Eddie Cline: Director and Gag Man

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 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:

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.



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