Clapham and Dwyer were a British music hall comedy duo of the 1920s and ’30s. The team consisted of Birmingham native Charles Clapham (1894-1959) and William Henry “Bill” Dwyer (1887-1943), from London. Dwyer was second generation show biz his father had performed with the Moore and Burgess Minstrels**. Clapham’s trademark costume incorporated a top hat and a monocle.
In addition to live music hall appearances Clapham and Dwyer made comedy phonograph records, and in appeared in two 1929 DeForest Phonofilms, and on radio. The broadcast work led to addition films, such as Radio Parade (1933), On the Air (1934), Radio Parade of 1935, Variety Hour (1937), and Sing As You Swing (1937). The latter film makes reference to the fact that the pair had been banned from the BBC two years earlier for making a coarse joke. The team broke up in 1939.
In 1941, Clapham starred in the comedy film My Wife’s Family without Dwyer. Dwyer passed away two years later. Clapham’s last screen credit was in the 1949 thrilled A Matter of Murder, in which he was third-billed. At this writing you can see many clips of the team in their heyday on Youtube.
To learn more about variety history, including music hall, 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.
**Obligatory Disclaimer: It is the official position of this blog that Caucasians-in-Blackface is NEVER okay. It was bad then, and it’s bad now. We occasionally show images depicting the practice, or refer to it in our writing, because it is necessary to tell the story of American show business, which like the history of humanity, is a mix of good and bad.
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