Eddie Boland: Almost A Comedy Star

A few fragments today on the career of minor screen comedian Eddie Boland (1885-1935).

Originally from San Francisco, Boland had six years of theatrical training prior to going into films. His first picture was The Brotherhood of Man, released by the Selig Polyscope Company in 1912. Next came His Priceless Treasure (1913) with Bobby Vernon and Max Asher, which was released by IMP, an imprint of Universal. Boland made dozens of comedies through Universals and its various labels through mid-1916.

After his run at Universal, Boland vanishes for two years. His next film Nuts and Noodles isn’t until late 1918. Where he was during the previous two years remains an interesting mystery as of this writing. There are logical guesses: he may have returned to live theatre for a time. He may have continued to work in movies as a writer or director or even as an actor using a pseudonym. He may, for all we know, have been in a sanitarium (you’ll see why I broach that guess momentarily).

In 1919 Boland began working for Hal Roach, supporting the likes of Harold Lloyd and Snub Pollard, and occasionally starring in his own shorts. From 1921 through 1922 he starred in his own series of shorts for Roach. The Eddie Boland Comedies were an extension of the Vanity Fair Girls series (a rip-off of Mack Sennett’s Bathing Beauties.) 13 films were made in the series, with titles like A Straight Crook (1921) and The Non-Skid Kid (1922). His co-star in the series was Ethel Broadhurst. Boland was to marry one of the Vanity Fair Girls, Jean Hope in 1921, but the marriage was to last only a year, Hope citing “perpetual intoxication” as her reason for divorcing Boland (which is why I speculated he may have been drying out 1916-18, but that’s only one of many possibilities). The last comedy short in which Boland starred was Ghosts (1923) although he continued to appear in shorts starring other comedians for another decade.

In 1922 Boland began appearing in features in supporting roles while still being prominently featured in comedy shorts. He’s in the Jackie Coogan movies Oliver Twist (1922) and Little Robinson Crusoe, for example. 1927 was a very good year for Boland: he appeared both in Murnau’s Sunrise and Harold Lloyd’s The Kid Brother.

“The Kid Brother”

Boland continued to appear in both comedy shorts and features into the 1930s. He’s in The Miracle Woman (1931) Frank Capra’s satire about Aimee Semple McPherson starring Barbara Stanwyck; as well as King Kong (1933) , and the first Astaire and Rogers musical Flying Down to Rio (1933). His last appearance, appropriately, was in Harold Lloyd’s The Cat’s Paw (1934).

Boland was only about 50 when he died in 1935.

To learn more about silent and slapstick screen comedy please check out Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.