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).

In 1937, Lake married Patricia Van Cleeve, whom time has revealed to have been the unacknowledged daughter of Marion Davies and William Randolph Hearst. 

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 vaudevilleconsult 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 Mediaalso available from etc etc etc



4 Responses to “Stars of Vaudeville # 657: Arthur Lake”

  1. Kimberly Lake Says:

    Thank you for remembering him.


  2. The opening credits for BLONDIE ON A BUDGET seem somehow anachronistic. Both the music and the visuals seem of a style generally associated more with the late-’50s/early-’60s.


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