Victor Potel: Favorite Son of Snakeville

Indiana born Victor Potel (1889-1947) was a 21 year old kid when he started out at Chicago based Essanay studios in 1910. By the time the sun set on his career he was in nearly 450 films. Potel was an integral part of the Essanay stock comany. Broncho Billy Anderson initially teamed him with Augustus Carney in the “Hank and Lank” series (the photo shows why Potel was Lank). The series lasted two years, by which time, Potel had moved with Anderson to Essanay’s new western studio in Niles, California. Potel was also in most of the Alkali Ike and Snakeville comedies, as well as Broncho Billy westerns. In the Snakeville series, his character was Slippery Slim. In many of them Slippery Slim was the star.

In 1916, Potel followed Carney to IMP (Universal), and tweaked his character’s name to “Slim Hoover” for a new series of shorts. The move to major studios proved fortuitous. He had a good supporting part in the feature Captain Kidd Jr (1919) with Mary Pickford and Douglas MacLean, and throughout most of that ’20s that was his status — decent supporting parts in features. Some notable ones included John Ford’s The Outcast of Poker Flat (1919) with Harry Carey, William Beaudine’s A Self-Made Failure (1924) starring Lloyd Hamilton, Eddie Cantor’s Special Delivery (1927) directed by Roscoe Arbuckle as William Goodrich (though he was cut out), and the 1929 version of The Virginian.

In the sound era, Potel continued on as before, although his status slipped further to walk-ons and sometimes crowd extras. You can see him in MGM’s Doughboys (1930) with Buster Keaton and Ukulele Ike, the 1931 version of The Squaw Man, Hallelujah, I’m a Bum (1933), Ruggles of Red Gap (1935), WC Fields’s Mississippi (1935), Barbary Coast (1935), Harold Lloyd’s The Milky Way (1936), the 1936 version of Three Godfathers, Arizona Mahoney (1936) with Joe Cook, The Girl of the Golden West (1938), The Villain Still Pursued Her (1940), Li’l Abner (1940). The Marx Brothers’ The Big Store (1941), WC Fields’s Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941), Judy Canova’s Pudd’n Head (1941), and no less than nine Preston Sturges movies. His last film was Relentless (1948) with Robert Young.

For more on early film history, especially silent and classic comedy, please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.