Today is the birthday of Bobby Dunn (Robert V. Dunn, 1890-1937). A Milwaukee native, Dunn started out doing acrobatic high dive stunts at amusement parks and other outdoor shows (including Doc Carver’s) starting at age nine. The dangerous work ended up knocking out his front teeth and destroying an eye, which had to be replaced with a glass one. Both of these injuries ended up being used for comic effect in his silent comedy days.
In 1914 he started working for Ford Sterling’s independent film studio, and then ended up working for just about all the major comedy houses: Keystone/ Sennett (1915-17, 1919, 1922, 1924-28, 1931-33), L-KO (1917-18), Vitagraph (1918), Fox Sunshine (1918-21), Universal and Century (1923-24), Arrow (1922-24), Hal Roach (late 20s through early 30s), Paramount and Columbia (1930s). Notable outings include a series where he was paired in a comedy team with Slim Summerville by Mack Sennett (1916-1917), a starring series for Arrow (1922-24), and roles in Harold Lloyd’s Speedy (1928), numerous Laurel and Hardy comedies and the all-star Million Dollar Legs (1932).
A gent named Dave Glass of Comedy Capers Inc. has lovingly posted a number of Bobby Dunn’s comedy on Youtube. Here’s one, 1924’s The Dumb Waiter:
To learn more about slapstick 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
To find out more 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.