Ham Kinsey: Stan Laurel’s Stunt Double

Some brief recognition today for Hamilton “Ham” Kinsey (1900-67), a minor figure in comedy history but an important member of the teams on which he played, mostly Hal Roach Studios.

Kinsey’s screen career was sandwiched between his service in both World Wars. A native of Williams, South Carolina (population 100+) he began his adult life doing a year-long army hitch in the Great War. In 1923 he turns up as a prop man for Roach, almost exclusively on Stan Laurel solo vehicles like The Noon Whistle, White Wings, Kill or Cure, and Oranges and Lemons. Starting with Charley Chase’s Isn’t Life Terrible (1925), he became a Roach bit player, visible in the comedies of Chase, Our Gang, and Laurel and Hardy for over a decade. Additionally thanks to a resemblance in body type, Kinsey also became Laurel’s stunt double and stand-in. On rare occasions, e.g. Wheeler and Woolsey’s The Nitwits (1935) he worked on films outside the Roach and Laurel orbit. His last screen appearances was in Swiss Miss (1938); his last doubling work was in A Chump at Oxford (1939).

Just as Laurel and Hardy were ending their relationship with Roach, World War Two came along. Kinsey re-enlisted in the army as a sergeant. When the shooting was over Kinsey did not return to the film business, though he was still living in Los Angeles when he passed away three decades later. He died in 1967 — two years after Laurel. Guess Laurel needed a stunt double in the afterlife!

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