Correct Maggs.
Sat Nov 25, 2017 9:56pm

The women of silent comedy (1920s) and early talkies (1930s) were extremely talented but overshadowed by the men. Mainly their roles were more dramatic in nature, with such fine actors as Lillian Gish (who died at 99), Mary Pickford and Mabel Normand, to name a few.

But there were a handful of exceptions. One major example was the pairing of Thelma Todd with Zasu Pitts (and later Thelma Todd with Patsy Kelly) as a very successful female comedy team. Basically, they were what you might call a 1930s-1940s version of Laverne and Shirley, two young and fairly naive women from underprivileged backgrounds striving to better their lives while barely making ends meet. They did several shorts which still stand up pretty good today.

Another example is Lupe Velez (nicknamed the Mexican Spitfire) who worked mainly with Leon Errol, though she was front-and-center, never taking a backseat to any male actor. And of course we shouldn't forget Lucille Ball, who long before "I Love Lucy" played supporting roles in many 1930s comedies, usually as a chorus girl.

Add to the list Margaret Dumont, the matronly upper-class lady who was the constant butt of jokes by Groucho Marx. Also Mae Busch, who starred in several Laurel and Hardy shorts, usually playing the role of Oliver Hardy's wife who was always within arm's reach of a rolling pin. Both were excellent at their craft.

But you're right. Not much in the way of pathos for the women of comedy, although Dumont and Busch did engender sympathy from the viewer for their obvious plight.

  • Nice observations!Maggie, Sat Nov 25 3:55am
    Oh yes, Harry Langdon... And of course there also were Fatty Arbuckle and the extremely hilarious James Finlayson, even though I only ever saw him as a supporting actor. And the gang of little louts... more
    • Correct Maggs. — Doc, Sat Nov 25 9:56pm
      • Nice overview, Doc...DCG, Sun Nov 26 9:24pm's been a few years since I was "into" the Dawn of Film era, so all those you named didn't come trippingly to the tongue for me, as they did for you. ;) Marie Dressler is one I'd add to your... more
    • Giving "Silent" players a voiceDCG, Sat Nov 25 5:03pm
      Almost mentioned Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle in my earlier post, Maggs, so thanks for mentioning him in yours. He was, of course, instrumental in launching Keaton's career, but also worked with Chaplin... more
      • Oh, I just remembered ..Doc, Sat Nov 25 10:38pm
        Not sure if you and Maggs knew that Stan Laurel was actually Charlie Chaplin's understudy. Also worth mentioning, Laurel and Hardy appeared together in a silent short before they eventually teamed... more
        • Nice bits of info!Maggie, Mon Nov 27 3:23am
          I heard that Laurel and Hardy had met on the set of a movie, but I did not know about the Chaplin connection. Hardly surprising, is it? It stull must have been a small world. Yes, the Fatty Arbuckle... more
          • Your last sentence.Doc, Mon Nov 27 6:59am
            I cannot lie ... I got chills when I read it. Genuine goosebumps.
    • Oh, yes!Maggie, Sat Nov 25 4:30am
      ... of course there is Mary Pickford....
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