Ham Hamilton Comedies (1920-1929)

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    Mini Biography
    Lloyd Vernon Hamilton was born in California on August 19, 1891 and by 1913 had realized his dream to become an actor by making his film debut for the Lubin Company that year. His first flirting with fame came in the form of playing a character named “Pretzel” in a series entitled Frontier Comedies cranked out by the St. Louis Film Company. Later that year, he would be hired by the Kalem Company and teamed with a diminutive comic named Bud Duncan to act in support of stars Ruth Roland and Marshall Neilan. The two comics became so popular that they were spun-off into their own series of two-reelers (the Ham Comedies), of which more than 100 were made between 1914-17. When Kalem folded in 1917, Lloyd moved on to Fox, appearing in Henry Lehrman’s Sunshine Comedies—and it was here that he began to develop his “everyman” character. While at Fox, he made the acquaintance of a director named Jack White, who convinced Hamilton to strike out on their own in 1920. They formed their own company, with their shorts released by Educational Pictures. As described by film historian Massa: “Best described as a mama’s boy, he was prissy and courtly in a flat, checkered pancake cap, with a swishy duck-waddle walk that became his trademark…as he waddled along in his pancake cap he always seemed to be gently trying to sidestep the cruel fate that was forever nipping at his heels.”

    From 1920 to 1928, the Lloyd Hamilton comedies were among the most popular two-reelers released in theaters. Hamilton himself had many characteristics associated with Buster Keaton (a sort of dry, deadpan facial expression) and Charley Chase (Robert Youngson once described Chase’s career on-screen as “one long embarrassing moment”—but the same could apply to Hamilton as well). Were it not for “the cruel fate that was forever nipping at his heels,” Lloyd might very well be considered among the pantheon of silent comedy greats. But several factors conspired against him: first, he was never able to make the leap into silent features like Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd—his two 1924 attempts, His Darker Self (a two-reel version—the only extant evidence of Ham’s feature career, is included on the LNL set) and A Self-Made Failure, did dismal business at the box office....

    With special thanks to Elly, for the above biography

    Courtesy of Amazon


    At first glance, Lloyd Hamilton was simply a large, baby-faced comic who wore a checkered cap and walked like a duck. Beyond the surface, however, Hamilton had much more to offer than an iconic look and persona. In his performances, Hamilton demonstrated keen timing and an inventive mind, providing humor rich in both emotion and self-observation for a career that spanned over 20 years. But perhaps most importantly, Hamilton was greatly admired by his fellow comics as a true 'comedian's comedian' receiving overwhelming praise from no less than Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and other comic greats

    Best Wishes
    London- England

    Edited 23 times, last by ethanedwards ().

  • Ham Hamilton were two reel comedies from the '20's'

    A couple of references, point out that Duke,was a lot busier
    with his propping and 'extras' work,
    then the scant listings of his earlier films suggest.

    Tim Lilley, wrote this article in The Big Trail,
    and pointed out the following:-

    The Films of John Wayne
    by Ricci/Zmijewsky.1970
    for years the standard reference work on John Wayne,
    made this interesting statement:-


    Wayne continued working in the prop department(Fox)
    and now and then as a stuntman. He also began to get bit parts in Ham Hamilton Comedies
    and Ford films such as Hangman's House, Salute and Men Without Women

    This was vindicated by Lee O Miller, the author
    of the 1979 book, The Great Cowboy Stars of Movies and Television
    Lee O Miller, had the good fortune to interview Duke, and Duke told him:-


    'I finally got bit parts in a few other films. Ham Hamilton was the director of those films.
    He was a friend of Ford's and the latter asked Hamilton to give me a chance at acting,
    if he had any bit parts, to cast me in!

    User Review

    Best Wishes
    London- England

    Edited 12 times, last by ethanedwards ().

  • Here is a piece written by
    by wmorrow59

    Lloyd Hamilton, is almost forgotten today, but after seeing his work in Careful Please and a few other silent comedies I can only hope that more of his films are found, restored, and made available to the public. He was a gifted, unusual comedian whose movies deserve to be better known.

    For those who haven't seen him, Lloyd "Ham" Hamilton was a large man with oddly prissy mannerisms. He had the semi-flattened features of a boxer, but could twist his highly expressive face into comical looks of dismay, disdain, and disapproval. He walked with a distinctive waddle (apparently the result of a broken leg sustained on the set of one of his early films) and wore a flat cloth cap. Hamilton's basic persona was that of a hapless loser who always seems to be having the worst day of his life. His comedies-- at least the ones I've seen --ramble from sequence to sequence without much concern for narrative coherence or character motivation, but he didn't seem to care so why should we? The gags in Hamilton's films are often clever and surprising, and even the "borrowed" routines are performed with vigor.

    Unfortunately much of the man's prime output from the 1920s was destroyed in a vault fire, but there are survivors. Careful Please, for one, ranks as one of the more enjoyable short comedies from a comedy-rich era.

    Best Wishes
    London- England

    Edited once, last by ethanedwards ().

  • I just found out today from Anthony Balducci (author of Lloyd Hamilton biography)

    Hamilton was over 6 feet tall and weighed over 200 pounds.

    Strangely on screen he look short and stocky. But it is something I (we) have to bear in mind when looking for JW in his films.

    Be who you are & say what you feel Because those who mind dont matter & those who matter dont mind

  • Good Morning Ethan,

    BTW...Saw the real Ethan on Pawn Stars on TV last night (x2 I have seen his appearance) I was wondering:
    1. Does JW make any appearances in these collection of *shorties*
    2. Is this title available anywhere (TCM, Oldies, Movies Unlimited, deep, Amazon, EBay) etc?

    Thank you so much!


  • Good Morning!

    Is there a "list" of know appearances of JW in "shorties". I didn't see it on our site, nor did GOOGLE help....

    If there is none available, I guess I will have to go the long route and contact all the fan clubs/blogs etc for info....It would just be easier if they were under "one roof" per se!

    I miss England this time of year... Many happy memories as a child.....Slides help, and bring one back with a tear or 3, but it just is not the same thing.....

    I envy you sir!

  • Good Morning!

    Is there a "list" of know appearances of JW in "shorties". I didn't see it on our site, nor did GOOGLE help....

    If there is none available, I guess I will have to go the long route and contact all the fan clubs/blogs etc for info....It would just be easier if they were under "one roof" per se!

    There is no known list of definite Duke sightings in shorties,
    but our list
    compiled by our member elly
    are one's we believe he could have been involved in.

    we hope still remains the most difinitive list
    of movies with confirmed appearances of Duke

    Best Wishes
    London- England

    Edited 2 times, last by ethanedwards ().