John Sheehan: Footlights and Flying “A”

I became aware of John Sheehan (1885-1952) because he co-starred in the 1934 Educational short Trimmed in Furs with Louise Keaton, Buster’s sister. Born in Oakland, Sheehan acted with stock companies and in vaudeville on the West Coast for about 20 years, before embarking on his FIRST film career at Flying “A” Studio under Allan Dwan from 1914 through 1916. He played supporting parts in comedies and melodramas, appearing in over a third of the studio’s overall output of about 150 films.

In 1917 Sheehan returned to the stage, where he toiled for nearly another decade and a half. He returned to films in 1930 after sound came in, playing supporting and bit roles in nearly 200 films. His first upon his return was Swing High (1930) with Helen Twelvetrees, in which he was fourth in the billing, although for the most part such large parts were not to be his portion. Some notable films he appeared in included Hold ‘Em Jail (1932) with Wheeler and Woolsey, the original 1933 version of State Fair, Elmer the Great (1933) with Joe E. Brown, Little Miss Marker (1934) with Shirley Temple, the 1936 version of Three Godfathers, On the Avenue (1937), Mexican Spitfire and Mexican Spitfire Out West (both 1940), Gold Rush Maisie, Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), Two Weeks to Live (1943), Abbott and Costello’s It Ain’t Hay (1943), The Heat’s On (1943), Casanova in Burlesque (1944), Irish Eyes Are Smiling (1944), Buck Privates Come Home (1947), and scores more. He was also in comedy shorts with the likes of Shemp Howard, Daphne Pollard, Andy Clyde, and others. His last credit was in the 1952 Blossom Seeley and Bennie Fields bio-pic Somebody Loves Me with Betty Hutton and Ralph Meeker.

To learn more about vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on silent film and classic comedy please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.