Ben Corbett

Active - 1922 - 2020  |   Born - Feb 6, 1892   |   Died - May 19, 1961   |   Genres - Western, Action

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Biography by Hans J. Wollstein

A diminutive, pot-bellied supporting player in B-Westerns, Ben Corbett had enjoyed some success at the famous rodeo at Pendleton, OR, and at New York's Madison Square Garden, where his roping and "Roman" riding skills reportedly won him several trophies. Entering films as a riding double for William Desmond and Antonio Moreno in Vitagraph Westerns and action melodramas in the 1910s, Corbett later became a member of Western star Hoot Gibson's stock company at Universal. That studio saw enough comedic potential in the former stunt man to team him with the equally diminutive Gilbert "Pee Wee" Holmes as Magpie and Dirtshirt in a series of rural comedy shorts set in the fictive community of Piperock. The series, which was released on Universal's "Mustang Brand" in the mid-'20s, counted among its leading ladies such future stars as Janet Gaynor and Fay Wray. In the 1930s, Corbett's character of Magpie returned in several independently produced "Bud 'n Ben" western shorts and the now veteran supporting player later became Tim McCoy's sidekick at low-budget Victory Pictures. He seems to have popped up in every other low-budget Western thereafter, usually appearing unbilled. B-Western compiler Les Adams has verified Corbett's presence in about 185 Westerns and half a dozen serials between 1930 and the actor's retirement in the early '50s, but there may actually have been many more. History, alas, has not been kind to the rustic B-Western perennial, whose arcane comedy relief, most fans of the genre agree, often seems more a hindrance than a help in keeping a plot moving.

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