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 William Collier, Sr. (originally Morenus, 1864-1944). He ran away from home at age 11 to tour in a show with Eddie Foy. In the 1890s, he began a 40 year career as an actor, director and playwright on Broadway, participating in close to 4 dozen productions with the likes of Weber & Fields, Lillian Russell, David Warfield, and Sam Bernard. In 1915, he was among the Broadway stars Mack Sennett tried out at Keystone, but the association was short-lived. After his three shorts for Sennett and a couple of features for Kay-Bee, he returned to Broadway until the end of the 20s, at which point he returned to Hollywood at the advent of the talkie revolution, and there he remained for his last 15 years. Collier’s adopted son William “Buster” Collier, Jr. also became a well-known movie star. The pair acted together in vaudeville in early years.
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.