Muriel Landers at 100

By 100, of course, we mean years, and not pounds, for the fact that Muriel Landers (1921-77) went into comedy has to do with the fact that she was *200* pounds (and only 5’2″ in height), and of course the fact that she was funny. Thank you, Anthony DiFlorio, for alerting us to the fact that she was approaching the century mark!

Landers began her career as a trainer singer but her large size (and comic abilities) got her cast in character roles in films and television. She also performed live with major stars like Ray Bolger, with whom she performed a night club act, and Jack Benny, with whom she entertained at the London Palladium. On screen, she worked in all genres, but we are going to stress her classic comedy and variety connections. It included The Frank Sinatra Show (1951), The College Bowl (1951) with Chico Marx, The All Star Revue (1951), Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (1952), a recurring role on Life with Luigi (1953), The Milton Berle Show (1954), the Ray Bolger shows Washington Square (1954) and Where’s Raymond? (1957), a 1955 Steve Allen special, The Red Skelton Hour (1955), My Little Margie (1955), The Gene Autry Show (1955), The Bob Hope Show (1956), and The Jack Benny Program (1956-58).

In 1957, despite the facts that comedy shorts were nearly moribund, Jules White signed her to star in a new series for Columbia with Bek Nelson. Nelson was skinny; the idea was a sort of female Laurel and Hardy. The pair played showgirls. Only one film, Tricky Chicks (1957), resulted, although Landers did go on to co-star with the Joe Besser era Three Stooges in Sweet and Hot (1958). She also appeared on The Danny Thomas Show (1957-59), in Pillow Talk (1959) with Doris Day and Rock Hudson, The Twilight Zone (1962), as a regular on The Joey Bishop Show (1962-63), in the Jerry Lewis films Who’s Minding the Store? (1963) and The Disorderly Orderly (1964), Doctor Doolittle (1957), Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In (1968), Hogan’s Heroes (1969-70), and Lidsville (1972) — as Mommy Hoo Doo! Her last screen credit was a part in the 1974 TV movie Remember When? with Jack Warden, William Schallert, Tim Matheson and Robbie Benson.

For more on variety entertainment, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on classic comedy read  Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.