Augustus Carney

Active - 1910  |   Died - 1920   |  

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Incredibly popular in early silent comedies, Augustus Carney was yet another former vaudevillian lured to films in the early 1910s. From 1911, Carney starred as Alkali Ike opposite his wife Margaret Joslin and Victor Potel in Essanay's Snakeville Comedies, filmed in and around Niles, CA, by Bronco Billy Anderson. More a situation comedy than pure slapstick farce, the still extant Alkali Ike's Automobile presents the buckskin clad Carney losing the town beauty to a rival, Mustang Pete (Harry Todd). The comedy is not exactly subtle but Carney and company got the most out of their hayseed characters, all of whom owed their origins to the still popular "Dutch comedy" style. By 1912, the series had become such a success that Essanay began merchandising Alkali Ike dolls to theaters and novelty stores. Reportedly, all this went to Carney's head and when Essanay refused to meet his increasingly outrageous salary demands, he defected to Universal. Although basically playing the same character, Carney was prohibited from using the Alkali Ike moniker, which remained the property of Essanay, and instead called himself "Universal Ike." But like Essanay, Universal was not about to humor the demanding comic and he was summarily fired in May 1914. Although Carney would play a few supporting roles elsewhere, his career had practically come to an end. His death in 1920 went completely unnoticed by the industry that had made him a star.