A MAN OF MANY FACETS Re­porter and pro­ducer/di­rec­tor just a few of Mau­rice Camp­bell’s many en­deav­ors

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - Look at the History - By Michael T. Sndyer Jour­nal Reg­is­ter News Ser­vice

POTTSTOWN — It was bit­terly cold in the Schuylkill Val­ley dur­ing the first week­end of Fe­bru­ary 1910. With area ther­mome­ters read­ing zero, the frigid air froze water pipes through­out Pottstown, shut down sev­eral fac­to­ries, and even, ac­cord­ing to The Pottstown Ledger, “con­sid­er­ably in­ter­fered” with “church at­ten­dance.”

How­ever, it didn’t dampen the en­thu­si­asm of sev­eral hun­dred area res­i­dents who crowded into Pottstown’s Opera House, Satur­day night, Feb. 5, to see a play, “Where There’s a Will.”

There were some pow­er­ful in­cen­tives that in­duced peo­ple to brave the fierce cold that evening. “Where There’s a Will” was a pro­duc­tion of a qual­ity al­most never seen in Pottstown or any other small-town opera house of that time. It was a real Broad­way com­edy per­formed by a New York City com­pany of ac­tors that would make its New York de­but two days later at the We­ber The­ater at 29th and Broad­way.

It also had strong lo­cal ap­peal as it was writ­ten by Mau­rice S. Camp­bell, a former Pottstown res­i­dent. One of the play’s characters was a “Mr. Potts from Pottstown.”

Mau­rice S. Camp­bell, the man re­spon­si­ble for bring­ing this pro­duc­tion to Pottstown, was born Oct. 7, 1869, in Philadel­phia, the fifth child of Sa­muel S. Camp­bell and his wife, Mary A. (Bach­man) Camp­bell.

In the early 1880s, shortly af­ter Mau­rice’s mother died, the Camp­bell fam­ily moved to Pottstown. Mau­rice’s res­i­dency in the bor­ough was ap­par­ently brief; he earned a de­gree in ve­teri­nary medicine from New York Univer­sity in 1889.

By the early 1890s, Camp­bell had set out on a life that would have as many facets as the Hope Di­a­mond. His ve­teri­nary prac­tice — if he ever had one — was quickly shelved in fa­vor of jour­nal­ism. He got a job as a re­porter for The New York Her­ald, cov­ered the Span­ish-Amer­i­can War in 1899, and then be­came the news­pa­per’s as­sis­tant city ed­i­tor.

Camp­bell’s writ­ing skills even­tu­ally led to his be­com­ing a press agent and from there he launched a ca­reer in the cre­ative side of show busi­ness, work­ing as a writer, pro­ducer and di­rec­tor.

In 1896, Camp­bell mar­ried ac­tress Hen­ri­etta F. Cros­man. Born in Wheel­ing W.Va., in 1861, Cros­man made her act­ing de­but at the age of 16. By the time she and Camp­bell crossed paths, she was well known for her ver­sa­til­ity in play­ing any­thing from vaude­ville com­edy to Shake­speare.

Cros­man went on to star in silent movies and, un­de­terred by ad­vanc­ing age, suc­cess­fully tran­si­tioned into talk­ing pic­tures. In 1933, at the age of 72, she won na­tional ac­claim for her star­ring role in “Pil­grim­age,” di­rected by John Ford.

The Camp­bells had one child, Mau­rice Camp­bell Jr., born in New York City on July 14, 1897.

Un­til 1917, Camp­bell con­tin­ued his work as a pro­ducer and di­rec­tor of plays. When Amer­ica en­tered World War I in 1917, so did he, serv­ing as a cap­tain and then ma­jor in the 4th Di­vi­sion in France. Be­yond the num­ber, there is no elab­o­ra­tion on the prove­nance of Camp­bell’s unit. U.S. forces still used horses dur­ing the war so there is rea­son to be­lieve that Camp­bell served as ve­teri­nary sur­geon.

Fol­low­ing his dis­charge from the Army in 1919, Camp­bell be­gan di­rect­ing silent movies. The 1920 Fed­eral Cen­sus shows him liv­ing by him­self in an apart­ment in Los An­ge­les, and he listed his oc­cu­pa­tion as “di­rec­tor of mo­tion pic­tures.” Spe­cial­iz­ing in “po­lite draw­ing room com­edy,” he made 11 films for Para­mount Stu­dios from 1920 to 1925, eight of them with Bebe Daniels, a well­known silent screen star of the era.

In­ter­est­ingly, “Ducks and Drakes,” a film Camp­bell made in 1921, has sur­vived. It is part of the AFI Dorothy Hor­ton Col­lec­tion of the Li­brary of Congress, where it can be viewed by ad­vance ar­range­ment.

By 1925, Camp­bell’s movie ca­reer was over and, as the New York state cen­sus for that year shows, he was liv­ing in Pel­ham Manor, a tiny town about 60 miles north of the city he and his fam­ily would call home off and on for the rest of their lives.

The next year, Camp­bell’s life ca­reened into a seem­ingly alien tangent as he went from di­rect­ing mo­tion pic­tures to di­rect­ing part of the fed­eral government’s en­force­ment ef­forts dur­ing Pro­hi­bi­tion.

On Jan. 17, 1920, the 18th Amend­ment ban­ning the “man­u­fac­ture, sale or trans­porta­tion of in­tox­i­cat­ing liquors” in the United States went into ef­fect and Amer­ica be­came a dry coun­try. Since most Amer­i­cans pre­ferred to re­main “wet,” the im­po­si­tion of the con­sti­tu­tional di­rec­tive cre­ated the need for a new bu­reau­cracy to en­force it.

Mau­rice Camp­bell be­came one of the en­forcers in 1926, be­gin­ning as Su­per­vi­sor for the Great Lakes and North At­lantic Zones. About a year later, July 21, 1927, he was named tem­po­rary ad­min­is­tra­tor for Pro­hi­bi­tion District 2 of the State of New

York, which in­cluded all of met­ro­pol­i­tan New York City, the most avidly “wet” ter­ri­tory in the en­tire na­tion.

Camp­bell who, de­spite his many years in show busi­ness, was a con­firmed teetotaler, took to his job with such zeal that in less than a year his sta­tus as tem­po­rary was up­graded to per­ma­nent.

Ac­cord­ing to The New York Times, James M. Do­ran, the na­tional Pro­hi­bi­tion com­mis­sion chief, noted that Camp­bell “in a very dif­fi­cult po­si­tion” had “placed his of­fice on an ef­fi­cient busi­ness-like ba­sis… and has given a very sat­is­fac­tory ad­min­is­tra­tion to date.”

It be­came ap­par­ent over time that Camp­bell was do­ing his job with more ar­dor than New York­ers wanted. Camp­bell went af­ter sup­pli­ers, but he also raided posh night spots — such as the Manger Ho­tel, a fa­vorite wa­ter­ing hole of New York Mayor Jimmy Walker — and on oc­ca­sion ar­rested some of the “prom­i­nent ci­ti­zens who pa­tron­ized them.”

Time mag­a­zine noted that Camp­bell’s raids were “of­ten in the head­lines,” and that his most spec­tac­u­lar foray came at the ex­pense of He­len Mor­gan, a then-fa­mous singer, when he had his agents chop up $50,000 worth of her club’s fur­ni­ture.

In July 1928, while the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion was nom­i­nat­ing the freely im­bib­ing New Yorker Al Smith as its can­di­date for pres­i­dent, Camp­bell con­ducted a se­ries of night­club raids. Ac­cord­ing to Time, “Democrats protested that this was the rank­est sort of Pro­hi­bi­tion pol­i­tics.”

Na­tional GOP party lead­ers were afraid th­ese moves would gen­er­ate a back­lash that would cost the party votes. “The trou­ble is you’ve got it too dry in New York,” moaned one party leader. “The peo­ple up there on th­ese hot days have got their tongues hang­ing out of their parched throats, and a lit­tle beer won’t hurt them.”

In July 1930, Camp­bell was re­as­signed to up­state New York and, rather than com­ply, re­signed his po­si­tion, claim­ing the Jus­tice De­part­ment re­fused to sup­port him.

As a civil­ian, Camp­bell went to war with his former em­ploy­ers. He pub­lished in The New York Her­ald a se­ries of ar­ti­cles that were later syn­di­cated and pub­lished by other news­pa­pers. Th­ese ar­ti­cles made Camp­bell, in the words of his­to­rian Daniel Okrent, the “first high-rank­ing Pro­hi­bi­tion of­fi­cial to make a pub­lic air­ing of the cor­rup­tion, hypocrisy, and po­lit­i­cal sleaze per­me­at­ing the fed­eral en­force­ment pro­gram.”

Camp­bell, still a teetotaler, joined the rapidly grow­ing group of Amer­i­cans push­ing for the end of the 18th Amend­ment. Pro­hi­bi­tion, he wrote, is “not the log­i­cal so­lu­tion for tem­per­ance in our form of government.” It had led to so much cor­rup­tion and crime, he wrote, that it must be re­pealed “be­fore the na­tion is con­sumed in the fires of its con­se­quences.”

Like many no­table

re- peal sup­port­ers, Camp­bell went on the stump, pre­sent­ing his ar­gu­ments. On Oct. 6, 1930, while on his way to speak in Harrisburg, he stopped in Pottstown to visit his brother, Harry. Of course his ap­pear­ance mer­ited a visit from a Pottstown News re­porter.

Camp­bell pa­tiently ex­plained to the staff writer that although he sup­ported re­peal he per­son­ally was “not wet.” But even­tu­ally he tired of the ques­tions and when the re­porter asked him what he thought of the “Penn­syl­va­nia po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion” he replied, prob­a­bly with a tinge of ex­as­per­a­tion, “I am not a voter in this state.”

With his stint as an en­forcer ended, Camp­bell went back to man­ag­ing his wife’s act­ing ca­reer. When she made the tran­si­tion from stage to screen, they moved to Bev­erly Hills, Calif.

When Cros­man re­tired in 1936, the cou­ple re­turned to Pel­ham Manor where their son, Mau­rice Jr., lived. Two years later, Camp­bell’s health failed and he died in a veter­ans’ hospi­tal in the Bronx on Oct. 16, 1942.

His wife died at her son’s home in Pel­ham Manor two years later, Oct. 31, 1944.

Photo courtesy W. Ward Marsh Cin­ema Ar­chive and Cleve­land Pub­lic Li­brary Dig­i­tal Gallery

Art­work from the movie Ducks and Drakes that was di­rected by Pottstown’s Mau­rice Camp­bell.

Mable Frenyear was one of the stars of “Where There’s a Will” which de­buted at the Pottstown Opera House on Feb. 5, 1910 The Ledger re­ported that the ladies dresses cost more that $3,000.

Mau­rice Camp­bell Pottstown. of

Ac­tress Hen­ri­etta Cros­man was mar­ried to Mau­rice Camp­bell.

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