Larry Semon, Daredevil Comedian of the Silent Screen

A Biography and Filmography


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About the Book

Prior to his premature death from tuberculosis in 1928, Larry Semon was one of the most popular comics on the silent screen. For a time he rivaled comedy legends Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton for fame and fortune. The son of magician Professor Zera the Great, Semon participated in many of his father’s early performances. A talented youth, he worked as an illustrator and cartoonist before going into motion pictures with the Vitagraph Company. He soon became a Hollywood legend, responsible for his own stories, gags, acting and direction. The result of 30 years of research, this long overdue biography recognizes one of Hollywood’s most overlooked auteurs. The author draws on numerous articles and contacts with Semon’s family and friends, and screens many films previously believed to be lost.

About the Author(s)

Claudia Sassen is a cartoonist and linguist by profession, currently associated with the Technical University of Dortmund, Germany. Her cartoons have appeared in calendars and in a variety of newspapers and magazines. She lives in Duisburg, Germany.

Bibliographic Details

Claudia Sassen
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 264
Bibliographic Info: 89 photos & illustrations, appendix, filmography, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2015
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9822-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2027-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Foreword by Norbert Aping 1

Preface 3

1. Roots and Settings 7

2. On the Road 18

3. Paperland 28

4. Early Directions 53

5. Growing Success 71

6. Womenfolk 94

7. The Flawmill 114

8. Image Change 133

9. The Perfect Frown 152

10. From Broke to Breakdown 172

11. Slow Motion 176

12. Fade out 184

Appendix: “Magic, Past and Present, Exposed” 191

Filmography by Patrick Skacel and Claudia Sassen 193

Chapter Notes 229

Bibliography 239

Index 247

Book Reviews & Awards

“this fascinating and enlightening work on this unsung genius of the silent era will be a fine addition to both referencing and circulating collections”—ARBA; “definitive…impeccable…very highly recommended”—Examiner; “a must have for all serious Laurel and Hardy fans…for anyone who seeks everything Laurel and Hardy, add Claudia Sassen’s new biography of Larry Semon to your collection”—The Intra-Tent Journal; “recommended”—Silentology; “a valuable addition to serious scholarship of silent cinema”—Plan 9 Crunch.