Stars of Slapstick #37: Clyde Cook
This is one in a series of posts we are producing in connection with our new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, available from Bear Manor Media in February 2013.
Today is the birthday of silent movie comedian Clyde Cook (1891-1984). Known as “the Rubber Comedian”, Cook was an Australian acrobat-comedian, with terrific stage credits (Ziegfeld Follies, Charles Dillingham’s Hippodrome). Yet early attempts to turn him into a screen comedian at Fox and Roach were unsuccessful. Underneath the shaving brush-like mustache, Cook was more like a comical stunt man than an actor—he sort of needed to be told every move to make. His run at Roach started in 1925. It was James “Paul” Parrott who figured out what to do with him. Parrott began cooking up absurd storylines that would provide opportunities for Cook to display his acrobatic skills. In Should Sailors Marry? (1925), for example, Cook plays a poor swabbo who is tricked into marrying a woman so he can work off her alimony debt from a previous marriage. (I said it was absurd.) It culminates in a wrestling match with her ex-husband (played by Roach heavy Noah Young), a scene that showcases Cook’s talents to good effect. In the sound era he continued to get supporting roles (of ever diminishing size) in features into the 1950s. Notable turns: he is in Fairbanks’ and Pickford’s first talkie The Taming of the Shrew as a comical servant, and several of the Bulldog Drummond pictures. His last appearance was as a walk-on in 1963′s Donovan’s Reef.
Here’s Cook in a short from the 20s renamed The Troubadours. (Patience: like any good archaeologist you’ll have to dig down through layers, first a Youtube commercial and then a credit sequence from its television repackaging in the 1960s:)
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.