E. Mason Hopper: From Snakeville to Sunset Blvd.

Vermont native E. Mason Hopper (1885-1967) performed in vaudeville and with stock companies, played pro baseball, and studied at the University of Maryland before becoming a successful film director.

Hopper began directing silent comedy shorts for Essanay in 1911, including several Alkali Ike/ Snakeville comedies, as well as Wallace Beery/Sweedie shorts (thanks, Steve Rydzewski for the reminder). Just as Essanay was collapsing in 1916, he went into directing features, some of which remain well known among classic film buffs, like the Revolutionary War drama Janice Meredith (1924) with Marion Davies, Harrison Ford and W.C. Fields, and the Marie Prevost comedies Up in Mabel’s Room (1926) and Getting Gertie’s Garter (1927). He also directed a series of “Edgar” comedy shorts starring Edward Piel, Jr. The fact that he also directed Daddy (1923) with Jackie Coogan, shows a knack for working with kids. The Carnation Kid (1929) with Douglas MacLean was his last silent.

Hopper continued directing talkies through 1935, all of them B movies, his last being Hong Kong NIghts (1935) with Tom Keene. After this he did some second unit direction on Camille (1936), and assistant direction on Of Human Hearts (1938). He emerged a few years later to take bit parts in the films Slightly Dangerous (1943), The Man from Down Under (1943), Big Jack (1949), Riding High (1950), and Sunset Boulevard (1950).

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