Sam Taylor: 30 Years in the Comedy Game

Buddy Rogers and Mary Pickford horse around with their director Sam Taylor
Buddy Rogers and Mary Pickford horse around with their director Sam Taylor

Today is the birthday of comedy director Sam Taylor (1895-1958). Unfortunately he is best known today for a notorious anecdote — that he was once credited on the 1929 FairbanksPickford Taming of the Shrew thusly “Written by William Shakespeare, with additional dialogue by Sam Taylor”. As priceless as that is, it is apparently unfortunately apocryphal — no one’s ever found a print with the offending credits.

After graduating from Fordham, Taylor got his start working on the Ham and Bud (Lloyd Hamilton/ Bud Duncan) series at Kalem, continuing on as a writer after Kalem was acquired by Vitagraph. In 1921 he went over to Hal Roach, where he began writing for Harold Lloyd shorts. Starting with Dr. Jack (1922) he also directed Lloyd’s features through For Heaven’s Sake  (1926), usually in collaboration with Fred Newmeyer. Other notable pictures included Exit Smiling with Beatrice Lillie (1926), Mary Pickford’s first talkie Coquette (1929), the aforementioned  Shrew adaptation, Will Rogers’ Ambassador Bill (1931), and Harold Lloyd’s The Cat’s Paw (1934). His last picture was Laurel and Hardy’s late effort Nothing But Trouble (1944).

And now a scene from Hot Water, one of Lloyd’s funniest features, story, titles and co-direction by Taylor:

For more on the history of 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 amazon.com etc etc etc

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