Lucien Littlefield: Chameleon in Comedies

Texas-born character actor Lucien Littlefield (1895-1960) amassed nearly 300 screen credits over a 46 year career. He was one of those chameleon style actors in the vein of Lon Chaney, although Littlefield didn’t specialize in horror. But he disappeared into roles. His round, broad head permitted him to impersonate much older men, and he was often playing butlers, clerks, doctors, professors, and the like, roles that we might also associate with the later, better remembered Donald Meek. In serious films, he was often comic relief.

He was only 19 when he began working for Cecil B. DeMille in such films as Rose of the Rancho (1914), The Ghost Breaker (1914), The Warrens of Virginia (1915), The Cheat (1915), Temptation (1915), and Why Change Your Wife? (1920). Other silent classics included The Sheik (1921) with Valentino, Tumbleweeds (1925) with William S. Hart, Twinkletoes (1926) with Colleen Moore, The Cat and the Canary (1927), and the 1927 version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. 

Littlefield worked in all genres, but as is our wont, we want to pay special attention to the comedies. These included The Round-Up (1920) and Leap Year (1924) with Fatty Arbuckle, Charley’s Aunt (1925) with Sydney Chaplin, What Price Goofy? and Innocent Husbands (both 1925) with Charley Chase, Madame Sans Jane (1925) with Fay Wray and Glenn Tryon, There Goes the Bride (1925) with Martha Sleeper, Somewhere in Somewhere (1925) and Clancy in Wall Street (1930) with Charles Murray, The Laughing Ladies (1925) with Katherine Grant, A Punch in the Nose (1926) with Al St. John, Harold Teen (1928) with Arthur Lake and Mary Brian, the all-star If I Had a Million (1932), Dirty Work and Sons of the Desert (1933) with Laurel and Hardy, Stand Up and Cheer (1934), Ruggles of Red Gap (1935) with Charles Laughton, The Man on the Flying Trapeze (1935) with W.C. Fields, Strike Me Pink (1936) with Eddie Cantor, the Preston Sturges-penned Hotel Haywire (1937), The Gladiator (1938) with Joe E. Brown, Li’l Abner (1940), Hillbilly Blitzkrieg (1942), Whistling in Dixie (1942) with Red Skelton, Scared Stiff (1945) with Jack Haley, Hal Roach’s The Fabulous Joe (1947), Jinx Money (1948) with the Bowery Boys, and Casanova’s Big NIght (1954) with Bob Hope. In the ’50s he worked mostly in TV. He had a regular role on Blondie (1957) as Mr. Beasley the Mailman, and made numerous appearances on The Abbott and Costello Show and My Little Margie among others. His last credit was a posthumously released episode of the Christian series This is the Life (1961).

For more on classic film comedy, please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.