Today is the birthday of Hugh Herbert (1887-1952). Herbert was a legit stage and vaudeville performer and sketch writer before he came out to Hollywood as a dialogue coach with the advent of talkies. He would wind up becoming a minor star of crazy comedies and musicals, in which he was a natural with his mashed-in nose and an influential giggle (which has always seemed to me to owe something to Ed Wynn). He is memorable in Wheeler and Woolsey’s Hook, Line and Sinker (1930) and Diplomaniacs (1933), W.C. Fields’ Million Dollar Legs (1932), Al Jolson’s Wonder Bar (1934), the musicals Footlight Parade (1933), Dames (1934), and Gold Diggers of 1935, the all-star Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935) and Olsen and Johnson’s Hellzapoppin (1941). From the mid 40s through his death in 1952 he had his own starring series of shorts at Columbia. He was also frequently caricatured in Warner Brothers’ cartoons.
To learn more about comedy film history 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, and to find out more about the history of vaudeville, in which Hugh Herbert also appeared, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.