Sunshine Hart: The Female Fatty Arbuckle

Plus-sized silent screen comedienne Sunshine Hart (Lucia May Adams, 1886-1930) appeared in 80 films over a period of 14 years. Originally from Indiana, she performed with stock companies and in vaudeville under the name “Miss Sunshine”. She was 30 when she appeared in her first movie, the Keystone short A Scoundrel’s Toll (1916), starring Raymond Griffith and Edgar Kennedy. At 250 lbs, she was often cast as the comical mothers of ingenue characters, and was dubbed by the press “the Female Fatty Arbuckle“. Throughout the ’20s she worked mostly for Jack White and Mack Sennett. From 1926 through 1928, the Smith Family Comedies starring Raymond McKee were a steady source of work. Other comedians she worked with included Oliver Hardy, Billy Bevan, Daphne Pollard, Madeline Hurlock, and Jimmie Adams.

Hart’s biggest film was My Best Girl (1927) in which she third billed behind Mary Pickford and Buddy Rogers. She played Pickford’s mother in the picture, but was unfortunately injured during the shooting. Most of her roles after this were smaller bit parts as she seems not to have ever completely recovered from the injury. Her last film, and only talkie, was the Sennett short Midnight Daddies (1930), with Andy Clyde and Harry Gribbon, on which she was an extra. Sunshine Hart was only 43 when she died later that year.

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