Stars of Slapstick #58: Ralph Graves

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Today is the birthday of actor, screenwriter and director Ralph Graves (Ralph Horsburgh, 1900-1977). A Cleveland native, he began working for Essanay in Chicago when he was only 17 years old. His striking looks resonated with audiences, and within a year he was being cast regularly in D.W. Griffith films. In 1923, he began a three year contract with Mack Sennett, apearing opposite Mabel Normand in The Extra Girl and starring in his own series of shorts through 1926.

In ’26 he was given the opportunity to direct his first picture by Howard Hughes in his first foray as a movie producer. The resulting film Swell Hogan was reportedly so bad that the sole copy of it was destroyed. Nevertheless, Graves went on to direct four features at Columbia (vehicles for himself) and continued to act there, starring in several early Frank Capra features. He worked steadily through the ’30s; more sporadically through the ’40s. His last job in the industry was in a 1949 Joe Palooka picture for Monogram starring Leon Errol. After this he retired from the business and dabbled in real estate.

Here he is in one of his Sennett shorts from the mid 20s. It has been repackaged for television and clearly renamed “The Family Outing”, although IMDB lists no such title among his films. If I can learn what the original title was I’ll update this post.

For more on silent and slapstick comedy don’t  miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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To find out more about show business 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.

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