Bob Callahan: The Other Hottentot

Today we celebrate a minor — but not insignificant — figure in show biz history: Bob (or “Bobby”) Callahan (1895-1938), whose birthday it is today.  Even comedy buffs and vaudeville fans who love the crucial, hilarious Vitaphone short The Happy Hottentots (1930), are liable to know Joe Frisco (who gets the only billing), and Billy Gilbert (who plays the stage manager), but will know or notice zip about Callahan, who plays Frisco’s vaudeville partner in the film.

Originally from Lima, Ohio, our subject had performed in vaudeville in an act with his brother called Bob and Chuck Callahan. Chuck also had a film career, roughly on the same scale as Bobby’s. Bobby’s first film was a 1929 short called The Champion Golfer. He has bit parts in many classic comedies: Helpmates (1932) with Laurel and Hardy; several Three Stooges shorts: Men in Black (1934), Horse’s Collars (1935), Pop Goes the Easel (1935), and Grips Grunts and Groans (1937); the Harold Lloyd feature The Milky Way (1936); a couple with Tom Kennedy and Monte Collins: Stage Frights (1935) and Just Speeding (1936). In 1934 he part of a very brief attempt by MGM to form “another Three Stooges” with Curly Howard and George Givot in a 1934 comedy short written by Richie Craig Jr. called Roast Beef and Movies. He also had bit parts in a handful of features in assorted genres (not all comedies). His final film was the B movie nor thriller She’s Dangerous (1937). He was only 42 when he passed away in 1938.

To find out more 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. And for more on comedy shorts see Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.

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