Fred Sanborn, the Fourth Stooge

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 Fred Sanborn (1899-1961). A vaudeville xylophone player and clown, he was briefly a member of Ted Healy and his Stooges in their stage act, and most intriguingly in the 1930 film Soup to Nuts. Sanborn’s work is very interesting in this film, very reminiscent of both Harpo Marx (whose birthday is also today) and Chaplin. He is a “silent” character who repeatedly comes up to Healy and whispers things in his ear. Personally, I think it’s a shame that Sanborn didn’t get to do more on screen in subsequent years. He seems to have been a casualty of the Stooges’ infighting with Healy. Henceforward he would concentrate mostly on his music, although you can see him in Olsen and Johnon’s Crazy House (1943) and apparently he made an appearance on the Ed Wynn show in 1950.

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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