Bobby Barber: Classic Comedy Foot Soldier

Bobby Barber (1894-1976) was a Hollywood bit player with close to 250 screen credits, and a special association with classic comedy.

Barber’s credits go back to the silent days. His first film was the 1926 Lloyd Hamilton short Nobody’s Business. You can also see him supporting Clark and McCullough in The Medicine Men (1929), Buster Keaton in Doughboys (1930), Ted Healy and the Three Stooges in Soup to Nuts (1930), the Marx Brothers in Monkey Business (1931) and Horse Feathers (1932), Wheeler and Woolsey in Hold ‘Em, Jail (1932), Mae West in I’m No Angel (1933), Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times (1936), Joe E. Brown in When’s Your Birthday? (1937), Harold Lloyd in Professor Beware (1938), Olsen and Johnson in Crazy House (1943), W.C. Fields in Follow the Boys (1944), Hope and Crosby in The Road to Utopia (1945), and Danny Kaye in The Kid from Brooklyn (1947). In the ’30s and ’40s he also appeared in several comedy shorts with Keaton, the Stooges, Andy Clyde, Harry Langdon, Leon Errol, and others.

Barber’s most fruitful professional relationship was with Abbott and Costello, appearing in the films In the Navy (1941), Hold That Ghost (1941), The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap (1947), Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer Boris Karloff (1949), Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion (1950), Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951), and Abbott and Costello Go To Mars (1953), and also supporting the team on The Colgate Comedy Hour (1952-54), and The Abbott and Costello Show (1952-54). He got more comedy business to do in the TV work. In addition to his on camera appearances, Barber had a role with the informal Abbott and Costello stock company as a prankster, keeping spirits high during shoots with practical jokes. Additionally he appeared in one vehicle intended for Abbott and Costello but ultimately recast with Buddy Hackett and Hugh O’Brian Fireman Save my Child (1954), as well as the Lou Costello solo vehicle The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock (1959).

Other comedies and show biz related films Barber appeared in include The Villain Still Pursued Her (1940), A Night at Earl Carroll’s (1940), The Lady Eve (1941), Earl Carroll Vanities (1945), George White’s Scandals (1945), The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer (1947), Houdini (1953), The Buster Keaton Story (1957), The Man of a Thousand Faces (1957), and The Joker is Wild (1957). 

Barber also appeared in B movies like The Falcon series, and TV shows like The Adventures of Superman, Leave it to Beaver, and Wagon Train. His last film was the 1963 Arthur Hiller comedy The Wheeler Dealers with James Garner and Lee Remick.

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