Alan “Al” Bridge: Of Stages and Sturges

Appropriately surnamed was Alan, or Al Bridge (1891-1957), whose nearly 300 screen credits are split between B movies (mostly westerns) and main features. And we all know the drill by now — he was mostly a bit player in the latter, and had larger roles (often as villains) in the former.

Originally from Philadelphia, Bridge joined a family acting troupe as a teenager, touring both vaudeville and the legit circuits. (One imagines that he must have crossed paths with some of the major Philly vaudevillians like W.C. Fields, Ed Wynn, and Walter C. Kelly). Having written some stage plays and sketches, Bridge first broke into Hollywood as a scribe, co-writing the short Her Hired Husband (1930), directed by Harry Delmar, and the Tom Tyler western feature God’s Country and the Man (1931) in which he also appeared as an actor. In addition to Tyler, he also supported western stars Hoot Gibson, John Wayne, Rex Bell, Tom Keene, Randolph Scott, Jack Mulhall, Johnny Mack Brown, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and Hopalong Cassidy, among others. Other B movie fare included such things as Jungle Jim (1937), The Phantom Creeps (1939), The Green Hornet Strikes Again (1940), and Dick Tracy’s Dilemma (1947).

Classic comedy being a special interest of ours, we’d also like to mention that he was in all but one of Preston Sturges’s comedies, several of Frank Capra’s, three Hope and Crosby “Road” movies, as well as Million Dollar Legs (1933), A Night at the Opera (1935), The Awful Truth (1937), My Little Chickadee (1940), and Bob Hope’s The Paleface (1948).

Bridge was in scores of classics and non-classics in all genres, but it just so happens that his last film was a western, Hell’s Outpost (1954).

His sister Loie Bridge (1889-1974) was also a bit player. Her most notable credit is probably her recurring role on Life with Elizabeth (1951-53), Betty White’s first sitcom. Although I am delighted to report that her penultimate role was in The Reluctant Astronaut (1967) with Don Knotts.

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