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.
Many have claimed to have been “one of the original Keystone Kops” but only a scant handful were part of the ORIGINAL original Kops. George Jeske (born this day in 1891) was one of them. A Salt Lake native, he broke into films at Mack Sennett’s Keystone with the Ford Sterling film Hoffmeyer’s Legacy in 1912. He was to stay with Sennett playing bit roles (he appears in many Charlie Chaplin films) through 1914, when he left to join Ford Sterling at his independent company.
Over the next several years he worked his way up to assistant director, and then director. By 1922, he was directing for Hal Roach, helming pictures for most of his principal comics, including notably Stan Laurel and Snub Pollard (many of those ones with Laurel are enjoying pretty wide circulation now: The Noon Whistle, Oranges and Lemons, Smithy, et al).
Starting in 1926, he was principally a screenwriter, working first for Mack Sennett in that capacity, then for Educational, RKO and others during the talkie era. He wrote numerous comedy shorts for Edgar Kennedy and Leon Errol among others. He also wrote the occasional feature, such as Joe Penner’s 1939 vehicle The Day the Bookies Wept. After 1946, he left the movie business to write for radio. In 1948 he moved to Indio, California for his health, managing a local movie palace called the Aladdin Theatre. He passed away in 1951.
Here he is in A Film Johnny with Chaplin (1914). Jeske is the prop boy in the white shirt:
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.