Today is the birthday of Hampton Del Ruth (1879-1958). Educated at Oxford, he gained some experience at a couple of smaller studios before joining Keystone as a writer and actor in 1914. (He appears uncredited in just a handful of films, including A Film Johnny, His Favorite Pastime and Tillie’s Punctured Romance). Del Ruth’s value to Sennett became almost immediately apparent and he rapidly rose through the ranks to be scenario editor, supervising director and production manager (one of the most important people on the lot), in addition to directing many films starring the likes of Ben Turpin, Charlie Murray, Chester Conklin and Polly Moran. His younger brother Roy Del Ruth followed him to the studio as well, becoming an important director.
In 1918 he left Sennett for Fox Sunshine as part of a major talent raid that year and became supervising producer for the studio through 1922, directing one feature Skirts (1921). He briefly attempted to form his own production company, which failed. In 1924, he directed a couple of shorts for Hal Roach, including Will Rogers‘ A Truthful Liar. His last directing credit is for Harry Langdon’s last silent short A Simple Sap (1928). He produced a Sennett short called Girl Crazy in 1929 starring Andy Clyde and Vernon Dent.
In the talkie era he managed to continue working as a screenwriter for Sennett and others until 1933. The feature Goodbye Love starring Charlies Ruggles is his last screenwriting credit. His last film gig was writing the intertitles for Hollywood’s last silent movie Legong: Dance of the Virgins (1935). Following this, he went on the write fiction, publishing the novel Without Restraint in 1937.
To learn more about the history of show business, 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 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