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Larry Semon
Born February 9, 1889(1889-02-09)
West Point, Mississippi, U.S.
Died October 8, 1928 (aged 39)
Victorville, California, U.S.
Other name(s) Lawrence Semon
Occupation Actor, director, producer, screenwriter
Years active 1916–1928
Spouse(s) Lucille Carlisle (m.?–1923)
Dorothy Dwan (m. 1925–1925) «start: (1925)–end+1: (1926)»"Marriage: Dorothy Dwan to Larry Semon" Location: (linkback:

Larry Semon (February 9, 1889[1] – October 8, 1928) was an American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter during the silent film era. During that era, Semon was considered a "Comedy King", but is now mainly remembered for working with both Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy (of Laurel and Hardy) before they started working together.

He is also sometimes noted for directing (as well as appearing in) Wizard of Oz, a 1925 silent film that had a slight influence on the more famous 1939 MGM talkie version. The compliment was repaid in the 2005 3-disc DVD version of the 1939 film, on which the 1925 version also appears along with other silent "Oz" movies.


Early life

Born in West Point, Mississippi, Semon was the son of a vaudeville magician, Zera the Great, while his mother worked as his assistant. Along with his older sister, Semon joined his parents' act until his father's death.[2] After completing his education in Savannah, Georgia, Semon moved to New York where he worked for The New York Sun and later, The New York Morning Telegraph, as a cartoonist and graphic artist. While working as an artist, Semon appeared in monologues in vaudeville where he attracted the attention of Vitagraph Studios. In 1915, he was offered a contract with the company.[3][4]


After signing with Vitagraph, Semon worked behind the scenes as a scenario writer, director, and film producer for actor Hughie Mack's films. He occasionally cast himself in bit parts in the films he worked on before Mack signed on with another studio. When Mack left Vitagraph, Semon began playing the lead roles.[2] He usually played a white-faced goof in derby hat and overalls, who would enter any given setting (a bakery, a restaurant, a construction site, a prison camp, etc.) and cause chaos, with people being covered with debris, and property being destroyed. His short slapstick comedies were made and released quickly and prolifically, making Semon very familiar to moviegoers.

As his fame grew, the films expanded from one to two reels each, and Semon was given a free hand in making them. This became a dangerous policy, because Semon became notorious for being expensive and extravagant: his two-reel comedies could easily cost more than an average five-reel feature film. A former cartoonist, Semon staged similarly cartoony sight gags, using elaborate special effects. No gag was too big for Semon. He loved chase sequences involving airplanes (sometimes using three in a film) exploding barns, falling water towers, auto wrecks and/or explosions, and liberal use of substances in which to douse people. A typical Semon comedy might involve barrels of flour, soot, ink, jam, mud pits, etc.

In The Bell Hop, a man sleeping under the spray of a malfunctioning fountain imagines he's swimming in the ocean, and in his sleep he dives off the bed, through the floor, and into a tremendous vat of paint standing in the lobby below. Oliver Hardy recalled in an interview that Semon, when staging his comedy short The Sawmill in a lumber camp, would not use traditional, painted stage sets. Instead, Semon insisted on building permanent log cabins, complete with modern conveniences. The production budget soared, and his bosses at Vitagraph Studios finally demanded that Semon become his own producer and underwrite his productions personally.

Semon tried to reverse his financial problems by entering the more lucrative field of feature films. He produced and starred in a few features in the mid-twenties, but by 1927 he was back in short subjects, released through Educational Pictures. After filing for bankruptcy in 1928, Semon returned to vaudeville. While traveling on the vaudeville circuit, he suffered a nervous breakdown and went back to Los Angeles.[5]


After returning to Los Angeles, Semon was sent to a sanatorium in Victorville, California where, on October 8, 1928, he died of pneumonia and tuberculosis.[6]


French audiences knew him as Zigoto, Italian ones as Ridolini and Spanish ones as Jaimito ("Jimmy") in pre-war releases and Tomasín ("Tommy") in the 1940 re-releases by Manuel Rotellar.[7]


  • Bringing Up Father (1915)
  • Tubby Turns the Tables (1916)
  • Terry's Tea Party (1916)
  • Out Ag'in, in Ag'in (1916)
  • More Money Than Manners (1916)
  • The Battler (1916)
  • Losing Weight (1916)
  • The Man from Egypt (1916)
  • A Jealous Guy (1916)
  • Romance and Roughhouse (1916)
  • There and Back (1916)
  • A Villainous Villain (1916)
  • Love and Loot (1916)
  • Sand, Scamps and Strategy (1916)
  • She Who Last Laughs (1916)
  • Walls and Wallops (1916)
  • Jumps and Jealousy (1916)
  • His Conscious Conscience (1916)
  • Hash and Havoc (1916)
  • Captain Jinks' Evolution (1916)
  • Rah! Rah! Rah! (1916)
  • Help! Help! Help! (1916)
  • Shanks and Chivalry (1916)
  • Speed and Spunk (1917)
  • Captain Jinks' Widow (1917)
  • Captain Jinks' Nephew's Wife (1917)
  • Captain Jinks' Dilemma (1917)
  • Bullies and Bullets (1917)
  • Jolts and Jewelry (1917)
  • Big Bluffs and Bowling Balls (1917)
  • Somewhere in Any Place (1917)
  • Rips and Rushes (1917)
  • He Never Touched Me (1917)
  • Cops and Cussedness (1917)
  • Masks and Mishaps (1917)
  • Guff and Gunplay (1917)
  • Pests and Promises (1917)
  • Footlights and Fakers (1917)
  • Bombs and Blunders (1917)
  • Turks and Troubles (1917)
  • Flatheads and Flivvers (1917)
  • Dubs and Drygoods (1917)
  • Hazards and Home Runs (1917)
  • Gall and Gasoline (1917)
  • Boasts and Boldness (1917)
  • Worries and Wobbles (1917)
  • Shells and Shivers (1917)
  • Chumps and Chances (1917)
  • Gall and Golf (1917)
  • Slips and Slackers (1917)
  • Risks and Roughnecks (1917)
  • Plans and Pajamas (1917)
  • Plagues and Puppy Love (1917)
  • Sports and Splashes (1917)
  • Tough Luck and Tin Lizzies (1917)
  • Rough Toughs and Roof Tops (1917)
  • Spooks and Spasms (1917)
  • Noisy Naggers and Nosey Neighbors (1917)
  • Guns and Greasers (1918)
  • Babes and Boobs (1918)
  • Rooms and Rumors (1918)
  • Meddlers and Moonshiners (1918)
  • Stripes and Stumbles (1918)
  • Rummies and Razors (1918)
  • Whistles and Windows (1918)
  • Spies and Spills (1918)
  • Romans and Rascals (1918)
  • Skids and Scalawags (1918)
  • Boodle and Bandits (1918)
  • Hindoos and Hazards (1918)
  • Bathing Beauties and Big Boobs (1918)
  • Dunces and Dangers (1918)
  • Mutts and Motors (1918)
  • Huns and Hyphens (1918)
  • Bears and Bad Men (1918)
  • Frauds and Frenzies (1918)
  • Humbugs and Husbands (1918)
  • Pluck and Plotters (1918)
  • Traps and Tangles (1919)
  • Scamps and Scandals (1919)
  • Well, I'll Be (1919)
  • Passing the Buck (1919)
  • The Star Boarder (1919)
  • His Home Sweet Home (1919)
  • The Simple Life (1919)
  • Between the Acts (1919)


  1. ^ World War I Draft Registration Card", : "Lawrence Semon, born Feb 9 1889 West Point, Mississippi, Motion Picture Director for Vitagraph Co, living in Brooklyn, New York, signed Lawrence Semon on 5 Jun 1917
  2. ^ a b Cullen, Frank; Hackman, Florence; McNeilly, Donald (2007). Vaudeville, Old & New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America. Routledge. pp. 1006. ISBN 0-415-93853-8.  
  3. ^ Lahue, Kalton C.; Gill, Samuel (1970). Clown Princes and Court Jesters. Some Great Comics of the Silent Screen. A. S. Barnes. pp. 332.  
  4. ^ Louvish, Simon (2001). Stan and Ollie: The Roots of Comedy : The Double Life of Laurel and Hardy. Macmillan. pp. 128. ISBN 0-312-26651-0.  
  5. ^ Cullen, Frank; Hackman, Florence; McNeilly, Donald (2007). Vaudeville, Old & New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America. Routledge. pp. 1007. ISBN 0-415-93853-8.  
  6. ^ "Milestones". 1928-10-15.,9171,732000,00.html. Retrieved 2008-12-01.  
  7. ^ Claudia Sassen quotes Juan Gabriel Tharrats.

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