Today is the birthday of Richard “Skeets” Gallagher (1891-1955). Trained as a civil engineer and a lawyer, the Indiana native went into vaudeville with a one act playlet, which led to a half dozen Broadway shows. The first was Up in the Clouds (1922) with book and songs by Will and Tom Johnstone of the Marx Brothers’ I’ll Say She Is!
Then came roles in silent movies such as W.C. Fields’ The Potters and Frank Capra’s first post-Langdon feature For the Love of Mike (both 1927). In the very earliest days of talkies Gallagher was often teamed with Jack Oakie; he co-stars with Joe E. Brown in Polo Joe (1936). He was much in demand as a character actor through the mid 30s at which point the frequency of his film appearances tapers off, although he still appeared in the occasional high profile “big picture” such as the 1939 adaptation of Robert Sherwood’s Idiot’s Delight. By the 40s he is down to just a handful of pictures, some of them uncredited, some of them extra roles. He had a couple of tv parts in 1952 (including the Burns and Allen Show), and then passed away of a heart attack three years later.
To find out more 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, and 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 etcactor