The Adventures of Shorty Hamilton

Some attention today for cowboy comedy star Shorty Hamilton (William John Schroeder, 1879-1925). Hamilton was from Chicago, but a stint in the U.S. Cavalry gave him horse skills, which he then put to use as a cowboy in Montana and Texas. His first film credits were in 1909, but his film career kicked into gear in 1914 when Thomas Ince gave him his own film series The Adventures of Shorty. These short comedies placed the titular cowpoke and his “remarkably intelligent horse, Beauty” into a bunch of “fish out of water” predicaments. The titles tell the story: Shorty and the Fortune Teller, Shorty Inherits a Harem, Shorty Goes to College.

The original series ran 1914-15, then a new one was produced by Monogram in 1917. Many of these were directed by none other than Francis Ford. Hamilton continued to make comedies and westerns during the intervening period. After Shorty (the comedy series) was laid to rest, Shorty (the actor) continued to appear in straight westerns for the next eight years, the last of which was Two Fisted Thompson (1925). He was only 45 when he died in an automobile accident. He drove his car into a steam shovel that had been parked on a Hollywood street. If only he had been riding his highly intelligent horse!

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

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