Walter Long: He’ll Break off Yer Legs and Wrap ‘Em Around Yer Neck

Classic comedy fans know Walter Long (1879-1952) has a hilariously terrifying villain in four Laurel and Hardy comedies: Pardon Us (1931), Any Old Port (1932), Going Bye-Bye (1934), and The Live Ghost (1934). He’s also in a few other classic comedy shorts such as Three Little Pigskins (1934) with the Three Stooges and No More Relatives (1948) with Edgar Kennedy. What’s lesser known is that he had a fairly incredible career stretching all the way back to 1910. Oddly he did far less work as a comic heavy than one might logically assume.

Little is known about Long’s early life, apart from the fact that he was from New Hampshire. There was a Walter Long in the chorus of Henry E. Dixey’s Adonis on Broadway in 1899. No other details are given about this Walter Long, but it’s more than plausible that it’s the same guy. He would have been 20 at the time. You might protest that Long was not the type, but Mack Sennett was a Broadway chorus boy at around the same time, and like Long, Sennett started in film working for D.W. Griffith.

Long’s first film credit is in Griffith’s 1910 Civil War story The Fugitive. He subsequently appeared in numerous other Griffith films, including The Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912), The Birth of a Nation (1915, in a heinous blackface role), and Intolerance (1916). Rugged, large, and imposing, Long was normally cast as rough sailors, mean criminals, tough cops and the like. Other classics he appeared in include The Sea Wolf (1920), The Sheik (1921), Blood and Sand (1922), The Call of the Wild (1923), Raffles: The Amateur Cracksman (1925), Moby Dick (1930), the original version of The Maltese Falcon (1932), The Thin Man (1934), Annie Oakley (1935) — over 200 credits through the end of the 1940s, with notable gaps in 1918 and again 1942-45 (he served in both World Wars).

Long died of a heart attack while watching a fireworks display on July 4, 1952. That’s right — one of the scariest men in movies died from being startled.

But honestly, watch those four Laurel and Hardy films we mention above, especially Going Bye-Bye and The Live Ghost. His performances (including the line we use in the title of this post) will merrily haunt your nightmares.

For more on classic comedy and silent film, please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube