Frames from Ham's failed feature, His Darker Self (1924). See news story about Black and White (the film's working title).
LLOYD HAMILTON (1891-1935)
CAREER OVERVIEW / A GAG FOR THE AGES / THE CRITICS RAVE / HAM IN THE NEWS / A LOST MASTERPIECE? / PEARSON'S QUICKTIME CLIPS
Lloyd Vernon "Ham" Hamilton was a tall, roly-poly comic best known for his checkered cap and "sissy" walk. His greatest fame came with two-reelers produced for Educational Comedies from 1920 through 1934. Ham has been called a "comedian's comedian" because of the high esteem that the likes of Charley Chase and Buster Keaton held him in. In Leonard Maltin's The Great Movie Shorts, Billy Gilbert is quoted: "...when (Chase) played a scene, he always thought, 'How would "Ham" play this?'"
Prior to 1924 Hamilton was considered a likely candidate to join the three reigning comics of the screen. A 1922 trade ad quotes critic James W. Dean thusly: "Lloyd Hamilton is hereby nominated for a place in the hall of comic immortals. Chaplin, Lloyd and Keaton must crowd up a bit to give him room." He was done in by the failure of his two feature films, His Darker Self and A Self-Made Failure (both 1924) and his personal demons - alcohol and attendant poor health (see "Ham in the News", below). Ham's character was that of a slightly sissified "boob", a dim-witted innocent that suffers endless physical assaults from a hostile world. While this characterization worked against audience empathy, Ham's genius lay in brilliant gag construction and execution. What other comic would have the audacity to start a film off by portraying himself giving sage counsel to Woodrow Wilson and William Jennings Bryan (The Advisor, 1921)?
Judging from contemporary reviews, Robinson Crusoe, Ltd. (1921) was one of Ham's best shorts, now lost to us. Of his surviving shorts, The Vagrant (1921), The Movies (directed by Roscoe Arbuckle, 1925) and Move Along (1926) stand out as masterpieces.
A GAG FOR THE AGES:
One of Ham's most memorable gags was celebrated in Walter Kerr in The Silent Clowns. In Move Along (1926), Ham spends an inordinate amount of effort attempting to tie his shoelace, including this gentleman's backside. The problem is finally solved when our hero hails a streetcar for the sole purpose of tying his shoe on the steps.
THE CRITICS RAVE:
APRIL FOOL. The solemn and unsmiling Lloyd Hamilton goes through a series of funny and ludicrous adventures to win the daughter of the missionary. The large portion of the fun takes place on the ship sailing to Cannibal Island. There is a fairly consistent plot, dealing with the comic captain as the villain, who is finally frustrated, although Lloyd contrives to sink the ship and he and the girl are left floating on a raft, with Lloyd still refusing to open the door. The ridiculous contrasts between the titles and the action caused much amusement for the spectators at the Strand Theatre when shown recently.
-Unknown source, c. Nov., 1920
EXHIBITORS AND CRITICS PRAISE EDUCATIONAL-HAMILTON COMEDIES. With four of the six comedies in his first year's series of Hamilton Comedies playing in theatres throughout the country, Educational reports that the verdicts of exhibitors and newspaper critics show that Lloyd Hamilton has attained and is maintaining a prominent position in the first rank of screen comedians.
James W. Dean of Newspaper Enterprise Associated...says, "I dare say Hamilton is inherently a funnier man than Chaplin or Lloyd or Keaton. he is the only one of the four who makes me feel like laughing when I meet him." The News of Washington D.C. says "This fellow Hamilton is one of the screens pantomimists, with a marvelously mobile face and an unerring sense of comedy. Hamilton, one day, will be a mountain among the screens molehills." The New York Morning Telegraph, writing of "No Luck" says, "It is the funniest comedy since Hamilton's last."
- Moving Picture World, March 24, 1923
GOOD MORNING. Lloyd Hamilton is as funny as ever in his latest comedy for Educational. There is nothing particularly novel about this comedy but the scores of tricks characteristic of Hamilton that have brought out good laughs in his other works should do the same in his latest. A newspaper boy who rescues a debutante's runaway dog and who is consequently rewarded by being invited to a society bazaar for charity it the trend of the story. The Hamilton dog, a duck, puppies and cats and other animals have been used to advantage and aid in provoking laughs in this two-reeler. A birthday cake with firecrackers instead of candles distributed among the guests in a novel manner, is one of the amusing situations in this comedy which should delight the Hamilton fans and go well with the average audience.
- T.W. in Moving Picture World, 1925
GOOSE FLESH. More story material was provided for Lloyd Hamilton's latest comedy effort that is usually accorded these two reelers and for that reason it shapes up better, in our estimation, as a constant diet of a collection of gags thrown together with a meaningless title holding them together begins to pall, especially when most of the business if not original. The theme for this production is not new, but it provides a reason for the gags built around it.
Hamilton becomes a sleuth and his first assignment is to guard a necklace, the property of a recluse who has been informed that the bauble will be purloined "at midnight." Hamilton and his co-worker try to forestall the event but fail, only succeeding when the home of the recluse is blown up and they capture the thieves. Fred Spencer, Al Thompson, Estelle Bradley and Richard Carter comprise the supporting cast. Norman Taurog wrote and directed the story. The fans should enjoy "Goose Flesh."
Harold Flavin in Motion Picture News, July 1, 1927
HAM IN THE NEWS:
Hamilton's home town newspaper, the Oakland Tribune, tracked their hometown boy's career throughout it's twenty-year duration. Historian Russell Merritt collected clippings about Ham's exploits. Here are just a few of the headlines:
LLOYD HAMILTON IN D.W. GRIFFITH FILM. Lloyd Hamilton is busily engaged at D.W. Griffith's Mamaroneck studios under Mr. Griffith's direction in the role left vacant when Al Jolson took his sudden and unexpected trip to Europe, leaving Mr. Griffith with his blackface production, "Black and White" without a star.
Hamilton was selected by Griffith to take Jolson's place only after weeks of careful consideration of the leading screen comedians. Hamilton's work in his late series of pictures released through Educational made the storngest appeal to Mr. Griffith and arrangements were made for the loan of the big comedian were completed through E.W. Hammons, president of Educational.
Immediately after finishing work on the Griffith production, Hamilton will return to Los Angeles and resume his work on the series of two-reel comedies he is producing for Educational release.
- Moving Picture World, August 18, 1923
LLOYD HAMILTON'S INJURY. Lloyd Hamilton's foot, which became badly infected last year following an accident in which the comedian was slightly injured and which interfered with the popular star's work, has shown marked improvement during his rest following the finishing of his latest series of Lloyd Hamilton Comedies which were released through Educational FIlm Exchanges, Inc. The big comedian reports that his foot is now almost as good ever and that he is in "great shape" to start his new series of comedies which Educational will again handle this year. Lloyd's schedule calls for eight of the two-reelers this year instead of the six per year he has been making the last few seasons. Lloyd is at present at Oakland, Cal., visiting his mother and giving the injured foot a needed rest.
- Moving Picture World, June 5, 1926
DEATH CALLS HAMILTON, PIONEER FILM COMEDIAN. Death's dark curtain descended before Lloyd Hamilton yesterday. Afflicted by a stomach disorder, accompanied by hemorrhages, the veteran film comedian dies at 5:20 p.m. in Hollywood Hospital.
Friends discovered Hamilton in a small hotel near Melrose and Van Ness Avenues on Thursday night suffering from hemorrhages. Dr. J.J. Tobinski was summoned and ordered him removed to the hospital. Yesterday morning when Hamilton grew weaker, blood transfusions were given and he rallied in mid-afternoon. Shortly before 5 o'clock, however, he became unconscious and died.
His mother, Mrs. Mary E. Hamilton of Berkeley, was notified of his death by John Bishop, studio cameraman and nephew by marriage. She boarded a train last night and will arrive today to take charge of the body. Services, in all probability will be conducted in Oakland, where he was born August 19, 1891.
Dr. Tobinski diagnosed Hamilton's condition as a ruptured ulcer from which he lost a great amount of blood.
- New York Sun, Jan. 19, 1935
A LOST MASTERPIECE?
One of the most successful films in Ham's career was the now lost, Robinson Crusoe, Ltd. (1921). Moving Picture World raved, "In this Mermaid two-reel comedy...Lloyd "Ham" Hamilton is featured and does some of the best work of his career. It is a screaming burlesque on the story of Robinson Crusoe and is filled with laughable situations." In trade press reviews for years afterwards, critics would complain, "Hamilton's latest is fine, but not up to the level of Robinson Crusoe, Ltd."
DAVID B. PEARSON'S LLOYD HAMILTON QUICKTIME CLIPS
BACK TO MUG SHOTS HOME PAGE or leap to our other comedians...
|MAX LINDER||PAT & PATACHON|
|BILLY WEST||BULLS EYE/REELCRAFT|