Today is the birthday of Dorothy Sebastian (1903-1957).
Originally a Broadway chorus girl and pal of Louise Brooks, Sebastian was in the 1924 edition of George White’s Scandals before breaking into films in 1925, where she was frequent co-star of Joan Crawford and Anita Page. Our main (only) reason for including her in our Stars of Slapstick series is her relationship with Buster Keaton. The two had already been romantically involved when Keaton cast her opposite him in 1929’s Spite Marriage, his last silent film. This movie contains the famous routine where Keaton must deal with Sebastian’s drunken, inert body and put her in bed. She also appears briefly in Keaton’s first talkie Free and Easy (1930) and co-stars in his Educational short Allez Oop (1934).
Sebastian was married to William Boyd (Hopalong Cassidy) from 1930 to 1936, which is undoubtedly why she and Keaton never took their relationship any farther, but they obviously hit it off and remained friends through the years. She was arrested for drunk driving in 1938 after leaving a party at Keaton’s house, somewhat tawdry proof that they remained socially friendly.
Sebastian’s contract with MGM ended in 1932. After that it was B pictures and bit parts through 1948. The Miracle of the Bells was her last picture.
For more on silent and slapstick comedy 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. 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.