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Leon Errol

Leon Errol
Born Leonce Errol Sims
(1881-07-03)July 3, 1881
Sydney, New South Wales
Died October 12, 1951(1951-10-12) (aged 70)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active 1920-1951
Spouse(s) Stella Chatelaine (1906-1946)

Leon Errol (July 3, 1881 - October 12, 1951), was an Australian-born American comedian and actor, popular in the first half of the 20th century for his appearances in vaudeville, on Broadway, and in films.

Contents

  • Biography 1
  • Films 2
  • Partial filmography 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Biography

Ziegfeld Follies 1914 Program

Born Leonce Errol Sims in Sydney, Errol had toured Australia, New Zealand and the UK in a variety of theatrical settings, including circuses, operettas, and Shakespeare, by the time he arrived on the west coast of the U.S. in 1905. In Portland, Oregon he managed a touring vaudeville company troupe, giving an early boost to the career of a young comedian named Roscoe Arbuckle.[1]

By 1911 Errol had graduated to the New York big time in the 1911 Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway, notably in two skits with the legendary Bert Williams. Errol's sister, Leda Errol (née Sims) was a personal friend of Ziegfeld Follies star Fanny Brice, and she appeared with him in the Ziegfeld Follies doing one- and two-act plays. He appeared every year in the Follies through 1915, when he is also credited as director of the show [2] that included W.C. Fields, Ed Wynn, as well as Marion Davies as one of the Ziegfeld Girls.

While balancing vaudeville appearances and a dozen Broadway shows, like the original 1920 production of Jerome Kern's Sally, in 1919 Errol achieved the pinnacle of vaudeville success: headlining at the Palace.[3]

Films

Errol made his first film, a comic short subject called Nearly Spliced, in 1916 (it was not released before 1921), for pioneering east-coast producer Samuel Goldwyn's One Heavenly Night in 1931. The box-office for that film was disappointing, but overall Errol made a smooth transition to films in a variety of comedy roles. His comic trademark was a wobbly, unsteady walk, moving as though on rubber legs; this bit served him well in drunk routines.

Errol starred in a long string of two-reel comedy shorts, which began at Columbia Pictures in 1933. He also starred in two early three-strip Technicolor shorts made at Warner Brothers, Service With a Smile (released 28 July 1934) and Good Morning, Eve! (released August 5), just beating the RKO Radio Pictures release La Cucaracha (31 August) as the first live action, wholly Technicolor release.

Moving to RKO Radio Pictures in 1934, he continued to make six shorts per year until his death in 1951. Most of these were marital farces in which Leon would get mixed up with a pretty girl or an involved business proposition, and face the wrath of his wife (usually Dorothy Granger); the theme tune to the series was the nursery rhyme, London Bridge Is Falling Down.

Leon Errol is well remembered for his energetic performances in the Mexican Spitfire movies opposite Lupe Vélez (1939–43), in which Errol had the recurring dual role of affable Uncle Matt and foggy British nobleman Lord Epping. Monogram signed Errol to appear as fight manager Knobby Walsh in the eight entries of their "Joe Palooka" sports comedies (1946–50). Leon Errol's most famous non-series appearance is in the nonsensical comedy feature Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941), starring fellow vaudeville and Ziegfeld alumnus W. C. Fields.

On February 4, 1950, Errol appeared on television as a guest on The Ed Wynn Show, broadcast live to the West Coast on CBS (seen on kinescope film to the East and Midwest on February 18, 1950).

Errol's next-to-last film, Lord Epping Returns in 1951, reprised his famous characterization (and some of the gags) from Mexican Spitfire.

Footage from Errol's short subjects was incorporated into RKO's compilation features Variety Time, Make Mine Laughs, Footlight Varieties, and Merry Mirthquakes. RKO kept Leon Errol in the public eye by reissuing his older comedies through the mid-1950s. His RKO shorts soon became a staple of syndicated television.

Errol married Stella Chatelaine (born 1886) in Denver, Colorado in 1906. She died on November 7, 1946 in Los Angeles. Five years later Errol suffered a fatal heart attack, on October 12, 1951, aged 70. They had no children.

Partial filmography

References

  1. ^ Errol did not own Portland's Orpheum Theater, as is widely repeated. http://travsd.wordpress.com/2009/07/03/stars-of-vaudeville-27-leon-erroll/
  2. ^ http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=14717
  3. ^ http://travsd.wordpress.com/2009/07/03/stars-of-vaudeville-27-leon-erroll/

External links

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