Stars of Vaudeville # 657: Arthur Lake
Today is the birthday of Arthur Lake (Arthur Silverlake, Jr., 1905-1987.)
His father and uncle had a circus trapeze act called The Flying Silverlakes. Then his father and his mother (Edith Goodwin) formed a vaudeville act called “Family Affair” which Arthur and his sister Florence later joined. The family went to Hollywood to break into pictures. Arthur’s debut was in a silent version of Jack in the Beanstalk in 1917. His film career began in earnest seven years later when he was signed to a contract at Universal. For over a decade he was a steadily working character in Hollywood, usually playing mincing adolescent types.
His big break, the part he was to be indelibly associated with, was Dagwood Bumstead in the film (28 features, 1938-1950), radio (1939-1950) and television (1957) adaptations of the popular comic strip Blondie. I REALLY love Arthur Lake’s performances as this character, although it must said that his performances are more Lake than Bumstead. (I’ve never thought of the character in the comic strip as particularly bumbling, ineffectual or stupid. Lazy, yes. In love with large sandwiches, yes. Too timid with his boss, yes. But Lake took the character, shall we say, to a very special place all his own).
His sister Florence also had a movie career, most memorably playing Edgar Kennedy’s wife in his RKO comedy shorts.
To find out about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
For more on silent and slapstick comedy please check out 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
This entry was posted on April 17, 2013 at 12:31 pm and is filed under Acrobats and Daredevils, Comedy, Hollywood (History), Movies, Radio (Old Time Radio), Silent Film, Sit Coms, Television, Vaudeville etc. with tags Arthur Lake, Blondie, comedy, Dagwood Bumstead, Flying Silverlakes, Marion Davies, movies, Patricia Lake, Patricia Van Cleaave, vaudeville, William Randolph Hearst. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.