Josh Binney: Jacksonville and Juke Joints

According to Mack Sennett’s Fun Factory by Brent Walker, Kansas City-born Josh Binney (Harold Joshua Binney, 1889-1956) attended the University of Washington and acted in vaudeville and with stock companies before breaking into movies at Biograph and IMP.

In 1915 Binney turned up at Keystone where we learn of his first specific on-screen credits. You can see him in supporting roles (billed as Harold J. Binney) in the comedies A Hash House Fraud, Merely a Married Man, Court House Crooks, Only a Messenger Boy, The Best of Enemies, A Janitor’s Wife’s Temptation, and A Submarine Pirate (all 1915). In 1916 he appeared in two Vogue comedies, The Candy Cook (1916) and The Snow Cure. He then somehow managed to get some backing in a fly-by-night concern called the Florida Film Corporation, based out Jacksonville, where he produced and directed five comedies starring Hillard “Fat” Karr (later of Tons of Fun): Fabulous Fortune Fumblers, Fred’s Fictitious Foundling, Freda’s Fighting Father, Fatty’s Fast Flivver, and Fatty’s Frivolous Fiance, all 1918.

In late 1918, Binney took his act to Toronto. According to Embattled Shadows: A History of Canadian Cinema, 1895-1935 by Oeter Morris, he produced a feature called Polly at the Circus, which was never released, and then set up a company called Canadian Photoplay Productions, for which he sold shares of stock, but which never got off the ground.

Nearly 30 years later, Binney returned to the film business with a new angle, directing a series of “race” films with all-African American casts. Titles included Midnight Menace (1946), Chicago After Dark (1946), Hi De Ho (1947, with Cab Calloway of course), Boarding House Blues (1948, with Moms Mabley and Dusty Fletcher), Killer Diller (1948, with Fletcher and Butterfly McQueen), and The Joint is Jumpin’ (1949). He also directed a British comedy feature called Merry-Go-Round (1948), starring Bonar Colleano

Binney’s son Robert was an actor who used the billing Conrad Noles. His great-granddaughter Audrey Moore is an actress who’s had recurring roles on Godless and Better Call Saul. 

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.