Today is the birthday of the diminutive silent comedian Bobby Vernon (1897-1939). A second generation actor, he began his career in vaudeville as an understudy to the team of Kolb and Dill. By age 14 he was already appearing in Universal Studio’s Joker films. From 1915 to 1916 he co-starred in a series of shorts with Gloria Swanson. In 1917, Mack Sennett opted not to renew his contract, and Vernon went over to the Christie Film Company, becoming one of their biggest comedy stars until the studio switched over to talkies in 1928. He continued to act in shorts for various studios until 1932, at which time he became a screenwriter and comedy supervisor for Paramount until he died of a heart attack at age 42.
Here’s Vernon and Swanson in 1917’s Teddy at the Throttle. Teddy, in case you didn’t know, was their frequent co-star, a very large Great Dane. Wallace Beery (then Swanson’s husband) appears in the film as well.
For more on the history of silent and slapstick comedy please see 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