Eddie Lyons

Active - 1915 - 1926  |   Born - Nov 25, 1886   |   Died - Aug 30, 1926   |   Genres - Comedy

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Biography by Hans J. Wollstein

American silent-screen comedian Eddie Lyons had appeared in vaudeville and musical comedy when he, like so many before and after, went down to the Biograph Company on East 14th Street. Lyons didn't stay long with Griffith and the Biograph stock company, defecting after only a few bit parts in favor of the competing IMP company. The association with Carl Laemmle's upstart firm brought Lyons in contact with producer David Horsley's Nestor studio, the first producing entity located in Hollywood. More importantly, Lyons was discovered by Nestor's production supervisor Al Christie, who in 1915 partnered Lyons with another former vaudevillian, Lee Moran. The first successful screen-comedy team, Lyons & Moran created a polite, white-collar comedy style far removed from the often vulgar slapstick so popular at certain other studios at the time. Christie advertised the two-reelers as "clean and clever" and, according to comedian Babe London, who began her career with Eddie Lyons, that is exactly what they were. In an interview with historian Kalton Lahue, London acknowledged that "the comedy of Lyons and Moran was more story-oriented -- they were more high-class situation comedies." So popular had the team become that, when Christie defected to form his own studio, with Lyons & Moran as his main attraction, Nestor's mother company, Universal, lured them back with promises of more or less autonomy and a great deal more money than Christie could afford. Beginning in early 1917, with Lyons directing and producing (and often writing), the Lyons & Moran "star comedies" became one of Universal's biggest box-office successes. Moran broke up the team in 1920 to concentrate on feature films and Lyons left Universal in favor of Poverty Row company Arrow, where he mainly directed other comics. Sadly, the talented comedian died during an operation for appendicitis at the age of 39. Known at one point as "The Nestor Twins" (they were around the same age, both from the Midwest, and both former vaudevillians), Lyons & Moran were really ahead of their time. Performing clever, more sophisticated, and certainly less abrasive comedy than that of an era dominated by Mack Sennett's hooligans, they foreshadowed such 1920s comedy acts as Harold Lloyd, Charley Chase, and even Laurel & Hardy -- all of whom were much more story-conscious than the wild and woolly comedians of the 1910s.