What Happened to Kalton C. Lahue

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Richard M Roberts
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What Happened to Kalton C. Lahue

Postby Richard M Roberts » Sun Mar 09, 2014 9:56 am

Speaking with Sam Gill this week, Sam told me that he had finally tracked down what had happened to an Author whose work most likely influenced most of us here, Kalton C. Lahue, who wrote what is still two of the most important books on Silent Comedy, WORLD OF LAUGHTER, and CLOWN PRINCES AND COURT JESTERS (co-written with Sam Gill), as well as a number of other important books on various genres of Silent Film in the 1960’s and 70’s.

We knew that Lahue had gotten out of writing film books by the late 70’s and had moved on to writing auto and photography tech manuals among other things, but he had not been heard from in decades. Sadly, this is because he passed away in 1993, and is buried in Vermont, as Sam discovered recently. This would make sense as Lahue’s last published books were non-annual auto manuals that came out apparently posthumously in 1994 and 1995.

It is sad to know that someone whose works loomed large in many of our early educations in Silent Film History left us at too young an age, but at least we now know the facts. Lahue had turned his back on the Silent Film History Community, apparently the many books he wrote were not the greatest of sellers, but they seemed to have graced so many Public Libraries that all of us frequented, as we all madly read everything we could find on the subject, and the quality of his early research and writing on this area of interest loomed large to us. Here’s to his memory.


RICHARD M ROBERTS

Gary Johnson
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Re: What Happened to Kalton C. Lahue

Postby Gary Johnson » Sun Mar 09, 2014 3:46 pm

Richard and I have spoken privately about the works of Lahue before. I too was able to find most of his books at the library during my youth.
His books were simply an oasis among the dry-as-dust academic books that were available on film history at that time. Most books seemed to had been written in the 1940's by history scholars who had never actually seen a film -- or if they had they deemed the only subjects worth writing about was German Expressionism and Soviet editing. But where were the books that carried titles on subjects that I was aching to know more about? - silent serial queens , clowns and jesters, western heroes... That's where Lahue (and Everson) came in. I might not of had the slightest idea who most of the performers were that Lahue wrote about back then, but there were still the marvelous illustrations that always accompanied his books to savor,

For a while, that was enough to satisfy my curiosity.

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Re: What Happened to Kalton C. Lahue

Postby Matt Barry » Sun Mar 09, 2014 6:38 pm

Thanks for this information, Richard. I always wondered what had happened to Lahue. As a kid, I would scour the shelves at the public library for anything I could find on silent film and silent comedy, and his book "Cops and Custards" was one of my favorite - informative, well-written and accessible. Like Everson, he had that gift as a writer to make you want to seek out the films he was writing about. His descriptions of numerous Keystone comedies - and comedians - made me want to see more and more of these films and seek out the work of performers who did not receive as much attention in the history books.
Matt Barry

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Re: What Happened to Kalton C. Lahue

Postby Joe Migliore » Mon Mar 10, 2014 12:06 am

Just reading this post made me venture over to Amazon and get a couple of his books. I remember well trying to find any information on silent comedy in my youth, and there really wasn't much. Nothing could replace that feeling of pulling one of these tomes off of a library shelf, but I have to say that the authors here at this site have brought back that feeling with some brilliant books of their own. Cheers, Kalton...look what you've started!

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Re: What Happened to Kalton C. Lahue

Postby Rob Farr » Mon Mar 10, 2014 12:59 pm

RIP Kalton. Your auto repair books may have provided you a living wage, but your silent film history books ensured your immortality.
Rob Farr
"If it's not comedy, I fall asleep" - Harpo Marx

David Denton
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Re: What Happened to Kalton C. Lahue

Postby David Denton » Mon Mar 10, 2014 6:53 pm

Lahue's books couldn't have been the first movie books I read, but they're the ones I remember most. Silent comedians and cowboys quickly became my favorites. I re-read those books over and over (nobody else checked them out of the library) and bought them whenever I could find them (I found World of Laughter at a Jewish bookstore on Fairfax). When I first met Sam Gill, I had him sign my copy of Clown Princes and Court Jesters and he laughed at the $6.00 price penciled inside; I'd had it for decades. Court Jesters became a check-list, I had to see every comic he profiled. I only finished within the last few years (Billy Parsons). Now that so much more is accessible, we might come up with a few different names, certainly more names, but Lahue's choices might still be the best.

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Re: What Happened to Kalton C. Lahue

Postby David Hennessy » Tue Mar 11, 2014 12:53 am

While we're on the topic of Kalton Lahue, I'm curious to know more about Sam Gill. It sounds like a lot of you all know him personally. All I know is that he went to the University of Kansas and I guess now is retired from the Herrick Library. But what happened in between that stirred his interest in Silent Comedy and led to his partnership with Mr. Lahue?

Richard M Roberts
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Re: What Happened to Kalton C. Lahue

Postby Richard M Roberts » Tue Mar 11, 2014 1:04 am

David Hennessy wrote:While we're on the topic of Kalton Lahue, I'm curious to know more about Sam Gill. It sounds like a lot of you all know him personally. All I know is that he went to the University of Kansas and I guess now is retired from the Herrick Library. But what happened in between that stirred his interest in Silent Comedy and led to his partnership with Mr. Lahue?


Sam Gill has always been one of the prime champions of Silent Film Comedy research, he managed to interview a number of surviving Comedy Film Industry workers in the 1960's and 70's and has been a personal influence on many in the Mafia (during his years at the Herrick Library, he sent myself, Brent Walker and many others off to write books that needed to be written about the subject). He is now living up in Niles, California and is on the Board of the NIles Essanay Film Museum. He is currently working with us on the filmography of the second volume of PAST HUMOR, PRESENT LAUGHTER, compiling the Educational Pictures Filmography. He's been a good friend of mine for over thirty years.


RICHARD M ROBERTS

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Re: What Happened to Kalton C. Lahue

Postby Phil Posner » Tue Mar 11, 2014 1:49 pm

Although Lahue's books weren't the first books I read on silent film (Daniel Blum's book "The Pictorial History of the Silent Screen" was the first one that grabbed me), his books were and are invaluable in my work on the Chaplin Keystones.

I was lucky enough to find a used copy of his "Mack Sennett's Keystone" a number of years ago which was personally autographed on December 10, 1971 to someone named Frank, whom Lahue calls the "best in the biz" in the inscription.

Very sad to hear of his passing.
Phil

My Chaplin site - www.philposner.com

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Re: What Happened to Kalton C. Lahue

Postby Pasquale Ventura » Tue Mar 11, 2014 2:14 pm

First book of Kalton C. Lahues I ever purchased was COLLECTING CLASSIC FILMS from Blackhawk Films in the early 70's. From there I sought out all of his books of silent comedy which instantly became favorites. What appealed me greatly to his books was he wrote about the comedians, their comedies , directors and the filmaking process involved. This, as the other posters have stated, intrigued me too seek out the short comedies more than ever.

WORLD OF LAUGHTER, CLOWN PRINCES AND COURT JESTERS, COPS AND CUSTARDS, MACK SENNET'S KEYSTONE still sit on the bookshelf and are frequently revisited.


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