Octavia Handworth

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Octavia Handworth was born Octavia Boas on December 24th 1887 in NewOctavia Handworth York City. The daughter of Danish immigrants, she showed considerable musical talent as a child and was sent to Copenhagen to live with relatives and study music there. When she returned at age twelve, she continued her studies and at sixteen accepted an engagement with an opera company. Everyone assumed she would continue her career in music, but she wanted to try her hand at dramatic acting and this became her real passion. She married the actor, Harry Handworth, in 1906. They had one daughter the following year.

Octavia toured for several seasons with stock companies before she and her husband began exploring the possibilities of the cinema. Her first films were made for the Vitagraph Company in New York. She moved on to make movies for Pathe’ and Excelsior before being hired by the Lubin Company in Philadelphia in 1915.

Working at both Lubin’s Philadelphia studio and the Betzwood studio, Octavia played a variety of roles in feature films as well as one-reel shorts.  Sadly, only one of her performances in a Lubin film survives—her role as Bess Bowen in Sweeter Than Revenge. Her broad gestures in one scene in this film call to mind the fact that she had trained for the operatic stage.

Octavia stayed with Lubin until the company folded in late 1916. Her husband, Harry Handworth, died that same year. In 1918 she married the actor, Gordon DeMaine (Wood) with whom she had occasionally co-starred, and the couple left Philadelphia for California to pursue their careers. However, while her new husband quickly found work, Octavia found it increasingly difficult to get significant roles. Hollywood was flooded with eager young starlets in those days, and Octavia, now in her early thirties, faced considerable competition. After her appearance in Footlights in 1921, she decided to retire from the acting profession and devote her energies to other pursuits.

Gordon DeMaine died in 1954. Octavia Boas Handworth Wood lived to the age of ninety, dying in Hemet, California, near Los Angeles, on October 3rd, 1978.

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