Chester Conklin

Active - 1914 - 1972  |   Born - Jan 11, 1888   |   Died - Oct 11, 1971   |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Western

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Biography by Hal Erickson

A former Barnum circus clown, pint-sized Chester Conklin entered movies at Mack Sennett's Keystone studios in 1913. Sporting a huge mustache to hide his youthful appearance, Conklin was usually cast as "A. Walrus." Legend has it that Conklin helped Keystone novice Charlie Chaplin put together his famous Tramp costume; true or not, it is a fact that Chaplin kept Conklin on year-round payroll for his later productions Modern Times (1936) and The Great Dictator (1940). After leaving Keystone, Conklin remained a popular comedian at the Fox and Sunshine Studios. In the late 1920s, he was teamed with W.C. Fields for a brief series of feature films at Paramount Pictures. In talkies, Conklin mostly appeared in bits in features and supporting parts in 2-reelers; he also showed up in such nostalgic retrospectives as Hollywood Cavalcade (1939) and The Perils of Pauline (1947). At his lowest professional ebb, in the 1950s, Conklin made ends meet as a department-store Santa. In and out of the Motion Picture Country Home and Hospital in the 1960s, Conklin fell in love with another patient, 65-year-old June Gunther. The two eloped (she was Chester's fourth wife) and settled in a modest bungalow in Van Nuys. Chester Conklin showed up in a handful of films in the 1960s; his last appearance, playing a character appropriately named Chester, was in 1966's A Big Hand for the Little Lady.

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