Isabelle Keith: Was Both Mrs. Laurel and Mrs. Hardy

Isabelle Keith’s (1898-1979) chief claim to fame is in being one of only two actresses to have played both Mrs. Laurel and Hrs. Hardy in Laurel and Hardy comedies. She’s the former in Perfect Day (1929) and the latter in Be Big (1931). She went by more aliases than a check kiter — in films she’s also billed as Elizabeth Keith, Isabelle Keep, Isobel Keep and (after 1934) Claudelle Kaye.

Keith was from Mill Valley, California. She began her screen career as a Mack Sennett Bathing Girl and Keystone bit player, appearing in comedies like No Mother to Guide Him with Ben Turpin, and Hearts and Flowers with Ford Sterling, both in 1919. After She Sighed by the Seaside (1921) she dropped off screens for four years. When she returned in 1925, it was in a decently sized supporting part in the Colleen Moore feature The Desert Flower. It is a safe deduction that she had gotten some proper stage experience in the interval. Keith rapidly sank back to bit parts, however, only occasionally getting good-ish roles, as in Very Confidential (1927) with Madge Bellamy and Anne Against the World (1929) with Shirley Mason. The Charley Chase short Leaping Love (1929) was Keith first talkie. For most of the ’30s she was back to bit parts, although she had a bigger role in Barnum Was Right (1929) with Glenn Tryon and Merna Kennedy. You can see her in Dancing Lady (1933) and Manhattan Melodrama (1934). Notable late work includes the Robert Benchley short How to Behave, and the comedy Doughnuts and Society with Louise Fazenda and Maude Eburne, both in 1936. Her last film was Between Two Women (1937).

Keith was married to screenwriter Richard Weil, whose credits include work on Shine On, Harvest Moon (1944).

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