El Brendel

Active - 1926 - 1956  |   Born - Mar 25, 1890   |   Died - Apr 9, 1964   |   Genres - Comedy, Musical, Drama, Crime, Adventure

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Biography by Hal Erickson

American comedian El Brendel spent several years in vaudeville honing his comic characterization as a Swedish simpleton, given to such expletives as "Yumpin' Yiminy!" In real life, Brendel was of German heritage, and spoke with no accent whatsoever, but his Swede character earned him so many laughs that he decided to stick with it. He entered movies during the silent era, making his bow in The Campus Flirt (1926), but it was in the early talkie musicals produced at Fox Studios that he truly made his mark. From 1929 through 1931, Brendel was in virtually every major Fox production, usually as comic relief; once in a while, as in the famous "futuristic" musical Just Imagine (1930), he was the star, and a very popular one. The movies used up Brendel's material very rapidly, however, and before long audiences wearied of his tiny bag of tricks. By the end of the 1930s, he was reduced to minor roles supporting such newer luminaries as Shirley Temple and Bing Crosby. Brendel's most prolific work in this later stage of his career was at Columbia Pictures, where he starred in nineteen two-reel comedies produced between 1936 and 1945; Some of these, like the Oscar-nominated Blitzkiss (1941), were pretty good, but most of El Brendel's short subjects were weak, and many were hampered by unsuccessfully forcing Brendel into a team with fellow Columbia contractee Harry Langdon. After 1945, Brendel's movie career really went downhill, occasionally brightened by amusing character parts in such films as The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend (1949), but usually mired in the mediocrity characterized by El's final film, She-Creature (1956). Shortly before his death, El Brendel made a comeback of sorts as a character actor on TV, notably as a crotchety delicatessen owner on an early 1960s episode of The Danny Thomas Show.

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