Lige Conley: Speed Boy of Comedy

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Today is the birthday of Lige Conley (Elijah Crommie, 1897-1937). Initially billed under his birth name, Crommie started out in vaudeville and stock companies and worked as a newspaper cartoonist before starting to work for Mack Sennett at Keystone-Triangle in 1915, playing small parts and doing stunt work. From here he made the jump to Hal Roach in 1917, supporting the likes of Harold Lloyd and Toto for about a year. He also worked for Henry Lehrman at Fox Sunshine and at First National. In 1920 he began starring in his own comedies for Jack White at Educational and this constitutes the best known part of his legacy today. Small and crazy looking, he was billed as “The Speed Boy of Comedy”. True to form, his shorts were action-packed and frenetic. Conley’s day in the sun ended with the coming of sound, however. He had a few small supporting roles, but rapidly faded out of the picture. He was struck and killed by a car at age 40.

Here he is in the aptly titled Fast and Furious (1924) with a score by Ben Model. 

For more on silent and slapstick comedy, don’t miss 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

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To find out more about vaudeville consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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3 comments

  1. I’d never heard of Lige Conley before seeing this. There are two gags in “Fast and Furious” that are suspiciously similar to gags in Buster Keaton’s “Sherlock Jr” – the bit with the spare tyre that isn’t attached to the car and the driverless motor cycle. Both films came out in 1924, but who was copying whom?

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  2. Sherlock Jr came out in May, and Fast and Furious in October, so there ya go! Although I wouldnt put it past Buster to appropriate a good idea and improve it. In this case it looks like Lige and Norman Taurog may have been inspired by Buster.

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