In Which We Get Misty Eyed About Ethel Teare

The career of silent screen comedian Ethel Teare (1894-1959) was brief but way prolific: over 150 credits during her decade of activity. Originally from Phoenix (back when Arizona was still just a Territory), Teare had some brief experience in vaudeville before being hired by Kalem at age 20 for the film For the Love of Mike (1914). Teare appeared in scores of comedies for the studio through 1917, the year they sold out to Vitagraph, co-starring with Ham and Bud in their shorts, as well as playing the lead in many of her own. In 1917, she went to work for Mack Sennett, where she appeared in numerous comedies with Mack Swain, Bobby Vernon, and others. Harry Langdon’s Picking Peaches (1924) was one of her last and most successful Sennett Comedies. She also worked for Fox, in films such as Pretty Lady (1920) with Slim Summerville.

According to Steve Massa’s book Slapstick Divas, Teare took a break from flickers in 1922 to appear with the Marx Brothers in Chicago in their tab musical “Twentieth Century Revue”, later reincarnated as “On the Mezzanine Floor”, “On the Mezzanine” and “On the Balcony”. (Slapstick Divas is currently the best source of info on Teare; Massa devotes several pages to her).

Teare’s last two films were a couple of history spoofs produced and directed by Bryan Foy, Columbus and Isabella, and Antony and Cleopatra, both in late 1924. She subsequently married a banker named Frank Risso, and became a community leader in San Francisco under the name Ethel Risso.

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