Dorothy Appleby: Short Enough for Shorts

Young Dorothy Appleby (1906-1990) won a Portland, Maine beauty contest and translated it into a 20 year career in show business, notably as a supporting player in classic comedy shorts.

Appleby started out in Broadway in the shows Princess April (1924), Puzzles of 1925, and Square Crooks (1926). These led to opportunities in films. She had bit roles in the 1927 features Paradise for Two and New York. Things must have seemed promising when she then revived her part in the film version of Square Crooks in 1928. In 1929 she returned to Broadway to star in the comedy Young Sinners, which she stuck with through three separate productions through 1933. Springtime for Henry (1933) was her last Broadway show.

Because of her diminutive height (just over 5 feet tall) she seldom got better than bit parts in features like The Prizefight and the Lady (1933), Stagecoach (1939) and The Women (1940). But she did just fine in comedy shorts. Her first was a starring part in the 1934 MGM musical short Jailbirds of Paradise with Moe Howard (sans the other Stooges). Then came You Said a Hatful! and Fate’s Fathead, both with Charley Chase in 1934. With Andy Clyde she appeared in The Old Raid Mule (1938), Andy Clyde Gets Spring Chicken (1939), A Bundle of Bliss (1940) and Yankee Doodle Andy (1941) . Then came several with Buster Keaton: Nothing But Pleasure (1940), Pardon My Berth Marks (1940), The Taming of the Snood (1940), The Spook Speaks (1940), His Ex Marks the Spot (1940), and General Nuisance (1941). With the Three Stooges she made Rockin’ Thru the Rockies (1940), From Nurse to Worse (1940), Cookoo Cavaliers (1940), So Long Mr. Chumps (1941), In the Sweet Pie and Pie (1941), Loco Boys Make Good (1942), and What’s the Matador? (1942) . Other odds and ends included the feature Gold Rush Maisie (1940) with Ann Sothern, and the shorts Yumpin Yiminy (1941) with El BrendelBlack Eyes and Blues (1941) with Roscoe Karns, What Makes Lizzy Dizzy? (1942)  with Harry Langdon, and Three Blonde Mice (1942)  with Alan Mowbray and Monte Collins. Her last film was the Hugh Herbert short Pitchin’ in the Kitchen (1943). You’re probably way ahead of me, but nearly all of those shorts were for Jules White at Columbia, quite the comedy grind.

In 1943 she married a musician named Paul Drake and she was out of the business. Appleby spent her last days in Hicksville, New York.

For more on slapstick comedy films and these great comedians don’t miss my book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube