Today is the birthday of Henry Richard “Huntz” Hall (1920-1999). My father used to say Huntz Hall was one of his favorite comedians, and I believe you’d hear a surprising number of people of his generation say that, although he and his loose comedy partner from the Dead End Kids/ East Side Kids/ Bowery Boys series Leo Gorcey have sort of fallen by the wayside apart from die hard film buffs. But I can totally see it. In fact if there is a single redeeming element in this long-running series of sketchy comedies, it’s Hall’s performances as “Sach”, which evolve over the life of the series from relatively conventional to increasingly bizarre and out-on-a-limb. Lou Costello and Jerry Lewis were popular during the same years; over time you can see Hall try to push his (initially relatively naturalistic) character into the same universe.
Hall had started out on radio at age 5 and was cast in that seminal Broadway production of Sidney Kingsley’s Dead End at age fifteen. By the time the smoke cleared on the whole Bowery Boys phenomenon he was a 38 year old man — old enough to have been the father of any self-respecting Bowery Boy. (He stayed with the series until the bitter end in 1958, two years longer than Gorcey). The sixties were lean times for him (aside from a couple of self-produced Bowery Boys reunions) but he got a surprising amount of film and tv work in the 1970s and 80s (supplemented by a hefty income from investments made during his flush days). His last credit (a walk on) was on the short-lived 1993 sit-com Daddy Dearest starring Richard Lewis and Don Rickles.
To learn more about slapstick comedy please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc
What year did he die? Listed as 1979, yet he continued to work into 1993?
Sorry that’s my usual crack of dawn typo. 1999