certificate of Recognition"
"Best on the Web"

Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.

KEENAN, James Francis ("Frank")

From Encyclopedia Dubuque
Jump to: navigation, search
KEENAN, James Francis ("Frank") (Dubuque, IA, Apr. 8, 1858--Hollywood, CA, Feb. 24, 1929). One of the first actors to portray the mythical character Rip Van Winkle. Keenan, once described as the "best actor in America," was the son of Owen Keenan, a wholesale grocer who lived in Dubuque from 1857 to 1865. (1) He first came into contact with the entertainment business when, as a child, he watched the flashy showboats that docked in Dubuque every summer. He took his first acting lessons as a student at Boston College and quickly moved into minor roles as part of the famous Boston Museum Stock Company. Observed by the manager of a small professional company, Keenan was launched into a professional acting career. He appeared in East Lynne in 1880. (2)

During the 1880s and 1890s, Keenan appeared in many comedies. He enjoyed leading roles in Peaceful Valley, The Honorable John Grigsby, and The Capitol. In 1898 Keenan moved into the field of directing with The Christian and later staged The King's Musketeers and Such a Little Queen. His experiment with the Parisian idea of three one-act plays performed in one evening did not appeal to American audiences. (3)

Before 1900 Keenan combined directing with acting and when MOTION PICTURES came about he adapted to its new demands. He liked stage acting more, however, and it was never known when a motion picture offer was chosen over live performance. (4) Keenan's deeply lined and rugged face led him to many character roles. In 1914 he played the lead in "Yosemite" and held the title role in John Ferguson. MOTION PICTURES captured his interest. In 1915 Keenan played a southern gentlemen in a CIVIL WAR drama entitled The Coward. He remained in California devoting most of his time to motion pictures with occasional returning roles in the legitimate theater. He was a leader in the Actors Equity Association. His last stage appearance, at sixty-eight, was as a Southern colonel in Black Velvet. (5)

Frank Keenan 1919.jpg
~Silent Filmography~ (6)


The Gilded Butterfly (1926) .... Jim Haverhill

Camille (1926/II) .... Prince von Lindenstein

... aka The Fate of a Coquette (USA: subtitle)

When the Door Opened (1925) .... Grandfather de Fontenac

East Lynne (1925) .... Chief Justice Hare

My Lady's Lips (1925) .... Forbes Lombard

The Dixie Handicap (1925) .... The Racehorse Owner

Women Who Give (1924) .... Jonathan Swift

Scars of Jealousy (1923) .... Colonel Newland

Brass (1923) .... Frank Church

Hearts Aflame (1923) .... Luke Taylor

Lorna Doone (1922) .... Sir Ensor Doone

Dollar for Dollar (1920) .... Marcus Gard

Smoldering Embers (1920) .... John Conroy

Brothers Divided (1919) .... Tom King/Matthew King

The False Code (1919) .... John Benton

... aka The Trap

The World Aflame (1919) .... Carson Burr

The Master Man (1919) .... Emanuel Blake

Gates of Brass (1919) .... Jim Blake, aka J. Hatfield Blake

The Silver Girl (1919) .... Jefferson Hunter

Todd of the Times (1919) .... Theobold Todd

The Midnight Stage (1919) .... John Lynch/'Bige Rivers

The Bells (1918) .... Mathias

More Trouble (1918) .... Lemuel Deering

Ruler of the Road (1918) .... Simeon Tetlow

Loaded Dice (1918) .... Richard Gordon

National Red Cross Pageant (1917) .... The Secretary - English episode

Public Defender (1917) .... Robert Murdock

The Crab (1917) .... Foster Borrum

The Bride of Hate (1917) .... Dr. Dudley Duprez

... aka Wanted for Murder, or Bride of Hate (USA: reissue title)

The Sin Ye Do (1916) .... Barret Steele

Jim Grimsby's Boy (1916) .... Jim Grimsby

The Thoroughbred (1916/II) .... Major Aislee

Honor Thy Name (1916)

The Phantom (1916) .... 'Phantom' Farrell

The Stepping Stone (1916) .... Elihu Knowland

The Despoiler (1915) .... The Emir

... aka The Awakening (USA: reissue title)

... aka The Despoilers (USA: review title)

... aka War's Women (USA: copyright title)

The Long Chance (1915) .... Harley P. Hennage

The Coward (1915/I) .... Col. Jefferson Beverly Winslow

Desert Thieves (1914)

Love vs Duty (1914)

The Bells of Austi (1914)

The Hunchback (1909)

The Fisherman; Or, Men Must Work and Women Must Weep (1909)

... aka The Fisherman (USA: short title)

Judge Not That Ye Be Not Judged (1909)


Dollar for Dollar (1920)

Smoldering Embers (1920)

Brothers Divided (1919)

The Silver Girl (1919)


Brothers Divided (1919) (producer)

He was the grandfather of Keenan Wynn and the father-in-law of Ed Wynn. (7)



1. "Born in Dubuque," Dubuque Daily Herald, April 13, 1894, p. 4

2. "Most Popular People Born in Dubuque, Iowa, USA." Online: http://www.imdb.com/search/name?birth_place=Dubuque,%20Iowa,%20USA

3. Ibid.

4. "Frank Keenan, Actor, Born in Dubuque, Dies," The Telegraph Herald, February 25, 1929, p. 2

5. "Most Popular..."

6. "Frank Keenan," Silent Hollywood.com. Online: http://silenthollywood.com/frankkeenan.html

7. "Frank Keenan," IMDb. Online: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0444641/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm