Friday, March 24, 2017


Wish You Were Here, from the cast of "Mutt & Jeff"

One of the favorite postcards in my collection is this Kraus Manufacturing Company photo card. Although undated, we can assume it was published circa 1912. Gus Hill's production of "Mutt and Jeff", based on Bud Fisher's comic strip, debuted on Broadway in late 1911, got good reviews, and travelled extensively after its Broadway run. The reverse of the card has this very modest blurb:

The biggest success in years; houses packed to the doors and the greatest laughing show on earth, "Mutt and Jeff," written around Bud Fisher's world renowned cartoons. Direct from its successful run in New York, Chicago and Boston. Pronounced by press and public the one big novelty of the Age.

What blows me away is the amazing make-up on the actors. Usually attempts to make actors look like the characters in a comic strip ends up looking ridiculous, but these actors really do look like their comic strip counterparts. Impressive!


Any idea who the actors here are?
It appears to be Sam B. Drane (1868-1916) as Mutt and Gus Alexander (1903-1966) as Jeff. Both were featured in a series of live action Mutt & Jeff films for Nestor (a Universal Studios brand) in 1911. They were among the earliest films produced by Al Christie. At least two still survive, and aside from the bizzare make-up jobs, the most remarkable thing about them was they experimented with the intertitles; insead of the usual cut to a solid frame with the narration or dialogue, then back to the story, these films had them appear on the action, like a subtitle in a foriegn language film.
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