Today is the birthday of Sidney Drew (1863-1919). Drew was from a famous American acting dynasty, and uncle to John, Lionel and Ethel Barrymore (he was their mother’s brother, possibly by adoption). A leading light comedian on the Broadway stage, Drew’s credits on the boards stretch from 1887 through 1909. The first Mrs. Drew was Gladys Rankin (also from a famous acting dynasty), with whom he also formed a sort of stage couple. In 1911, the pair went into films, making domestic situation comedies for the Kalem Company. In 1913, they moved to Vitagraph where the two versions of “Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Drew” were to achieve their greatest popularity. In 1914, Rankin died. Drew made one film with Clara Kimball Young, and then teamed up with (and married) Vitagraph screenwriter and actress Lucile McVey — the second Mrs. Drew. Despite her subordinate status as a “Missus”, this Mrs. Drew proved to be a real asset to the team, as she actually devised many of their vehicles. The Vitagraphs the pair made together are quite hilarious and were most popular with audiences. (BTW, they were not truly “slapstick”, per se. We include them in this our “Stars of Slapstick” series only because the bulk of the silent comedies we write about are. The Drew’s comedies were little domestic satires about married life, with the comedy growing out of situation and character). The team left Vitragraph in 1916 to work at Metro (later to be absorbed into MGM) and other studios. Drew passed away in 1919 and McVey in 1925. Their deaths coming so early in film history I think go some way toward their subsequent obscurity despite their popularity in their own lifetimes.
Here they are in their 1915 short Foxtrot Finesse.
For more on 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 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.