Excavating Andrew Tombes

Andrew Tombes (1885-1976) was a comical character actor of stage and screen whose career lasted about 50 years.

Originally from Ashtabula, Ohio, Tombes started out as a comedian in minstrel shows, vaudeville and traveling musical revues like Flo-Flo (1908) and The College Girls (1909). He was headlining on the Keith-Orpheum circuit by the mid-teens, which brought him to Broadway. Miss 1917 was the first of his nearly two dozen Broadway shows, which also included three editions of the Ziegfeld Follies (1922, 1923 and 1927), and Ripples (1930) with Fred Stone and family.

A bit part in The Bowery (1933), was the first of his over 150 films, where his roles ranged from decent supporting parts to walk-ons. You can see him in Broadway Thru a Keyhole (1933); Moulin Rouge (1934); Doubting Thomas (1935, starring his old stage cohort Will Rogers); King of Burlesque (1936); Easy Living (1937); Sally, Irene, and Mary (1938); A Girl, A Guy, and a Gob (1941); The Wild Man of Borneo (1941); Louisiana Purchase (1941); Hellzapoppin’ (1941) and Crazy House (1943) with Olsen and Johnson; Blondie Goes to College (1942); My Gal Sal (1942); Road to Morocco (1942) with Hope and Crosby; The Meanest Man in the World (1943) with Jack Benny; It Ain’t Hay (1943) with Abbott and Costello; Du Barry was a Lady and I Dood It (both 1943), Bathing Beauty (1944) and Watch the Birdie (195) with Red Skelton; Riding High (1943), The Mad Ghoul (1943); Show Business (1944) with Eddie Cantor; The Singing Sheriff (1944); the Gershwin bio-pic Rhapsody in Blue (1945); Incendiary Blonde (1945); Badman’s Territory (1956): Copacabana (1947); My Wild Irish Rose (1947); Oh You Beautiful Doll (1949); and the Stephen Foster bio-pic I Dream of Jeanie (1952).

Tombes also appeared in a handful of comedy shorts, such as Alex in Wonderland (1940) with Walter Catlett; Screw Drivers of 1940 with Lew Lehr; and Take the Air (1941) with Eddie Foy Jr. His last film was the independently produced The Go-Getter (1952) starring radio and tv sitcom star Hank McCune, with Ray Collins and Beverly Garland. He was nearing 70 at the time of his retirement.

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.