Eric Campbell and Charley Chase

This post is edited and expanded from entries in the “Too Young, Too Soon” series on my old Angelfire page, written around 2005–07.

My IWSG post is here.

Alfred Eric Campbell (26 April 1879-20 December 1917) was formerly believed to have been born in Dunoon, Scotland, home of the Campbell clan, but today his true birthplace is believed to be Cheshire, England. It’s unclear if Eric, his longtime co-star Charlie Chaplin, or the press invented this myth.

He began acting in melodramas in local theatres in Wales and Scotland. At one of these shows, famed English theatre impresario Fred Karno discovered him and was quite impressed by his baritone and hefty build. Fred took him to London, where Eric became a slapstick actor.

In 1914, Eric moved to New York and became an established stage actor. Luck smiled on him in 1916 when Chaplin, in town to sign his Mutual contract, saw Eric in a Broadway play and invited him to work together.

Eric played the heavy (i.e., villain) in all twelve of Chaplin’s Mutual two-reelers (the last of which was unreleased). Big, tall, and imposing, with his walrus moustache and intimidating facial expressions, he was the perfect foil for the Little Tramp, someone you want to see him humiliate and defeat.

Don’t let his appearance fool you; off-camera, Eric was a true gentle giant, a very kind, sweet, shy, generous person.

Thankfully, none of Eric’s films are lost, because he made them with Chaplin, who owned the rights to all his films. The survival rate of films from people who owned their films is much better than that of most stars who didn’t.

Chaplin signed with First National after his Mutual contract ended, and planned to take Eric with him. Sadly, this never came to pass. Eric’s wife Fanny died of a heart attack on 9 July 1917, and when his 16-year-old daughter Una was walking to a store to buy a mourning dress, she was hit by a car and seriously hurt.

Eric met notorious gold-digger Pearl Gilman on 12 September, and married her five days later. Una, still recovering from her injuries, didn’t know about this for a few weeks. Less than two months after the wedding, Pearl sued Eric for divorce.

Eric moved into a room next to Chaplin at the L.A. Athletic Club. Shortly afterwards, Eric got drunk at a cast party, crashed his car on the way home, and was killed at age 39. Una was taken in by family in Nottingham.

Eric’s ashes were unclaimed for over 30 years, but finally have a home in L.A.’s Rosedale Cemetery.

Charley Chase (né Charles Joseph Parrott) (20 October 1893–20 June 1940) was born in Baltimore and began acting in vaudeville as a teen. His career as a film actor began with the Christie Film Company in 1912.

Charley later moved to Keystone, where he was both actor and director. People from other studios were very impressed with his work, and invited him to direct for them too. In 1920, he joined Hal Roach Studios, and in late 1921, he rose to director-general.

When Charley began acting again in 1923, he took the stage surname Chase. Charley excelled at situational comedies of embarrassment, often playing befuddled husbands, suitors, and businessmen. Like Harold Lloyd, his character was a regular guy.

Charley was a quadruple threat, writing, directing, producing, and acting. When sound came along, he became a quintuple threat with his lovely singing voice. Hal Roach often called him the funniest guy he’d ever known

Sadly, Charley’s planned début starring feature, Neighborhood House (1936), was plagued by problems, and ultimately edited down to two reels. After being dismissed from Hal Roach Studios, he starred in another series of shorts for Columbia. Charley also continued directing, most notably for the Three Stooges.

Charley’s longtime alcohol problems got worse after his little brother James died in 1939. Thirteen months later, Charley passed away of a heart attack at age 46.

Today, Charley’s comedic genius has been rediscovered by a new generation.

John Bunny

This is an edited, revamped version of a post I wrote in 2012, which in turn was based off an entry in my “Too Young, Too Soon” series on my old Angelfire site, around 2005–07. At the time, I was still finding my blogging voice.

John Bunny (21 September 1863–26 April 1915) was born to an Irish mother and English father in Brooklyn. He was the ninth generation of a family of English sea captains, but the first generation who didn’t follow that career path. He was a grocery clerk in his teens, and joined a small touring minstrel show at twenty.

After getting his foot in the door, John acted for many touring and stock theatre companies, some of whose shows were musical comedies. He was also a stage manager for a number of stock companies. This new career brought him to Seattle, Portland, and a number of locales on the East Coast. By 1900, he was acting on Broadway.

John went from strength to strength as a stage actor, with one successful show after another. His 1906 performance as Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Astor Theatre’s inaugural show, garnered excellent reviews.

In spite of his great stage success, John felt film represented the future of acting, and that movies were drawing people away from stage shows. Most people in 1910, however, considered movie acting very disreputable, not as respectable and refined as stage acting.

J. Stuart Blackton, manager of Vitagraph Studios, initially refused to hire him, feeling unable to offer him the salary he deserved. Ever a good sport, John insisted on this lower salary, going from $150 to $40 a week.

Over the next five years, John was in more than 250 comedy shorts, and quickly became the best-known face the world over. He usually co-starred with Flora Finch, a great physical foil. Flora was tall and thin, and John was short and fat.

They excelled at comedies of manners, which greatly helped popularity. In comparison to the public’s poor image of slapstick, comedies of manners were considered polite, respectable, genteel.

Their films were known as Bunnyfinches, Bunnygraphs, and Bunnyfinchgraphs. They were usually credited as Mr. and Mrs. Bunny, although offscreen John was happily married to Clara Scallan, with whom he had four children. He and Flora “cordially hated each other” offscreen, according to Vitagraph’s co-founder Albert E. Smith.

Troubles began when he went back on the road with the show John Bunny in Funnyland, which bombed royally and coincided with how he’d become very tired and sick. Sadly, he died of Bright’s Disease at age 51.

John, the most popular comedian in this pre-Chaplin world, was mourned around the world and eulogised by The New York Times with the words, “The name John Bunny will always be linked to the movies.”

Sadly, only a handful of his films are known to survive, and many books on silent film completely leave out his name. Even the theatre that was named after him, New York City’s Bunny Theatre, was later renamed the Nova Theatre, and closed in 2003.

The most easily-available of his few known surviving films are 1912’s A Cure for Pokeritis and 1911’s Her Crowning Glory. In 2011, A Cure for Pokeritis was chosen for preservation in the National Film Library of the Library of Congress.

Funny John Bunny

Words on Paper

Thursdays in Blog Me MAYbe are themed “May I tell you something about someone else?” This week my spotlight is on the largely forgotten silent film clown John Bunny (21 September 1863-26 April 1915), whom I profiled on my old “Too Young, Too Soon” series on my old Angelfire site. (When I was writing for my Angelfire site, I was in the habit of using British spellings, a habit I’ve since fallen out of.)

Now just look at John Bunny. Doesn’t he look like a nice, friendly fellow? A fellow shorty, he stood at five-four, and beyond just being an actor, was my favourite type of actor, a comedian. All true clowns, be they comedic actors, pantomimists, circus clowns, or whatever, are angels for how they live to make people happy, forget their troubles, turn tears into laughter and turn frowns into smiles. And come on, how could you not smile when you see that happy, funny face of his?

He was the ninth generation of a family of English sea captains, but the first generation who didn’t follow that career path. He started working as a clerk in a grocery before going off to pursue a career path in entertainment. John was in a small touring minstrel show and then started acting at the theatre, in musical comedies, as well as being a stage manager for a number of stock companies.

At the time he quit the stage to pursue the screen, in 1910, movie acting was still considered very disreputable and not as respectable and refined as stage acting. He also took a big pay cut when he did this, going from $150 to $40 a week. Over the next five years John was in more than 250 comedy shorts and quickly became the best-known face the world over, usually co-starring with Flora Finch, a great physical foil for him. Flora was tall and thin, and John was short and fat.

The shorts they made together were known as “Bunnyfinches,” “Bunnygraphs,” and “Bunnyfinchgraphs.” They were usually credited as Mr. and Mrs. Bunny, although offscreen John was happily married to Clara Scallan, with whom he had four children.

The start of John’s troubles came when he went back on the road with a show called John Bunny in Funnyland, but that effort bombed royally, coupled with how he’d become very tired and sick. John, who was the most popular comedian in the world before even Chaplin came out, was mourned around the world when he died and eulogised by The New York Times with the words, “The name John Bunny will always be linked to the movies.” He was only 51 when he died of Bright’s Disease.

Sadly, today only a handful of his films are known to survive, owing to how many films of the early Teens were neglected and forgotten, and many books on silent comedy or silent film in general completely leave out poor John’s name. Even the theatre that was named after him, New York City’s Bunny Theatre, was later renamed the Nova Theatre, and ended up closing its doors in 2003.

The most easily-available of his few known surviving films are 1912’s A Cure for Pokeritis and 1911’s Her Crowning Glory. (Since I first wrote this piece, A Cure for Pokeritis has been chosen as one of the films in the National Film Library of the Library of Congress.)

Classic silent and early sound comedians, Part VI

The conclusion of my 2005 essay on classic comedy clowns, many of whom are forgotten today. This section includes spotlights on Max Davidson, Raymond Griffith, and cross-eyed Ben Turpin.

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18. Max Davidson was born in Germany in 1875 and entered film in 1912. He transitioned to sound, but just about all of his sound work consists of uncredited roles. One of his silent roles was in the only lost Laurel and Hardy film, 1927’s Hats Off (which was later remade in 1932 as The Music Box, only in the remake the object they’re struggling to lug up that massive flight of stairs is of course a piano and not a washing machine). He was also in their 1927 short Call of the Cuckoo, the 1926 Charley Chase short Long Fliv the King, uncredited in the 1927 Mary Pickford-Buddy Rogers flick My Best Girl, the 1925 Jackie Coogan film The Rag Man, and the 1915 version of Don Quixote. He was also an NJB, though unfortunately he was frequently put in stereotyped roles.

19. Raymond Griffith also only has a small number of surviving films, though he’s on the Walk of Fame. He was on the stage from 15 months of age, and took to performing as a clown and trapeze artist in a circus, and a dance instructor, after losing most of his voice as a boy. He permanently damaged his vocal chords after continuous loud screaming during rehearsals for a stage show called The Witching Hour. Though his voice eventually returned, it went no higher than about a whisper; thus his career in acting seemed about over, since he’d lost the gift and ability of vocal projection. Later on he joined the Navy, but was turned down for service in WWI due to his damaged voice.

In 1915 he started out in minor comedies but quickly became a big-name comedy star, working for many different people and studios, acting as well writing scenarios and scripts. His trademark was a tall dapper silk hat. Even though he knew his ability as an actor would be seriously impaired and negatively impacted when sound came along, due to his very low voice that was no higher than a whisper, you’ve gotta give him credit for having the balls to at least try. His final film was a small but memorable role in 1931’s screen adaptation of the classic Erich Maria Remarque novel All Quiet on the Western Front.

He married fellow actor Bertha Mann in 1928, and they had a very happy and successful marriage which lasted until his sudden, shocking, tragic death in 1957, when he choked and asphyxiated on his food at the Masquers Club in LA.

20. Lige Conley too has fallen into rather relative obscurity, though there are films of his still yet out there (albeit hard to find and rare, but Grapevine Video and A-1 Video’s online store offer some of them). He also plays supporting or bit roles in other commercially available films, as in Are Crooks Dishonest? (on The Harold Lloyd Slapstick Symposium). One IMDB reviewer of his 1924 flick The Fast and the Furious points out that Lige is indeed so damn obscure today that only about a third of his actual movie credits are listed at IMDB.

21. Chester Conklin started out as a circus clown and vaudevillian and began working in films in 1913, an unassuming mischievous little fellow with a big walrus-like moustache. One of his many many roles was in the very first Chaplin short, 1914’s Making a Living; according to legend, he helped Charlie develop the Tramp character (though he doesn’t appear as the Tramp in Making a Living). Chester worked with a number of different studios (including Keystone, where he was for a time a Keystone Kop) and transitioned very successfully to sound. He made his final film in 1966 and died in 1971.

22. Sidney Drew, Gladys Rankin, and Lucille McVey Drew (typically billed as “Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Drew”) were in a series of very popular comedies. Sidney was also the uncle of John, Ethel, and Lionel Barrymore. Gladys was Sidney’s first wife, with whom he was in vaudeville and later marital film comedies. Gladys would often rewrite bad material or come up with a new script entirely. Sidney also became a director when they later went to Hollywood.

When Gladys died in 1914, he remarried to Lucille, more than half his age, who also billed herself as “Mrs. Sidney Drew.” The comedies they made, written by Lucille and directed by Sidney, were said to be subtler and more wholesome than the ones he’d done with Gladys. They were all quite popular and said to be very funny; it’s a shame more aren’t available or commercially out there.

Being as modern as I am, I find it hard to imagine how once most women actually wanted to be known as Mrs. Husband’s Full Name instead of at least Mrs. Her Own Name. I’m told older women even nowadays “correct” people who refer to them without the Mrs. or the Mrs. Man’s Name in the front, saying they like their “titles.” Hard to believe there are still plenty of people out there who don’t see why there should be any objection at all to a woman being identified through her husband only. If you choose to take your spouse’s surname, great for you, but it seems much less patriarchal and offensive if you’re not identified by putting the word Mrs. in front of your husband’s name.

23. Ben Turpin was a cross-eyed comic you can’t help but laugh at, even though in the modern era some people find it incredibly cruel that a condition like being cross-eyed was once deliberately used for laughs (even though it wasn’t mockery or suspicion; we’re not talking the 15th century here). He even had his eyes insured by Lloyd’s of London in case they ever uncrossed themselves.

He was in burlesque, vaudeville, and the stage before entering films in 1907. He was in some early Chaplin shorts, though most of his work was done for the legendary Mack Sennett, and during the Twenties for Hal Roach. In the sound era he mostly did cameo and character work, such as in the 1940 Laurel and Hardy feature Saps at Sea and as the cross-eyed justice of the peace in their 1931 short Our Wife, when he accidentally marries Stan to Ollie. I was always a bit creeped-out and unsettled looking at those eyes. He also starred in the 1923 spoof The Shriek of Araby, one of many movies (spoof or serious) capitalising on the Sheik craze of the era.

24. Al Alt lived quite a long time, from 1897 till 1992, though he’s just about as obscure today as any of these bottom-rung comedians listed herein. He began working in film in 1924, making his last in 1932. He only made 36 films (that IMDB lists at least), but he was a minor star for a time, and all true comedians are to be blessed, beloved, and thanked for how they live only to bring delight, joy, and gladness to the world, be they destined to live on forever as comedic legends and icons, lesser stars who develop a cult following, huge stars who have fallen into obscurity today, or comedians who always were at the bottom of the celebrity food chain and were obscure and ultra-minor even back then.

25. Billy Franey, like many of the other obscure comics listed herein, did transition to sound, but almost always in bit or uncredited roles. Some of his films from the days when he was a name star (even though never one of the biggest-name comedians around) are She’s a Sheik (of which the lovely Bebe Daniels was the star), A Western Demon, The Fear Fighter, Aflame in the Sky, Billy’s Weekend, and The False Alarm. The bulk of his comedies were done between 1914-32; after that he largely went in uncredited roles.

26. Glenn Tryon was one of the many people Hal Roach went through trying to find his next big star, but for whatever reason (below-par material, just not very funny, overshadowed by larger talents like Charley Chase, didn’t have the right comedic personality or presence), he just didn’t make it long-term.

There are a few Glenn shorts on the nine-volume serial The Lost Films of Laurel and Hardy45 Minutes from Hollywood (the boys’ first film appearance together since The Lucky Dog [1919?], though they were far from a team at that early date) and Along Came Auntie (which also featured Ollie, from 1925), and they just come across as very weak in comparison with the other great shorts presented on those respective discs.

Glenn was alright as a comedian, but he just couldn’t cut it. Some people you like right away or almost right away, even if you’ve only seen a few of their shorts (like how I was bowled over by Charley Chase’s comedic gifts and talents), and some you take a little while to warm up to even while sensing you’re in the presence of someone truly great, but I’m afraid I have to say that Glenn was just a mediocre C comedian in his own day and age, never amounting to anything much.

Given how much sheer talent Hal Roach was working with, what a great judge of funnyness he was, it’s baffling as to why he thought Glenn had the potential to turn from an average leading man into the next Harold Lloyd. Based on the evidence I’ve seen so far, and on what other people who’ve seen more of Glenn’s canon have to say, I don’t think this is like how I had the misfortune to see two of the worst, most unrepresentative, Marx Brothers’ films as my first films by them and got the wrong impression. Glenn just was not anything special.

27. Clyde Cook was another minor comedian Hal Roach was trying to launch the career of and make his next big thing. Clyde was quite popular in his native Australia, but fell flat when he arrived in America; like Glenn Tryon, you could say he’s deservedly obscure. He was in a ton of movies and shorts, both silent and talking, but most of his roles after the initial period of hype were uncredited or just mere bit parts. The two films he’s on on the nine-volume serial, Wandering Papas and Should Sailors Marry? (both also starring Ollie), are just as weak overall as Glenn’s films are. A few laughs and funny situations here and there, but nothing really special or unforgettable.

28. Bud Duncan was the other half of the Bud and Ham team in the aforementioned comedy series Lloyd Hamilton had appeared in; obviously Bud played the role of Bud. Almost all of his film credits are from the Teens, though he also appeared in five films in the late Twenties, one in 1931, and two in 1942.

29. Lupino Lane was an extremely physical comedian, taking full advantage of how lithe, graceful, limber, and athletic he was. His brother Wallace often starred in his films, in the various capacities of pal, rival, and villain, frequently kicking Lupino in the ass.

Classic silent and early sound comedians, Part V

This installment spotlights comedians including W.C. Fields, Max Linder, and Lloyd Hamilton. Since writing this in 2005, I was able to see some of Harry Langdon’s films, and quickly came to the conclusion that the people who have claimed him as the “forgotten” or fourth great silent clown are mistaken, if genuine in their intentions. He actually kind of creeps me out. He was rather popular for a rather short time. I’m far from the only one who feels there’s a bit of historical revisionism going on when certain people try to claim him as some undersung silent comedy genius.

***

12. Mabel Normand was the silent queen, débuting in 1910 and quickly becoming the favourite of the legendary producer Mack Sennett; she was one of his famed Bathing Beauties. She also appeared in a few of Chaplin’s early shorts, though her most prolific teaming was with Roscoe Arbuckle, frequently playing his wife, girlfriend, or love interest.

She was so great that Sennett (whom she was mutually in love with, despite how they never married) established the Mabel Normand Feature Film Company, at which she worked very hard and successfully, rarely ever using a stunt double to do the more hazardous things associated with slapstick. Unfortunately, in the early Twenties she was linked with the events on the night of the bizarre unsolved murder of director William Desmond Taylor (even though Mabel had nothing to do with the murder), and coupled with her bad spending habits and out of control personal life, she fell from grace, making her final film in 1927. In 1930 she died of TB-induced pneumonia.

13. W.C. Fields had been in show business for some time before he finally made a name for himself in the early Thirties. His silent pictures are said to be hit and miss; he didn’t really come into his own until you could hear his voice, which matched his personality and appearance perfectly. However, some of his better silent films, such as It’s the Old Army Game, which he did with his friend Louise Brooks, were later remade into sound films.

His screen persona was that of a curmudgeon, and he was very delightfully curmudgeonly, too funny, entertaining, and interesting to dislike, even though he drinks like a damn fish and is frequently rude and mean to children and animals (though supposedly in real life he liked kids). Another integral aspect of his screen character was his big bulbous red nose; he also wore an array of funny hats.

He started out in vaudeville, primarily as a juggler, which was how he came into contact with Louise Brooks, who was dancing for the Ziegfeld Follies during the time he was juggling for them. He was a very good juggler, though he had to wear gloves to protect his hands because of a skin condition. Louise remembered that he was very modest, chaste, shy, and polite, and one of her few real friends when she was dancing there; it seems surprising such a personality would become such close friends with a woman who was famously very very sexual.

He was also the second choice for the title role of the 1939 version of The Wizard of Oz (there had been an earlier version in 1910, starring a very young Bebe Daniels as Dorothy). He might not have been as young, handsome, or physically daring as some of the other comedians of the era, but he was funny, put on a great show, was very entertaining, and had that natural presence and personality. When you’ve got that, you don’t need looks or youth to carry you through. It will ooze right off the screen before you even say a word, and like Stan Laurel once said, a truly great comedian will get laughs even if he’s just sitting and reading the phonebook.

14. Harry Langdon is yet another man-child comedian, a whey-faced baby-faced clown who was quite popular for a time in the Twenties, so much so [some] people consider him the fourth great silent clown (as though rankings mean much of anything; all these guys were great, whether they’re “officially” placed as #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #15, #35, or #100!). Not all people dig his man-child character, and certainly he made some foolish decisions that cut his career shorter than it might’ve otherwise been (such as firing Frank Capra after their falling-out during the making of Long Pants), decisions that also produced weaker material than usual (what else do you expect when you’re directing yourself and thus have no one around you to tell you you’re making bad choices about material?).

From Long Pants in 1927 on out, most of his films were financially disastrous, and though most of his acting was done in talking pictures, those films are generally not considered as good as the stuff he was doing in the silent era. He’s like a good number of other comedians on the list; either you like him and find his brand of humour appealing or you don’t. Thankfully, some of his films have come out onto DVD now, with hopefully more to follow in future, so you can judge for yourself if you think he deserves to be called the fourth great silent clown or if you personally just don’t find his humour appealing.

15. Larry Semon, like Charley Chase, may just be one of the funniest actors you’ve never seen or heard about. Nowadays he’s best-remembered for directing The Wizard of Oz in 1925 (the 1939 version was not the first or only one); he also appeared in the picture as the Scarecrow (and believe it or not, Oliver Hardy played the Tin Man). Sadly, he died at only 39 mere years of age in 1928.

In the early Twenties he even was giving Chaplin a run for his money as the greatest, most popular screen clown. Unfortunately, most of his surviving films are his later ones, which aren’t his best, so it’s really hard to acccurately judge him, even though other more representative surviving films plus his reputation attest to a truly great clown and wonderful entertainer.

People issue proclamations about how he was unfunny, egotistical, and too crude a physical comedian based on only seeing a handful of very unrepresentative films; the old trick of judging a person or thing by something either unrepresentative or shown out of context on purpose to make it seem ridiculous. It’s like how only a handful of Theda Bara’s films survive; how can you determine if she’s really worthy of all the great things that’ve been said about her if you’ve only got below-par outings with which to judge her?

16. Max Linder, a dapper Frenchman in a top hat, was a cinematic pioneer, making his first film in 1905. It’s been said that his top-hat screen persona was the first recognisable screen figure, paving the way for comics like Harold Lloyd, Stan and Ollie, and Charlie Chaplin.

Probably his best-known film is 1921’s Seven Years Bad Luck, which was recently shown on TCM as part of their April Fools celebration, on the day they showed nothing but films by Charley Chase, Roscoe Arbuckle, and Harold Lloyd. Seven Years Bad Luck is a great, triumphant film for many reasons, one of his very best, surviving or lost; it also contains the original mirror routine which was later done in 1933’s Duck Soup (not to be confused with the 1927 Laurel and Hardy short also called Duck Soup and later remade in the sound era as Another Fine Mess).

This film is available on the only DVD collection of Max’s work issued to date, along with four shorts and an excerpt from Be My Wife. Sadly, only about a fifth of his 500 films are known to survive, and not all in the greatest of conditions; even sadder still is how this great actor and comedic legend exited that incarnation, by suicide at the age of 42, right after killing his wife. No one has yet found a motive for this sad, shocking turn of events.

17. Lloyd Hamilton was never one of the major clowns in his day, but he wasn’t such a minor comedian as to be considered obscure either. Incidentally, some of his films featured Virginia Rappé, who was also just a minor star who probably would be remembered about as well as, if not less so, than Lloyd Hamilton is today had it not been for the scandal that occurred after her untimely death.

He started working in films in 1914 and starred in a number of comedy serials—the Mermaid comedies, the Sunshine comedies, and as Ham in the Ham and Bud series. During work upon one of the lattermost comedies, he suffered a compound fracture in his left leg, which had him unable to work for months following. Supposedly the comedic walk he used in his later comedies was inspired by this injury. (Curly Howard also had an injury that inspired the funny walk he did to hide his limp; he accidentally shot himself in the foot but was so terrified of surgery he never had it worked on; his big brother Moe was the one who found him after this accident.) In 1931 he was hit by a car and hurt his left leg all over again; two months later, upon his release from hospital, he was showing a friend how well he could walk sans crutches, fell, and broke his right leg.

This rather obscure comedian is also mentioned near the end of chapter 14 of Cheaper by the Dozen, talking about the film shot of their family eating dinner at way past normal speed to make it look like they raced to the table, ate dinner, passed plates, and ran away from the table in about 45 seconds, with laundry, esp. diapers, prominently in the background: “We saw the newsreel at the Dreamland Theater in Nantucket, and it got much louder laughs than the comedy, which featured a fat actor named Lloyd Hamilton.”