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Chester Conklin (January 11, 1886 – October 11, 1971) was a comedian and film actor of American nationality, throughout whose career, largely developed during the era of silent cinema, he acted in more than 280 productions.
Born in Oskaloosa, Iowa, his full name was Chester Cooper Conklin. Conklin had two brothers, and he grew up in a violent family environment. At eight years of age her mother was found dead from burns in the garden of her house. Although initially thought of a suicide, his father, a very religious man, was accused of murder, but did not get to be sentenced in the subsequent trial.
Conklin won a first prize in a performance he held at a local festival. A few years later he left the family home after promising a friend never to return, which he did. He found employment in Des Moines as hotel bellboys, but later moved to Omaha (Nebraska), where his interest in theater led him to start an acting career. In San Luis (Missouri) saw a performance of the vaudeville duo consisting of Joe Weber and Lew Fields, which made Conklin develop a character based on what was at that time his boss, a man with strong accent and walrus mustache. With this character he started in vaudeville, spending several years working on tours with different repertoire theater companies, also acting as a clown in an itinerant circus.
After seeing several comedies of Mack Sennett while he was in Venice (Los Angeles) in the winter of 1913, Conklin went to the Keystone Studios, being hired to act as one of the Keystone Cops with a salary of $ 3 per day. Sennett directed him in his first film, a short comedy called Hubby’s Job.
In 1914, Conklin co-starred with Mabel Normand in a series of films: Mabel’s Strange Predicament, Mabel’s New Job, Mabel’s Busy Day and Mabel’s at the Wheel, and that same year he starred in Making a Living, a film that was his debut Charlie Chaplin’s cinema. Conklin shot more than a dozen tapes with Chaplin while he was in Keystone, both of them developing a lasting friendship. Years later, Conklin would act with Chaplin in two largometrajes, in 1936 in modern times, and in 1940 in the great dictator. During that time, Chaplin kept Conklin with an annual salary.
Working for Keystone, Conklin became famous for teaming up with the stocky comedian Mack Swain, with whom he shot a series of comedies. With Swain as “Ambrose” and Conklin as the mustachioed “Walrus”, both performed in different films, including The Battle of Ambrose and Walrus and Love, Speed and Thrills, both filmed in 1915. In addition to these comedies “Ambrose & amp; Walrus “, the couple collaborated on twenty-six tapes.
In 1920, when Sennett refused to discuss a renewal of Conklin’s contract, insisting on considering him a subordinate, Conklin left school and went to Fox Film Corporation, a company that had previously contacted him to make a series of comic shorts. In addition, he also acted for Famous Players-Lasky Corporation. In 1924 he played a prominent role, that of the father of ZaSu Pitts in the MGM production directed by Erich von Stroheim Avaricia, although the role was cut in the montage, and the sequences were lost.In addition, in 1928 he worked in the film of Christie Film Company Tillie’s Punctured Romance, with WC Fields (a version that was not at all comparable to the one that Chaplin filmed in 1914 with the same title). Paramount Pictures hired Conklin and Fields to team up in a series of comic films shot between 1927 and 1931.
Conklin overcame the transition to sound film but, although he continued acting for another thirty years, his age and the public’s taste for more sophisticated comedies made his roles secondary in different shorts, including those of The Three Stooges Flat Foot Stooges, Dutiful But Dumb, Three Little Twirps, Phony Express, and Micro-Phonies. Conklin also acted in films that appealed to the nostalgia of the silent era, as was the case of Hollywood Cavalcade (1939) and The Perils of Pauline (1947).
Conklin participated in the television program This Is Your Life, in homage to Mack Sennett. He was also part of the actor company of Preston Sturges in the 1940s, making cameos in six films directed by Sturges, and in 1957 he was one of the guests of the television program To Tell The Truth.
Conklin’s career came to an end in the 1950s, and he had to accept a job as Santa Claus in a department store.In the next decade he lived in the Motion Picture Country Home and Hospital, falling in love with another patient, June Gunther. Both married in Las Vegas in 1965, in which for both was their fourth marriage, and they went to live in Van Nuys (California). He was 79 years old, and she 65. Conklin filmed one last comedy after getting married, A Big Hand for the Little Lady, released in 1966.
Chester Conklin died in the fall of 1971 in Van Nuys, California, at the age of 85. His remains were incinerated and the ashes were given to his family, who scattered them in the Pacific Ocean.
For his contribution to the film industry, Conklin was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 1560 Vine Street.
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