There probably are actors who appeared in more movies than Bud Jamison did, but there can't be too many -- depending upon whose list one's using, Jamison appeared in anywhere from 253 to 284 pictures between 1915 and 1944, working alongside such screen legends as Charles Chaplin, Ginger Rogers, James Stewart, and Edward G. Robinson. Most of his performances in more-than-bit roles, however, were in short films, and it was his work as a foil in more than 50 two-reelers made by the Three Stooges that has immortalized Jamison's face and acting for generations. Born William Jamison in California, he entered vaudeville in his teens, and by 1915 was appearing in movies with Chaplin. Jamison's big-boned, beefy appearance -- which hid a surprising degree of agility -- and pugnacious expression made him an ideal antagonist for the lanky, diminutive Chaplin, and Jamison was one of his three favorite heavies, along with Eric Campbell and Mack Swain. He was Edna Purviance's beau in In the Park, the sinister hobo in The Tramp, and the chief bank robber in The Bank, among numerous other roles. Jamison remained busy throughout the 1920s, barely breaking stride for the coming of sound, although in a change of pace he did appear in some serious features, including the 1930 version of Moby Dick. He continued this pattern of working in comic short subjects, interspersed with occasional full-length features (in which he usually played bit parts) for the rest of his career.
In 1934, Jamison began the association that was to keep his memory alive into the 21st century, when he appeared with the Three Stooges in their first Columbia Pictures short, Woman Haters. The Stooges and their producers obviously liked Jamison's work, because the actor subsequently performed in more than 50 additional Stooges films, usually playing belligerent cops, stuffy butlers, impatient customers, aggravated employers, and any number of other roles that placed him in opposition to the three inept protagonists. As likely to threaten the trio with mayhem as to have it worked on him, he had a beautifully expressive over-the-top voice that greatly enhanced the humor of his performances -- sometimes he was just the Stooges hapless employer, as in Violent Is the Word for Curly, portraying the service station owner giving them a pep talk ("Use a little elbow grease!") before leaving them to their own devices, whereupon they manage to destroy the first car that pulls in; or, in one of their greatest films, Disorder In the Court, he cut a memorable figure as the enthusiastic defense attorney, relying on the Stooges' testimony to get his client acquitted of murder charges; and in yet another short, as a butler faced with assigning serving tasks to Moe, Larry, and Curly, he expresses his impatience with their antics by insulting them: "Why, you remind me of the Three Stooges!" His career went far beyond the boundaries of the Stooges shorts, however, and Jamison was one of the busiest comic character men in Hollywood during the early '40s, appearing in more than 20 pictures in 1941 alone, and also one of the most energetic -- he showed off his boisterous side to great effect in the jail cell scene in George Marshall's Pot O' Gold, in which he manages to dominate a group of a dozen loudly singing actors (including James Stewart and Charles Winninger). He added Bud Abbott and Lou Costello to the long list of comic stars with whom he worked and seemed destined to be busy for years to come when tragedy struck. Jamison collapsed at home shortly after finishing his work on the musical comedy Nob Hill, late in September of 1944. He died the following day, although he had so much work in the can awaiting release that his movie appearances easily ran into 1945. the Three Stooges evidently loved working with Jamison, and used his image on a prop poster in a short that they made years after his death.