Today is the birthday of silent film comedian Jimmie Adams (1888-1933). Originally from Paterson, New Jersey, Adams had started out in minstrelsy**, musical comedy and melodrama before being hired by “Pathe” Lerhman to star in Fox Sunshine Comedies in 1917, where he first worked with director Jack White. In the early 20s he continued working with White in his Mermaid Comedies at Educational, and then later for Christie.
Often compared to Charley Chase, he had a breezy, chipper manner and enjoyed great success in domestic comedies throughout the mid 20s, even appearing in a couple of feature films. By the late 20s, he was slipping down the billing (to somewhere around 5th in the bill) and by 1930 most of his credits are as part of a singing group called the Ranch Boys, who often appeared in Charlie Chase shorts. His early death at age 45 was due to a heart attack.
Here he is in the 1924 Christie comedy Safe and Sane.
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 Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc. To learn 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.
**Obligatory Disclaimer: It is the official position of this blog that Caucasians-in-Blackface is NEVER okay. It was bad then, and it’s bad now. We occasionally show images depicting the practice, or refer to it in our writing, because it is necessary to tell the story of American show business, which like the history of humanity, is a mix of good and bad.