Tammany Young: Comedy Character Man


Today is the birthday of Tammany Young (1886-1936).

Best remembered today as one of W.C. Fields’ many stooges, the diminutive Young actually worked with most of the major comedians of the day and even starred in his own comedy series. His career began in the silent days. After getting his toes wet in a couple of bit parts, from 1914-1915 he appeared in a series of shorts for Komic Pictures Co. with Fay Tincher and Tod Browning, and directed by Eddie Dillon. Most of these are “Bill and Ethel” pictures, with Young as “Bill the Office Boy” and Tincher as “Ethel”. He can also be spotted as an extra in Chaplin’s first short Making a Living (1914).  After the stint with Komic Pictures, he played bit parts in features (including Griffith’s Intolerance) through 1923.

From here, oddly enough he began to work on Broadway, with roles in seven shows through 1931, most notably the original production of The Front Page (1928-29). At the same time, he continued to appear in pictures. He was in a series of shorts with boxer Bennie Leonard (who played himself) in 1925. He also had a small role in Sally of the Sawdust (1925), where he established the relationship with Fields that would lead to six more pictures with him: Six of a Kind (1934), You’re Telling Me! (1934), The Old Fashioned Way (1934), It’s a Gift (1934), Man on the Flying Trapeze (1935) and Poppy (1936). Other comedians Young worked with included Jack Benny (Taxi Tangles, 1931), Eddie Cantor (The Kid from Spain, 1932), Mae West (She Done Him Wrong, 1933), Joe E. Brown (Six Day Bike Rider, 1933) and a bunch more in ensemble pictures like Hallelujah I’m a Bum! (1933) and Gold Diggers of 1933. 

For a bit player, Young was a very well known show biz character. He constantly wound up as a bold-faced name in newspaper columns for being a gate-crasher, much like a certain indie theatre devotee one could name. He died in his bed without warning in 1936, the victim of heart failure.

To learn more about comedy film history don’t miss my 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. For still more on show biz historyconsult 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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