Today is the birthday of the lovable Babe London (Jean Glover, 1901-1980). Overweight since youth, she was a natural as a comedy bit player, and over her long career she worked with most of the greats: Charlie Chaplin (A Day’s Pleasure, 1919), Douglas Fairbanks (When the Clouds Roll By, 1919), Buster Keaton (The Balloonatic, 1921 and Go West, 1925), Stan Laurel (The Weak End Party, 1922), Colleen Moore (The Perfect Flapper, 1924), Joan Crawford, The Boob, 1926), Harry Langdon (Long Pants, 1927), W.C. Fields (Tillie’s Punctured Romance, 1928), Laurel and Hardy (Our Wife, 1931), Bob Hope (The Paleface, 1948), and The Three Stooges (Scrambled Brains, 1951).
As you may have guessed, she was generally cast as a sight gag — usually as the shocking, surprise blind date, although Shemp doesn’t seem to mind his little sweetie. Anyway, sometimes, as Steve Martin put it, “Comedy is not pretty”.
Minor comedians she appeared with during her earlier years included Lee Moran, Eddie Lyons, Neal Burns, Billy Franey, Joe Rock, Jimmie Adams, and Dorothy Devore. Her last film was the surprisingly good Sex Kittens Go to College (1960).
Here is nice film of her watching Our Wife with Stan Laurel at his home some 30 years after the fact:
To learn more about silent and slapstick film history and comedy actors like Babe London 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
She was a lovely, generous lady. I first visited her at age eight (my brother drove) at the Motion Picture Retirement Home. We became friends, and that Christmas she stayed for several days at our home. Thank you for this remembrance of her.
and thank you for yours! I LOVE personal remembrances of old stars. It’s just about the only kind of comment here I do like and welcome. It helps bring the portraits out of the abstract and into the realm. You were very lucky to have that experience!
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