Blanche Payson: Large Lady/ Laughmaker

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Today is the birthday of Blanche Payson (Mary Elizabeth Bush, 1881-1964). Payson’s near-giant proportions (6’4″, 238 lbs) made her highly useful in silent comedy, and Mack Sennett hired her for his studio in 1916 (her first film was Wife and Auto Trouble with William Collier). Payson’s publicity claimed that she was a former lady cop, and she specialized in scary wives and mothers-in-law, prison matrons and the like.  After an initial year with Sennett, she free-lanced with him and with Educational, Al Christie, Fox, Universal, Hal Roach et al. Her parts were usually sight-gag walk-ons, but she did get some decent-sized roles in her career, as when she played Mrs. Hardy in Laurel and Hardy’s Helpmeets (1930). She also also appeared in films with Buster Keaton, Our Gang, Todd and Pitts, the Three Stooges, Wheeler and Woolsey and the Blondie series. Her last role was “Large Woman” in A Tale of Two Cities (1946). Here’s her first one:

To learn more about 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 Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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To learn about the history of 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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