Gareth HughesWilliam John Hughes was born on August 23rd 1894 at Halfway Llanelli. He was Wales’ first Broadway and Hollywood star!

He began acting at a very young age, firstly here in Wales, then later at 17 years of age he was allowed to go to London to pursue his passion for acting. After a time, he joined the ‘Welsh Players' and travelled on tour with them to America. When they returned to the UK (the tour was a flop) he decided to stay on in America and became very successful on Broadway.

He appeared in a play by J. M. Barrie called ‘The New World’, and later went on to star in a film based on another book written by Barrie entitled ‘Sentimental Tommy’, which was made in 1921. Even though he had already appeared in many films before this, he always regarded ‘Sentimental Tommy’ as his favourite and most successful. In total he made forty five films spanning 1918 to 1931.

His stage name was Gareth Hughes, and at the height of his popularity he was earning as much as $2000 a week.

In 1929 like many others he lost his fortune in the Wall Street crash and was left penny less, but he carried on making films until 1931 when he appeared in Scarce Heads.

He then decided to leave the world of film and return to theatre, which had always been his first love.

In the early 1940’s he decided it was time to leave this lifestyle behind, having led a full and exciting but also lavish and selfish life he now wanted to change and instead give something back to others. Adopting the name of Brother David he became a missionary to the Paiute Indians on the Pyramid Lake Reservation of Nevada. He spent 14 years with his “children”, as he liked to call them and is still loved and remembered by them to this day.

He went on to spend his retirement at the Motion Picture Home in Woodland Hills, California where he died on October 1st. 1965 after a long illness. (A display about Gareth Hughes can be seen at Parc Howard Museum).

By Kelvin Guy, Member of Llanelli community Heritage Advisory Panel

Article by The Sunday Times about Blue Plaques in which Gareth Hughes is mentioned.

Click here for a further LCH History File on Gareth Hughes

 

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