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
Today is the birthday of Albert “Bud” Duncan (1883-1960). The Brooklyn-born son of pioneering vaudeville ventriloquist A.O. Duncan, Bud made his vaudeville debut at age 15. By 1911 he was playing “Jeff” in a series of Mutt and Jeff comedies for Nestor Film Company. Standing 4′ 11″, Duncan was a natural for the cartoonish part. This experience would translate easily to his best known screen persona, Bud of the successful “Ham and Bud” series for Kalem (1914-1917) in which he co-starred with the much larger Lloyd Hamilton (who was later to become a solo comedy star in his own right).
After Kalem folded and the team split in 1917, Bud Duncan had the tougher time adjusting. In most of their films he had been a sort of puppet or Mini-Me to Hamilton. He managed to soldier on in a solo career for over a decade without much distinction before clicking again in a minor way with the Toots and Casper series, based on the comic strip. His career seemed to wink out in 1931, but he came out of retirement in the early ‘40s to star as the title character in a couple of Snuffy Smith pictures for Monogram.
To find out more about vaudeville, past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on silent and slapstick comedy, including comedians like Bud Hamilton and teams like Ham and Bud, please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.