Thursday, April 25, 2013

Johnny Arthur

I haven't seen every movie that the great Lon Chaney made, but I've seen enough of them to know that not many actors were able to upstage that wonderful man of a thousand faces. However, in 1925, in a movie called The Monster, an actor did just that. His name was Johnny Arthur.

Falling somewhere between the antics of Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, this amazing character actor rarely strayed from playing the frail, comical dreamer that he perfected throughout his career. And like Al St. John, another forgotten actor from the silent era, I have a hard time understanding why these two talents are not mentioned in the same breath as Chaplin, Keaton, Arbuckle or Lloyd.

Like in real life, though, history plays favorites and the only way to know of Johnny Arthur today is to stumble upon his work. And while it's true that he was typecast as the weakling throughout his career, it's hard to find anyone living or dead that had/has the screen presence and charisma that he was able to carry from film to film.

Recently film scholars have looked at the early work of Johnny Arthur and have credited him as the man that created the first gay character in movies. Some have even gone as far as labeling him the gay Stepin Fetchit,  because of his over-the-top effeminate portrayals in the films Penrod and Sam and The Desert Song.

As offensive as this may be to some viewers, one must remember that he was a product of the times in an industry that was still in its infancy. Putting all that aside, though, all one as to do is watch the aforementioned film, The Monster, to see for yourself why Johnny Arthur is my pick of the day for Not Very Famous...but should be.

If you like this blog then you should check out my newest called When Voices Were Silent, which covers the films and stars of the greatest era of motion picture history - the silent era.


  1. I am watching MURDER OF DR. HARRIGAN at this moment and I could not agree with you more (Mr. Arthur plays an annoying patient in the film).

  2. His charisma is unmistakable. He steals every scene. Many of his roles were played with dignity, and only with a modern eye would I label him homosexual. But dignified. A neat trick to pull, sadly even today.