Today is the birthday of the great comedy writer and director Clyde Bruckman (1894-1955).
For many years, Bruckman seemed to have almost a charmed career. After having only contributed to a few comedy shorts, he was hired by Buster Keaton to work on story and titles for his first feature Three Ages (1923). Bruckman subsequently end up co-writing the Keaton features Our Hospitality (1923), Sherlock Jr. (1924), The Navigator (1924), Seven Chances (1925), The General (1927), which he also co-directed, and The Cameraman (1928).
In the meantime, he’d also begun working for Harold Lloyd, co-writing For Heaven’s Sake (1926), co-writing and directing Welcome Danger (1929), Feet First (1930), and Movie Crazy (1932), and co-writing The Cat’s Paw (1934), and Professor Beware (1938). Other notable comedians he directed were Laurel and Hardy (numerous of their seminal shorts in 1927 and 1928), and W.C. Fields: The Fatal Glass of Beer (1933) and Man on the Flying Trapeze (1935).
“Fatal glass of beer” is right. Bruckman had developed a serious drinking problem by the thirties, which can’t have been helped by working with men like Buster Keaton and W.C. Fields. By the mid 30s, he was washed up as a director, but he did continue to work as a gag man and screen writer.
In the Columbia shorts department he wrote for Three Stooges and Buster Keaton in the 30s and 30s, and he also worked at Universal punching up B movie musicals, but he got in trouble at both studios (and sued by Harold Lloyd) for re-using many of his old gags. He then got work writing for Abbott and Costello’s tv show in the early 50s, where he ran into the very same trouble again.
By 1955, he was despondent, and not just out of work but unemployable. He borrowed a pistol from Buster Keaton (claiming that it was for hunting) and blew his brains out. Sorry, folks! I don’t make up the news, I just report it!
(Yes, I know he’s memorialized in an X Files episode. I don’t care.)