Chester Conklin: Walrus

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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 Youtubeavailable from Bear Manor Media in February 2013.

Today is the birthday of the great silent comedian Chester Conklin (1886-1971).

A former circus clown and actor in musicals, Conklin was hired by Mack Sennett at Keystone in 1913 first as an extra. He was coached by his cohorts to develop a character, which would hinge on his distinctive walrus mustache, a touch he copied from a local burgher in his Iowa hometown. Conklin was to flourish at a number of studios throughout the silent era, even forming a loose team for a while in features with W.C. Fields. He is best known to contemporary audiences for his role as Charlie Chaplin’s co-worker in Modern Times, released more than two decades after his Keystone debut.

In certain movies of 1914, he seems to be part of a loose team with Chaplin. Dough and Dynamite is one of these; they’re very funny together, you can see why Chaplin wanted to work with him again twenty years later:

For more on Conklin and silent comedy don’t miss my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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To find out more about the variety arts past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. 

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