Harry Langdon

Active - 1924 - 2007  |   Born - Jun 15, 1884   |   Died - Dec 22, 1944   |   Genres - Comedy

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After working several odd jobs, Harry Langdon joined an Omaha medicine show and went on to spend 20 years traveling with minstrel shows, circuses, burlesque, and vaudeville; he had some success with a comedy act called "Jimmy's New Car." Langdon was in his late 30s when he joined Mack Sennett's film company in 1923. He quickly appeared in numerous two-reel comedies, in the course of which he developed his own screen persona: his childlike face covered by traditional pantomime white make-up, he wore a tightly buttoned jacket as though he were a boy who had outgrown it. Juvenile in appearance, he played the bewildered, clumsy, wide-eyed simpleton out of step with the behavior of normal adults, eerily baffled by erotic situations and naively trusting in the world's goodness. The character caught on, and by 1926 he was one of the Big Four of American screen comedy (along with Chaplin, Lloyd, and Keaton). His best work was done in collaboration with director Harry Edwards and writer Frank Capra. Langdon's enormous success fuelled his ego, and after a year or two he dispensed with Edwards and Capra and took sole responsibility for his films. Langdon was soon fired by his film company, after which he returned to vaudeville for almost two years. When he returned to Hollywood, the sound era was underway and he was out of touch with prevailing fashions. He went on to appear in numerous films as a character player, and also starred in dozen of talkie shorts, never reclaiming his earlier popularity.

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