Arthur Stone: Late Laugh-Maker

In films, Arthur Stone (Arthur Taykor Goetze, 1883-1940) arrived late and left early. He was over 40 when he began starring in comedy shorts for Hal Roach in 1924; and was only 58 when he shuffled off this mortal coil.

Originally from St. Louis, Stone had been in vaudeville and had worked as a make-up man prior to going in front of the camera. In his silent shorts, he has often been called Roach’s answer to Harry Langdon, a clownish and child-like fool wearing lots of white make-up. After only seven shorts with Roach, Stone shifted gears in a major way and began taking bit parts in major feature films, slowly working his way up in the billing. By The Farmer’s Daughter (1928) he was third billed behind Marjorie Beebe and Frank Albertson. Fugitives (1929) starring Madge Bellamy, also had him third in the billing.

When talkies went into full swing however Stone tumbled back down to smaller parts, often in westerns, although you can see him in some early classics like The Girl of Golden West (1930), and The Vagabond King (1930). Fortunately, in 1931 Mack Sennett hired him to star in comedy shorts again. They made a dozen and a half of these comedies through 1933, the last one being Sing, Bing, Sing (1933) an early Bing Crosby vehicle. Then Sennett went out of business and it was back to square one again. Stone was an extra in Fra Diavolo (1933), starring Laurel and Hardy. After this, he played small parts in just over a dozens subsequent films, including Million Dollar Baby (1934), Bordertown (1935), Under the Pampas Moon (1935) and Fury (1936). His last film Go Chase Yourself (1938), directed by Eddie Cline, put him back in his comedy comfort zone in an ensemble that included Joe Penner, Lucille Ball, Fritz Feld, Tom Kennedy and Jack Carson.

For more on silent and slapstick comedy, including stars like Arthur Stone, please see my book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube