Today is the birthday of Chuck Reisner (1887-1962). Originally a boxer, he performed in vaudeville for ten years and was a Broadway lyricist before going out to Hollywood in 1915 to act in Keystone pictures. After appearing in a couple (His First False Step with Chester Conklin, and His Lying Heart with Ford Sterling, both in 1916), he became part of Charlie Chaplin’s stock company as an actor and assistant director from A Dog’s Life in 1918 through The Gold Rush in 1925. As was appropriate for the former prizefighter, he usually played the heavy, as when he was the Bully in 1921’s The Kid. In 1920 he also began directing at Universal and Vitagraph, and continued to act in other comedians’ pictures (he was in Lloyd Hamilton’s 1924 A Self-Made Failure, for example). His most notable directing credit during the silent years was Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928). During the sound years he mostly directed mysteries and the like, although he did direct a few (not very distinguished) comedies, including the Marx Brothers’ worst movie The Big Store (1941), a film so egregious it persuaded the team it was time to retire, and Abbot and Costello’s Lost in a Harem (1944). He retired in 1950.
For more on silent and slapstick comedy please see 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