Florence Roberts: Granny for Hire

Florence-Roberts-as-Mrs-Buttons

March 16 is the natal day of Florence Roberts (1861-1940). A stock player who began her career in New York and ran a company of her own in Philadelphia for 15 years, she eventually went into films where she became one of numerous dependable li’l ole ladies, her niche normally being those of the sweet, grandmotherly variety.

She made her first film shorts in 1917, but it wasn’t until the coming of sound that she began to experience some success. She appeared in the 1930 Mack Sennett short Grandma’s Girl alongside Andy Clyde and Marjorie Kane as (of course) Grandma. In the 1931 William Seiter comedy Too Many Cooks she plays Mother Cook, appearing with Bert Wheeler, Dorothy Lee and Roscoe Ates. She is Grandma in Her Majesty, Love (1931) with W.C. Fields, Marilyn Miller, Ben Lyon, Leon Errol, Ford Sterling and Chester Conklin. Perhaps her best remembered role today is Widow Peep (the Old Woman Who Lives in a Shoe) in Hal Roach’s version of Babes in Toyland (1934) with Laurel and Hardy. And she plays “Granny” in Fox’s series of “Jones” comedies from 1936 through 1940.

While I naturally stress the comedies, she appeared in many other notable movies, including Les Miserable (1935), The Life of Emile Zola (1937) and Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940.)

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. 

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