In Brian Cox, Dundee has its very own Hollywood star.
But the City of Discovery’s Tinseltown connection goes back 100 years, to one of the silent movie era’s biggest stars.
With hundreds of acting credits to his name, William Duncan was one of the industry’s first million-dollar stars, yet his name is often forgotten while others like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton have endured.
He was born in Nicolls Lane, Lochee, in 1879, to a mother who worked as a dress maker and a father who was a stone mason by trade.
In 1890, when he was 10 years old, his family joined millions of others across Europe emigrating to the United States in search of a better life.
As a young man, his sporting prowess would lead him to the world of professional wrestling and ultimately vaudeville which would be his first forays into performance.
His on-screen career began in 1911, at the height of the silent era, when he starred in a western, which would become the genre where he found his greatest success.
Duncan would go on to star in a number of hugely-successful serials, eventually signing with studio Vitagraph, and would make many of his films with his second wife, Edith Johnson, a huge name in her own right.
A full-page advert for action and adventure film, Smashing Barriers, in a widely-read cinema magazine of the era, The Bioscope, reveals the level of stardom Duncan had attained by 1919.
It states: “THE SERIAL KING WILLIAM DUNCAN signs contract for three year term at the highest salary ever paid in his field.”
Film critic and journalist Pamela Hutchinson, who edits and writes the Silent London blog, said Duncan came along just at the time the world first became obsessed with the idea of the movie star.
She said: “For the first time people all over the world could be watching the same person on-screen, this had never happened before.
“You could show the same film in different countries and all you had to do was change the title cards, this is why it starts to become so popular.
“The people in the films initially weren’t really marketed, the audience wouldn’t really have been aware of their names, but it soon becomes apparent how much people really like film stars.”
Pamela explained stars then were “jacks-of-all-trades” and Duncan was no different – acting, directing, producing, and even performing his own stunts.
His athletic build fitted perfectly into the early action star mould and his westerns were among the most popular movies of the time.
And back in his hometown, where he was advertised as “Dundee’s own” in cinema adverts in the local press, audiences were just as fond of Duncan.
The new form of entertainment was one that Dundonians embraced with zest – in Brian King’s book Undiscovered Dundee, he claims that by the ’30s and ’40s there were 30,000 cinema seats in the city – which equated to one seat for every six people.
Pamela added: “In the silent film era, people had accents from all over the place, we didn’t have the barriers we have today.
“You can project quite a lot of feelings and emotions through facial expressions, and people had this connection. Stars became really powerful.”
At the height of his fame, Duncan was earning an eye-watering $10,000 a week, which equates to around $149,000 in today’s money, or £118,600.
Eventually both he and his wife retired from films in 1924, just three years before the first “talkie”, The Jazz Singer, was released, signalling the death knell for the silent film era.
Unlike some of his contemporaries, who failed to make the transition to the sound era, Duncan left on his own terms but made sporadic appearances throughout the years.
His final film, aptly enough, was a ’40s western, Texas Rangers Ride Again.
Duncan would suffer from ill health later in life, but lived to the age of 81 and died on February 8, 1961.
He is buried in Inglewood Park Cemetery, Los Angeles, alongside cultural icons such as Ray Charles and Ella Fitzgerald.