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The King of Comedy Hails from Kenosha

September 22, 2018


Eddie Cline was a director, writer, sometime actor, full time gag man and best friend to more than a few comedy legends of the big screen. He worked during the silent era, the golden age of Hollywood and the golden age of Television. During his prolific career, he played a key role in the best work of Buster Keaton and W C Fields. Eddie was born Kenosha (the hometown of another director, Orson Welles). In his late teens, Cline migrated west and began a career in Hollywood as one of Mack Sennett's Keystone Cops. As a cop, he took his orders from the Chief of Keystone Police - La Crosse, Wisconsin native, Ford Sterling. Cline, a natural comic with a deadly sense of timing, was soon assisting Sennett as a co-director and gag writer. By early 1916, he was directing two reel comedy shorts - the life blood of the Keystone Studios operation. He soon met Buster Keaton a young comic whose stage name was given to him by  Harry Houdini. The two became inseparable - Eddie Cline had the quality of becoming everyone's BFF. He was a laugher with a rolodex memory for decades worth of great gags from the vaudeville stage and an uncanny ability to conjure up new routines. As a comedy writing and directing team the Cline/Keaton pair made history. Cline co-wrote and co-directed seventeen of Buster Keaton's shorts, a series of timeless classics that stand up today as the best comedy films of silent era - The Playhouse, The Paleface,ballonatics, The Boat, Cops, The Three Ages and many more. In 1932 he directed the surreal pre-code comic masterpiece MILLION DOLLAR LEGS.  In 1939, Cline began a series of films with W.C. Fields which included Field's penultimate and arguably best film, THE BANK DICK. Eddie worked constantly through the 40's and moved into the television during the 1950's as a gag man for Spike Jones. He died in 1961 in Hollywood. Below -  Even while directing, Eddie Cline could never resist playing the role of a cop - with Buster Keaton in COPS.