Comedy is no laughing matter, as the true story of film pioneer Henry “Pathe” Lehrman proves.
Today’s television sitcoms and $100 million comedy feature films owe everything to the daring film pioneers that blazed a bawdy trail before them. Henry Lehrman began working at the influential Biograph in 1908 as an actor-for-hire, idea man, and sometime consultant along with legendary director D. W. Griffith. Lehrman advanced from a vibrant stint making Kinemacolor films to an interval at IMP before joining Mack Sennett and Mable Normand making Keystone comedies. Lehrman even directed Charlie Chaplin in his first film, Making a Living (1914). The roughhouse, knockabout style of many of Lehrman's early silent movie comedies earned him the nickname “Mr. Suicide.”
By 1919, Lehrman’s meteoric rise led to the realization of his dreams: full independence and artistic control . . . and then it all collapsed. His involvement in the notorious scandal surrounding Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and the alleged rape and subsequent death of Lehrman’s fiancé, Virginia Rappe, silenced the laughter Hollywood once loved.
Film historian Thomas Reeder dispels some of film history’s oldest myths in this meticulously researched biography and filmography that revisits the lives and careers of Gloria Swanson, Laurel and Hardy, Mabel Normand, Mack Sennett, Mack Swain, Mary Pickford, Tom Mix, and others from silent movies to the first sound films.
Lavishly illustrated with 339 images discovered in archives and personal collections. Foreword by Sam Gill. Introduction by Steve Massa. Filmography featuring casts, credits, synopses, and contemporary reviews for all of Lehrman’s films. Bibliography. Index. Appendices include the first a detailed history of the Sterling Motion Picture Company after Lehrman’s departure, and a detailed history of the L-Ko Comedy Company after Lehrman’s departure.
About the author: Thomas Reeder contributed numerous film-related articles for Silent Film Quarterly, Filmfax, and The Galitzianer. He is also author of Stop Yellin’: Ben Pivar and the Horror, Mystery and Action-Adventure Films of His Universal B-Unit, and Poetic Justice.
“Forgotten during his own lifetime, scant attention has been paid to Lehrman in the seventy years since his death. Now we finally have an examination, thorough and unbiased, that establishes Lehrman’s rightful place in film history. Silent comedy scholars and fans, in addition to anyone interested in Hollywood lore, owe a debt of gratitude to Tom for his dogged determination and accurate eye in bringing light to this dark and neglected corner of movie history.” -Steve Massa, author of Slapstick Divas
“Henry Lehrman—Mack Sennett’s right-hand man at Keystone and Charlie Chaplin’s first screen director—is almost completely forgotten by anyone who isn’t a rabid fan of silent comedies, yet his distinctive imprint as actor, writer, and/or director remains on literally hundreds of reels, both silent and sound. Thomas Reeder has conducted copious amounts of research and penned an account of Lehrman’s life and legacy that is as entertaining as the man’s films.” -Michael J. Hayde, author of Chaplin’s Vintage Year
“In the most meticulous and careful research from a film historian who also knows the value of an informative footnote, Tom Reeder has compiled more in-depth information on this American comedy ‘original’ than anyone I feel sure in saying, has in the past, is doing now, or will attempt in the future, who set themselves the task to find and make any more revelations of Lehrman ‘truths.’” -Sam Gill, noted author and film historian.