It’s a new month and October’s featured star, Norma Talmadge, will pass the crown to a new performer. This month’s star was really more of a character actor, one of those “that guy” performers.
The featured star is…
Clyde Cook (1891-1984)
You may not know Clyde Cook by name but chances are, you’ve seen him in a movie. A diminutive and acrobatic Australian, Cook split his time in the 1920s between starring in comedy shorts and playing character parts in major studio dramas. His credits include pretty significant supporting roles in The Docks of New York, The Winning of Barbara Worth and Barbed Wire.
Cook weathered the sound revolution just fine and continued to play supporting character roles in major studio films. You can see him in Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford’s talkie debut, The Taming of the Shrew, as well as popular films like Wee Willie Winkie, The Little Princess, The Sea Hawk and Sergeant York. He retired from films in 1963.
Why you should love him:
Two little words that can send many a movie fan out the door screaming: comedy relief. The “comedy relief” is quite often neither comedy, nor a relief from the drama. The comedian is too goofy, too hyper, too jarring. Clyde Cook, on the other hand, slid nicely into dramas, usually as the weird friend of the hero.
While directors made use of his acrobatic talents, his best roles did not overuse his skills, which is a real blessing. Cook himself also toned down his comedy persona and avoided the mugging that so often mars comedy relief.
Where you can see him
I have reviewed two dramas featuring Cook in significant supporting roles:
The Winning of Barbara Worth (1926): Best remembered as Gary Cooper’s breakout role, the film was actually meant to showcase the screen team of Vilma Banky and Ronald Colman. Cook is on hand as Tex, a goofy, big-hearted sidekick to the beautiful people.
Barbed Wire (1927): One of Pola Negri’s best American films, this is the story of a Frenchwoman who falls in love with a German POW during WWI (Clive Brook). Cook plays another POW who acts as the class clown and is horrified to discover that his province was annexed at the end of the war; he was fighting for the wrong side all along!
I have not heard of him and that’s a crime in itself. Too many great actors are now forgotten yet they gave great performances.
Yes, though it’s fun to make new discoveries and spread the word.
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