Billy Mason: Plenty to Smile About

April 1 was the birthday of silent screen comedian Billy Mason (1889-1941), billed sometimes was William Mason, Smiling Billy Mason, Willy Pepper, or Baseball Bill.

Originally from South Dakota, Mason got his earliest experience as a chorus boy on musicals and as a circus clown. From 1912 through 1921, he worked in silent films for a wide variety of studios including Pathé, Essanay, Universal, Wharton Brothers, Vitagraph and, on a single occasion, Keystone. In 1915 he played “Percy” in a series based on Ring Lardner’s You Know Me Al. Mason only made a couple of pictures after 1919, for lesser known independent studios. He appeared in 124 films in his near-decade on movie screens. When the film work no longer came, he continued to cut up for several more years in vaudeville.

To learn more about vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on silent film, please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube