C.C. Burr: Excavating a Mastodon

Some brief notes on minor independent silent film producer Charles C. “C.C.” Burr (1891-1956).

Burr was an advertising man from Brooklyn who hung out his “Mastodon Films” shingle in 1920, producing comedies starring Johnny Hines, including the “Torchy” series and others such as Burn ‘Em Up Barnes (1921) and Sure Fire Flint (1922). These were produced at Mirror Studios in Glendale, Queens. The name Mastodon was meant to suggest a big show, it had often been used in that connection back in the days of minstrel shows. Burr worked with top flight talent. Dell Henderson directed Sure Fire Flint, for example, and Faint Hearts (1922) starred Raymond McKee and Charlie Murray, and was directed by Gregory La Cava. By this point he had abandoned the Mastodon brand and was releasing what he called All Star Comedies, most of them with those same collaborators. Another in his stable was Charles Hines, brother of Johnny. Burr produced dozens of these comedy shorts through the end of 1923.

By 1924 he was operating as C.C. Burr Productions and producing features, many of them dramas, with important stars. Restless Wives (1924) was directed by La Cava and featured Doris Kenyon, Montague Love, Burr McIntosh, and a young Edna May Oliver. There were a a few more like this and then he made some comedy features with the Hines Brothers, including The Brown Derby (1926), Chinatown Charlie (1928) and The Wright Idea (1928) as well as some more dramas. In 1930 he co-produced his first sound picture Call of the Circus, starring Francis X. Bushman and Ethel Clayton. Bushman later sued for non-payment of salary, which indicates that this was a turning point.

In 1931 through 1933 Burr released a new series of Torchy shorts starring Ray Cooke and Marion Shockley, released through Educational. Those same years through 1940, he produced numerous low-budget B movies: westerns, spy stories, adventure tales and the like with stars like Lloyd Hughes, Norman Foster, Joyce Compton, Lona Andre, etc. Ridin’ the Trail (1940) with singing cowboy Fred Scott was his last picture.

For more on silent comedy please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.