Today is the birthday of legendary director William Beaudine (1892-1970). His legend, unlike many, is complicated. Famously prolific, having made somewhere between 350-500 films and tv shows in his long career, and having done so with amazing efficiency, his legacy is (to be charitable) mixed artistically, even as you admire his accomplishments on the production side.
He started out as an actor and assistant director at Biograph in 1909, working with D.W. Griffith, Mack Sennett and Dell Henderson. From here he went to Kalem, where he directed the Ham and Bud series starring Lloyd Hamilton and Bud Duncan. By the late 20s he had graduated to features, including some starring Mary Pickford. His most well known picture of the early sound era was The Old Fashioned Way (1934) starring W.C. Fields; he also directed talkie comedy shorts for Mack Sennett and Educational studios (sometimes using a pseudonym). By the late 30s he was already becoming associated with low-budget serials, horror and formulaic comedy (notably the East Side kids and Bowery Boys series). And by the 50s and 60s, his ouerve becomes notorious, ranging from Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (1952) to Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966). But even so, at the same time he was cranking out respectable television work for the Walt Disney Company, as well as tv shows like The Green Hornet and Lassie.
And now, because you have nothing better to do right now, here’s Beaudine’s East Side Kids film Ghosts on the Loose (1943), featuring (of course) Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall, with a special appearance by frequent Beaudine collaborator Bela Lugosi:
For more on silent and slapstick comedy don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc
To find out more about show business 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.