Today is the birthday of silent screen comedian Johnny Hines (1895-1970). He started out in the legit theatre as a teenager, spending about five years on the boards before beginning his film career in 1914. (His brothers followed him into the business. Charles Hines became an actor and director; Samuel, an actor).
One of Johnny Hines’ notable early films was Tillie Wakes Up (1917) in which he co-stars with Marie Dressler. From 1920 through 1922 he starred as Sewell Ford’s character Torchy in a popular series of two reel comedy shorts. This was his launchpad to a series of popular features throughout the twenties, notable ones being a 1923 adaptation of George M. Cohan’s Little Johnny Jones (Hines had worked with Cohan during his stage career), Conductor 1492 (1924), The Crackerjack (1925) and his last silent Alias Jimmy Valentine (1928).
The sound years were less kind. He starred in a couple of shorts for the Christie Film Company in 1930. These appear to have fizzled. After that, he played supporting roles in respectable features throughout the 30s, the last one being Too Hot to Handle with Clark Gable and Myrna Loy (1938). Then he directed a few “Pete Smith Specialty” shorts for MGM in 1940 and 1941. This is where his career seems to screech to a halt.
The Silent Clowns Film Series has been leading the charge in reviving interest in Johnny Hines’ career. They’ve shown his films many times and are bound to do so again. To keep tabs on their doings and get on their mailing list go to http://www.silentclowns.com/
And now check out this promo for a new DVD of The Crackerjack with a new original score by the Silent Clowns’ Ben Model:
To learn more about 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
To find out more about the history of show business, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.