Director and actor Larry Semon was among the most popular and highly paid comedians in American silent films. His father was Zera the Great, a professional magician. Semon came to film in 1916 after working as a cartoonist for the New York Sun. Hired by Vitagraph as a writer and director of comedy shorts, he began staffing his one and two-reelers by 1917. Playing a pasty-faced, baggy pants-wearing idiot, he gained an international reputation and at his peak rivaled the popularity of Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd. His films frequently co-starred Oliver Hardy (usually cast as the heavy) and starlets Lucille Carlisle and Dorothy Dwan, each of whom Semon married. Due to his consistent disregard for strict production budgets, Vitagraph fired Semon in 1922. He went on to make a few big-budget, feature-length films, but they were relatively unsuccessful. In 1927, he tried to revitalize his flagging career by playing a serious part in Von Sternberg's drama Underworld, but was again unsuccessful. Semons died in March the following year after suffering from pneumonia.