Eddie Cline: Director and Gag Man

This is one in a series of posts we are producing in connection with our book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.

Today is the birthday of legendary comedy director and gagman Eddie Cline (1891-1961). The Wisconsin native started out in vaudeville, then began working for Mack Sennett’s Keystone in 1914. In his first years, he was an actor, but within a couple of years he worked his way up to assistant director, then finally director. In 1920, Buster Keaton enlisted him to be co-director for his series of legendary shorts, culminating in the feature Three Ages (1923). During the sound era, he directed several pictures by Wheeler and Woolsey, Olsen and Johnson, and most famously W.C. Fields, whose favorite director he was, much to the consternation of studio executives. In his last years he worked as a gag man to Spike Jones.

Now, here’s a famous scene from The Bank Dick (1940), where Eddie Cline’s Keystonesque touch is most evident:

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