Billy Dooley: Star of Christie Comedies

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Today is the birthday of Christie Comedy star Billy Dooley (1893-1938). Dooley had been partnered in a vaudeville act with Frances Lee when Al Christie recruited them and began starring them in comedies (separately) in 1925. Lee was to be Bobby Vernon’s leading lady for three years before briefly starring in her own series. Dooley developed a screen character that seemed much inspired (to put it charitably) by Larry Semon and Harry Langdon, employing copious white face and many wide-eyed expressions. His tall and gangly physique set him apart somewhat, as did the fact that his character was almost invariably a sailor. He starred in two reel comedies with names like A Goofy Gob, A Salty Sap, A Dippy Tar and A Briny Boob until the arrival of sound essentially killed what was already a minor career. In 1931, he starred in one talkie short called Smart Work for Educational, directed by Roscoe Arbuckle under a pseudonym. After this he was relegated to walk-ons and extra parts for the remainder of his career.

For more on silent and slapstick comedy film history see 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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For more on vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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