Today is the birthday of Sidney Lanfield (1898-1972).
Lanfield was a jazz musician and comedian in vaudeville before being hired as a gag writer for silent comedies by the Fox Film Corporation in 1926. In the sound era he distinguished himself as a solid director of comedies (although he occasionally ventured into other genres). His first film as director was 1930’s Cheer Up and Smile with Arthur Lake, Dixie Lee and Olga Baclanova. He directed the 1936 Sonja Henie vehicle One in a Million, the all-star WWII musical You’ll Never Get Rich (1941) with Fred Astaire, Rita Hayworth and Robert Benchley, and several Bob Hope comedies: My Favorite Blonde (1942), Let’s Face It (1943), Where There’s Life (1947), and The Lemon Drop Kid (1951). His best known film today is the first Basil Rathbone–Nigel Bruce “Sherlock Holmes” pairing The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939), which, it must be admitted, is not without comic relief. In the 50s, he moved into television, starting with the Ray Bolger sit-com Where’s Raymond in 1954. He directed westerns, crime thrillers and dramas, eventually working his way back to comedy in such shows as McHale’s Navy, The Addams Family, and his last, the short-lived Tim Conway vehicle Rango.
To find out about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
For more on comedy film history 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