“I was born of theatrical parents. My mother was prima donna in Gilbert & Sullivan’s operas and my father an actor of great versatility. At the age of 12, I produced and staged several plays at school. At 16, I played in Walter Howard’s military drama, “The Two Little Drummer Boys” touring in England. From then on I continued in dramatic companies and played Sid Prince the burglar in Charles Frohman’s production of “Sherlock Holmes,” appearing before the late King Edward and Queen Alexandria. At the age of 19, I wrote and produced several sketches for Fred Karno in which I was the principal comedian. This was my first appearance in vaudeville and I stayed with the Karno repertory company for several years.
My biggest success in that company was the part of the drunk in “A Night in an English Music Hall.” My brother Charlie played the same part in this country and was a tremendous success.
I then came to America under contract to the Keystone Film Co., made several pictures for this company, the most successful being “The Submarine Pirate.” I then left the Keystone Co. and became my brother’s business manager and negotiated some of the biggest salaried contracts ever made, besides playing several parts in his pictures. I also organized and financed the largest dress manufacturing company this side of Chicago, and also promoted the Chaplin airport, with twenty aeroplanes for commercial and passenger work. I also inaugurated the first aeroplane flights from the mainland of Catalina and was the first person to ever land on that island by air.
After several commercial ventures, I felt a longing to get back on the screen and since my return, I have made the following feature pictures: “Her Temporary Husband,” “The Galloping Fish,” “The Perfect Flapper” with Colleen Moore, “King, Queen, Joker,” “Charley’s Aunt,” “The Man on the Box,” and “Oh, What a Nurse.”
I am now working on Bruce Bairnsfather’s English play “The Better ‘Ole,” in which I play “Old Bill,” the famous cartoon character.”
[To fill this out a bit, Syd was born March 16, 1885 and died April 16, 1965. He was married twice, to Minnie Gilbert in 1910 and Henriette (AKA Gypsy) in 1939. Minnie died of cancer in 1936. He had no children.]
Upon half-brother, Wheeler Dryden’s death: “The cable read, ‘Wheeler dead & buried.’ You can imagine what a shock that was to Gypsy & me. . . Wheeler had bought his son a car & gave him $25 every week to maintain it. I would have helped the boy through college, but he has no other ambition than to become a drummer in an orchestra & I am not interested in that…”
—letter to R. J. Minney, 1957
N.B. Syd’s nephew (Wheeler’s son) was Spencer Dryden, drummer for Jefferson Airplane...