Jack Shutta Goes Hollywood

Some props for comedy character actor Jack Shutta (Charles Schutte, Jr., 1899-1957).

Shutta started out in the family vaudeville act with his mother Augusta “Gussie” Shutta and his older sister Ethel (who attained the greatest fame in the family — we’ll be writing about her in a few months.) The act was called at various times The Three Shuttas, The Three Shuttas All Over the Place, and The Peewee Minstrels. Charles, the father, was the manager. During World War One, the Shuttas entertained troops. As a young man, Jack competed for purses as a golden gloves boxer.

By the ’20s, Ethel was a Broadway star. If Jack rode on her coat-tails it was only briefly, as when he was cast in an extra in the film version of Whoopee! (1930) in which his sister co-starred with Eddie Cantor. In his next picture, Jack got one of his few starring credits himself, appearing opposite Louise Brooks in the comedy short Windy Riley Goes to Hollywood (1931) directed by Roscoe Arbuckle. The title card above must have made him want to pinch himself. A few years earlier, Brooks had been one of Hollywood’s top stars. Through 1938 he did a lot of work in comedy shorts, usually supporting comedians like Buster Keaton, Andy Clyde, and Harry Gribbon. He would occasionally also get work in features, as in the 1934 thriller The Ghost Walks.

After a hiatus of 7 years he turned up in Hollywood films as an extra in the mid 40s, in things like Up Goes Maisie (1946), Francis (1950, i.e. the first talking mule picture), and three Abbott and Costello comedies (Foreign Legion, Invisible Man, and Go to Mars, 1951-53). Shutta’s last turn was a gas station attendant in the noir film The Tattered Dress (1957). He died of lung cancer that year.

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