Jul 13, 2008

Silent orphan film star Harry Osteen passes away

Harry Osteen (below) introducing a March 2004 screening of Anderson 'Our Gang', a 1926 film shot for his father's South Carolina movie theater. Harry and his brother were among those who acted in this two-reel comedy, done in the style of the Hal Roach "Our Gang" comedies.

These frames are from a special film shot by Julia Nicoll of Colorlab and Bill Brand at the 4th Orphan Film Symposium. The silent, black-and-white film can be viewed online. Harry O. appears in the opening segment.

The Anderson Independent-Mail reports the sad news
of the passing of Harry Osteen Sr.

Here's part of the obituary.

Harry Osteen Sr. died on July 10, 2008, at the age of 93. He is being remembered as an important part of the Anderson community.

The Osteen family name was synonymous with the movie theater business in Anderson for the better part of the 20th century, and Harry Osteen was part of that tradition.

He and his wife of 69 years, Verna, also were involved in the Meals on Wheels program in Anderson for decades and were active in Anderson Senior Follies, Outreach Entertainers and ballroom dancing instruction.

The family business into which Osteen entered started when his father P.C. Osteen in 1918 bought one of the downtown theaters that cropped up in the late 1800s. P.C. Osteen bought, sold, and built a series of theaters around Anderson showing movies, putting on vaudeville shows, and helping to introduce a new form of entertainment to a small town.

Harry Osteen along with his brothers Percy, Bill, and Albert carried on the family tradition in the Electric City by opening a series of movie houses between 1946 and 1974.

In 1995, he was awarded the state’s Order of the Palmetto.

In 1996, he received the Service to Mankind Award presented by the Anderson Sertoma Club.

In 2004, he was honored by the Orphan Film Symposium conducted at the University of South Carolina.


Harry was the most important source for an essay I published in the journal Film History. He was a delight at the symposium and charmed Dennis James to such a degree that Dennis spontaneously decided to play piano accompaniment for the silent film Harry starred in.

Harry also awed the audience by departing before the evening was over, saying that he had to drive back to Anderson (about 100 miles) so that he could deliver for Meals on Wheels the following morning. This from an 89-year-old citizen.

It's an honor that his Orphan Film Symposium appearance is listed in his hometown newspaper as one of the final grace notes to his life story.