One of the most imitated comic actors in Hollywood history, stone-faced Ned Sparks began his career as a boy singer during the 1898 Klondike gold rush. After "gold fever" subsided, Sparks knocked around in tent theatricals, medicine shows, and carnivals, then tried his luck in New York. By the mid-teens, Sparks was firmly established as one of Broadway's premiere comedy actors. He was one of the leaders of the 1918 actor's strike, which led to the formation of Actors Equity, and shortly afterward made his first film appearance. Sparks' most rewarding film work came during the talkie era, when his sourpuss countenance and inimitable nasal bray was seen and heard in picture after picture. So well-established was Sparks as a dour doomsayer that he allegedly was heavily insured by Lloyds of London against the possibility of his ever being photographed with a smile on his face. Ned Sparks retired from films in 1947, at which point he apparently cut off virtually all contact with his friends and associates; when he died ten years later, only seven people attended his funeral.
by Hal Erickson biography