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Arthur Housman

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Arthur Housman
Arthur Housman - 1925.jpg
Housman in 1925
Born(1889-10-10)October 10, 1889
DiedApril 8, 1942(1942-04-08) (aged 52)
Years active1912–1941
Spouse(s)Florence Nightingale Housman (née Banta, formerly Morse)[1][2]

Arthur Housman (October 10, 1889 – April 8, 1942) was an American actor in films during both the silent film era and the Golden Age of Hollywood.


Arthur Housman was one of the first screen comedians known to the public by name, and one of the first to be part of a movie comedy team. He was a slapstick comic and light leading man for the pioneer Edison studio in New York. In 1913-14 the Edison company cast Housman opposite character actor William Wadsworth as the comedy team "Waddy and Arty."[3]

As a member of Edison's stock company, Housman participated in Edison's experimental production of talking pictures. Edison had engineered a way to synchronize dialogue and music (via phonograph records) with the visual action on film, and produced such novelties as Musical Blacksmiths (a male chorus) and Nursery Favorites. Housman appeared in several reels, including The Edison Minstrels (as the interlocutor making the spoken announcements) and Jack's Joke.

The Edison Kinetophone system, while practical mechanically, was not successful in theaters because the volume could not be amplified sufficiently for large audiences. In 2018, the antique recordings were digitally remastered and synchronized, resulting in a DVD release of the Edison talkies, The Kinetophone! A Fact! A Reality!

In 1917, Housman was working at the Mayfair Film Corporation.[4] During World War One, he served briefly in the Naval Reserve Force as a Fireman, 3rd class.[5] Housman resumed his screen career after the war; in 1925 he was starring in Fox comedy shorts.[6]

Initially a leading man, Housman later became known as Hollywood's most familiar comic drunkard[7] in films of the 1930s, usually playing cameo parts in features but with better opportunities in short films. He adopted a dapper moustache for his screen appearances. His best remembered roles were in several Laurel and Hardy films, notably Scram!, Our Relations, and (in the title role) The Live Ghost. He appeared almost exclusively as drunks (in such high-profile feature films as Movie Crazy and After the Thin Man) but occasionally did play straight, sober character parts (he's the frustrated timekeeper in the Three Stooges short Punch Drunks).

Housman's illnesses in the late 1930s resulted in fewer calls for his services as a featured performer. He continued appearing in pictures, but only the independent producers of inexpensive features would assign him sizable roles (as in 1936's With Love and Kisses, in which he plays an attorney). The major studios used him only in bit parts. His final role (again playing a drunk) was in the low-budget exploitation film Escort Girl made in 1941; the ravages of his final illness are plainly visible in Housman's now lined face.


Housman died of pulmonary tuberculosis at age 52. He was survived by his wife, Florence (1893-1971).[8]

Selected filmography


  1. ^ "United States Census, 1930, Florence N Housman in household of Arthur Housman". FamilySearch. Retrieved January 10, 2021.
  2. ^ "United States Census, 1940, Florence Housman in household of Arthur Housman". FamilySearch. Retrieved January 10, 2021.
  3. ^ Lahue, Kalton C.; World of Laughter: The Motion Picture Comedy Short, 1910-1930, University of Oklahoma Press, 1966, p. 39-40.
  4. ^ "United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, Arthur Housman, 1917-1918". FamilySearch. Retrieved January 10, 2021.
  5. ^ "United States, Veterans Administration Master Index, 1917-1940, Arthur Housman". FamilySearch. January 29, 1919. Retrieved January 10, 2021.
  6. ^ Lahue, p. 121.
  7. ^ Neibaur, James L. (2018). The Hal Roach Comedy Shorts of Thelma Todd, ZaSu Pitts and Patsy Kelly. McFarland. p. 87. ISBN 9781476672557. Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  8. ^ "California, County Birth and Death Records, 1800-1994, Arthur Housman, 1942". FamilySearch. Retrieved 10 January 2021.
  9. ^ "The Edison Kinetogram". 1914.

External links

This page was last edited on 30 November 2022, at 05:35
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