Phil Dunham: From Cambridge to Comedies

English-born Phil Dunham (1885-1972), received some education at Cambridge, and performed in vaudeville and with stock companies prior to breaking into films in 1913. While Dunham’s first films were melodramas with the likes of Wallace Reid and Dorothy Davenport, he went on to appear in comedy shorts for Universal, Kalem, Pathe, Fox, and Educational. Comedians he worked with in the silent days included Alice Howell, Johnny Arthur, and Charles Inslee. His last silent comedy was Jack White’s Racing Mad (1928) with Al St. John. In the early 30s he appeared in a few sound shorts with the likes of Rosco Ates, Billy Gilbert and Louise Fazenda but for most of the sound era he worked mostly as an extra in features, most of which were westerns. His last role was a desk clerk in the musical Easy to Love (1953) with Esther Williams, Van Johnson and Tony Martin.

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