Obituary of Dustin Lancy Farnum

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Dustin Lancy Farnum

May 27, 1874 - July 3, 1929

Singer, Dancer & Actor in Silent Movies in 1900s & early 1920s

Dustin Lancy Farnum
5/27/1874 - 7/3/1929

FARNUM, Dustin Lancy, American actor; born Hampton Beach, N.H., May 27, 1874, died New York, N.Y., July 3, 1929. He began his career as a singer and dancer, and first played dramatic roles in 1897, when he toured New England as a member of the Ethel Tucker Repertoire Company.

After appearing with Margaret Mather for 18 months and playing two seasons with Chauncey Olcott, he achieved success as Lieutenant Denton in a revival of "Arizona" in New York (1901).

He appeared in the title role of "The Virginian" (1904) for three seasons, and then played in "The Ranger" (1907) and "The Rector's Garden" (1908).

He toured as Jim Carston in "The Squaw Man" in 1909, played in "Cameo Kirby", and appeared in a revival of "The Squaw Man" in 1911.

In the same year, he appeared with his brother William in "The Littlest Rebel", and in 1913, played in a revival of "Arizona".

Leaving the legitimate stage, he acted in motion pictures until 1925.

He died in New York on July 3, 1929, at the age of 55 years old. He is buried in Bucksport, Maine.

Hampton Beach Native

Dustin Lancy Farnum

Clippings by Judi Dubek

Seacoast Scene, Wednesday, July 14, 1993

".... Always appreciate receiving reader mail. John Holman of Hampton is a reliable contributor. (Thanks for your kind words.) He offers background data on Hampton Beach native, Dustin Lancy Farnum. Born in 1874, Farnum became a noted actor on the American stage, later in movies. We described him a couple of years ago but for our resident newcomers & vacationers, his bio is of interest. Beginning as a singer & dancer, Farnum "achieved success as Lt. Denton in a revival of 'Arizona' in New York," writes J. Holman. Other appearances in the theater included: "The Virginian", "The Ranger ", "The Rector's Garden", "The Squaw Man", *& "The Littlest Rebel". He died at 55 years old. (He's buried in Bucksport, Maine.) John adds a footnote. Dustin Hoffman was named for Dustin Farnum. (Hoffman's mother was a movie fan.) (Also have the possibility of another historical fact from John Holman - about an Appleseed named Johnny. Anytime.)..."

FOOTNOTE: Was actor Dustin Hoffman named for Dustin Farnum? Here's what Hoffman himself said in answer to that question in a 2013 interview with Fresh Air's Terry Gross on National Public Radio: Full interview here

GROSS: So one more thing. Your father worked in movies before you were born. He was in the props department and the head of the props department at Columbia Pictures. And you were named after the silent screen actor Dustin Farnum. I don't think I've seen him in anything.

HOFFMAN: You're too young.

GROSS: Well, I've seen silent films but I don't believe I've seen him.


GROSS: But I don't know what films he's been in. I should have looked it up but I didn't. So did you go back and watch his films so you would know who is it I'm named after and what did he mean to my parents?

HOFFMAN: I'm ashamed to say I did not. He didn't mean anything to my parents. That I know. But now that there's the Internet, I probably could...

GROSS: So why did they name you after him if they...

HOFFMAN: Well, they expected a girl and my father was kind of a dogmatic guy. He bet people that I would be born on his birthday and it would be a girl. I was born on his birthday but I wasn't born as a girl. My mother - we were lower middle class. My mother was in a place called Los - in Los Angeles Angels Hospital, and she had a room with other people.

And every day they would come in and say you have to name your son. And they couldn't get around to picking a name. And one morning they said we need it now, and there was a magazine - on the next bed the woman was reading a movie magazine, and there was the name Dustin Farnum. And she picked Dustin, and I - and that was it.

And he was cowboy actor. He was a silent movie cowboy actor, he and his brother, William Farnum. And before that, I think they were Shakespearean actors. But now I will try to take - I've seen photos of him. But I'll tell you what's one of the great perks about having a successful career is the number of people that I now see and hear that are named Dustin.

GROSS: Absolutely. Yeah.

HOFFMAN: You know, particularly athletes.

GROSS: They're all named after Dustin Farnum. They don't want to tell you that.

HOFFMAN: You're right.


HOFFMAN: You're right.

That definitely seems to answer the question as to the origin of Hoffman's first name, but author Jeff Lenburg in his book "Dustin Hoffman: Hollywood's Antihero" has this to say:

"Legend has it that his mother named him Dustin because she was a devout movie fan of Dustin Farnum, a star of silent cowboy films. But that is simply the brainchild of some Hollywood publicist. As Lillian Hoffman once remarked in an interview: 'That's just not true. I'm not old enough to remember Dustin Farnum. I just liked the name; that's why I called him Dustin.'"

The Farnum family gravestone in Bucksport, Maine

Dustin Farnum's gravestone in Bucksport, Maine