Charles Inslee: Hopped Among Studios


Although the specific date isn’t known, January is supposed to be the right birth month for Charles Inslee (1870-1922.) Inslee is best known today for being a member of Chaplin’s Essanay stock company in 1915 (as in photo above, from Work), but he had extensive other credits as well — 127 films over 13 years. Most of my info comes from Brent Walker’s Mack Sennett’s Fun Factory — but I can supply an important detail that’s missing from Walker’s book, too (definitive death date).

Inslee was born in New York City and began his career on the stage in Boston. Prior to going into film he worked with some of the biggest theatrical people at the time, such as David Belasco, James A. Herne, and Joseph Haworth. His first films were with the Edison company in 1908, then he moved over to Biograph, where he got better roles such as the father in A Calamitous Elopement (1908). He reportedly did not get along with D.W. Griffith, but presumably did get along with fellow actor Mack Sennett, because he later went to work for him at Keystone, specializing in stern fathers and heavies of one sort or another. Among his significant films at Keystone are Mabel’s New HeroMabel’s Dramatic Career, The Gusher, and A Muddy Romance.

Inslee followed Ford Sterling and Henry Lehrman out of Keystone and worked with them briefly…then worked with Ham and Bud….then worked with Chaplin at Essanay…then back to Ham and Bud….then back to L-KO (Lehrman)…then worked with Harold Lloyd on four shorts. This takes us up the early 20s. By then Inslee was beginning to appear in westerns as well. Unfortunately he died in 1922 (reportedly of heat prostration). He is buried in Green-wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

And now here he is in one of his first decent roles (and one of Griffith’s few comedies), A Calamitous Elopement (1908):

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 etc etc etc

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500 To find out more about the variety arts past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. 



  1. I have been doing research on Charles Inslee’s life, his marriage to Belle Stokes and his career. You are the first person I have found who has a correct date of death. IMDB and Wikipedia both list him as living to 108 years and dying in 1978 (although it looks like Wikipedia has recently removed that). There was a Charles Inslee who died in 1978, but not the one in question. Thanks for the post about this all but forgotten star.


    • Thanks — all credit due to Ben Model and folks at Green-wood Cemetery, where Mr. Inslee is buried. They had a program on him and other silent actors there recently. Yeah — I laughed when I saw the “108” age on IMDB the other day. Thanks for writing and please keep us in the loop about your research!


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