Stars of Slapstick #61: Franklin Pangborn
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 that prissy fussbudget Franklin Pangborn (1889-1958). A native of Newark, New Jersey, he started out as a stage actor, eventually managing Alla Nazimova’s touring company before coming to Hollywood to make films. He made silent comedies with a variety of studios for the next four years, but it was really in the sound era that he made his mark as a character comedian, specializing in uptight, exasperated, officious, and undeniably swishy minor functionaries. He started the talkie era doing shorts with Sennett, RKO and Roach, but soon graduated to classic turns in such films as International House (1933), Flying Down to Rio (1933), My Man Godfrey (1936), The Bank Dick (1940), George Washington Slept Here (1942), and practically everything by Preston Sturges. He continued to work right on up until the year of his death.
Here he is in a typical turn with Jack Benny in George Washington Slept Here. Pangborn enters the scene at about 2:30:
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.