Is Spencer Bell G. Howe Black?

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Richard M Roberts
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Is Spencer Bell G. Howe Black?

Postby Richard M Roberts » Wed Dec 20, 2017 9:52 pm

Wow, an almost interesting conversation on the Facebook Slapstick page today:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid ... ater&ifg=1

This is interesting because this struck me several years ago when I rewatched THE PERFECT CLOWN on a big screen, I had always assumed that Spencer Bell and G. Howe Black were one and the same as well, but when I re-watched THE PERFECT CLOWN after many years in between viewings and had seen Spencer Bell in a lot more Sennett, Educational and Larry Darmour comedies, it indeed struck me that G. Howe Black was indeed someone else. Black is thinner than Bell, and perhaps a bit taller and maybe younger, but that said, they do have a lot of similar facial features, both have very high cheek bones that go back far under their eyes and it makes me ask the nest question, did Spencer Bell have a brother?

G Howe Black definitely seems to disappear after early 1926, and he seems to have been under contract to Chadwick Pictures Corp as ll his known films are for them, including the two George Walsh pictures, BLUE BLOOD and THE PRINCE OF BROADWAY. Black is mentioned in the publicity releases for all the Chadwick Pictures he appears in , but I've seen no info on him from 1926 on.


RICHARD M ROBERTS

Tommie Hicks
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Re: Is Spencer Bell G. Howe Black?

Postby Tommie Hicks » Wed Dec 20, 2017 11:35 pm

I find many black actors misidentified as Spencer Bell. In Lige Conley's FAST AND FURIOUS the servant is actually played by Harry Thaw, who was in many more silent comedies than Bell who is credited by many sources as the servant. However in the hand-car scenes in FAF Spencer Bell is indeed in some of those shots. They blacked up some of those actors so much, it can be hard to tell sometimes. I am not entirely convinced Spencer plays the porter in BE BIG.

I have attempted to research many of these actors, Bell, Thaw, Matthew Jones, Ed Washington, Bumps Adams, Fred Toomes, and the wonderful Curtis McHenry, but there was so damn little written about them in their time. An aspect of the ugly concept of political correctness can rear its head when you champion these fellows as one can be wrongly accused of defending early cinema stereotypes. Fortunately, nearly all of the silent comedy fans and historians can see through the racist dreck and perceive the superb comedians they were.

When I have seen Spencer Bell show up in a comedy shown with a live audience, he always receives applause and little verbal indications of glee.

Richard M Roberts
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Re: Is Spencer Bell G. Howe Black?

Postby Richard M Roberts » Sat Dec 23, 2017 9:00 pm

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1490053 ... 766107011/

Okay folks, some of the speculation is getting a bit silly, there's no problem finding Spencer Bell credits at Educational and Sennett during the period of G. How Black's tenure at Chadwick. And, as I said before, ALL of G. Howe Black's Credits are at Chadwick, but this discussion has made me look at the other Larry Semon "Spencer Bell" credits, and I'm beginning to think they may be bogus as well.

Take a look at THE COUNTER JUMPER, around the 6:40 mark:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8b5TFQd55s

This guy looks more like G. Howe Black.

Now take a look at "Spencer Bell" in LIGHTNING LOVE, around the 1:55 mark:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVqOR9UIsRc

This guy could be either one of them, or neither, they all seem to have the Spencer Bell cheekbones, but the chin seems to change, as does the jawline.

I'm still wondering about possible Bell siblings, or there might be one more possibility, did Spencer Bell do any boxing?

An'dja know, while we're sittin' here happily speculating, how do we know G. Howe Black is actually a pseudonym? Maybe his name is really George Howe or George H. Black or Gordon Howe Black or some such, and he found a way to make a joke of it? Stranger things have happened. That'll send the genealogy and census record checkers off on a spree.


RICHARD M ROBERTS

Richard M Roberts
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Re: Is Spencer Bell G. Howe Black?

Postby Richard M Roberts » Tue Jan 02, 2018 12:59 am

Stop the presses! Steve Rydzewski has id'ed G. Howe Black as Curtis McHenry, and I second the motion.

Take a look at the first few minutes of THE GREAT K AND A TRAIN ROBBERY (1926) at the Pullman porter "Snowball" (and Dorothy Dwan is in this as well.).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Whb3RaZ ... e=youtu.be

McHenry is also in Larry Semon's STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN (1926), away from Chadwick, he seems to be using his real name.

McHenry also seems to have no 1925 credits, but has them under his real name in 24 and 26. No known credits after 1928 though. (update: Curtis is in one 1929 Educational talkie, COLD SHIVERS)

So well done Steve, now you genealogy and census checkers see what else you can find out about Curtis McHenry!

RICHARD M ROBERTS

Robert Moulton
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Re: Is Spencer Bell G. Howe Black?

Postby Robert Moulton » Tue Jan 02, 2018 1:26 pm

Is this the Curtis McHenry you're looking for? I don't know him well enough for a visual id. I thought this could be a contender as he's in Los Angeles, and seems to be doing non cinema work at this period (1929).

The person in this image also seems to be the Curtiss McHenry who was a comedian with the Al G Barnes circus in 1919, working with riding animals. And that McHenry did seem to use the nickname Snowball.

This image is from the Sep 8, 1929 LA Times.

Image

Richard M Roberts
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Re: Is Spencer Bell G. Howe Black?

Postby Richard M Roberts » Tue Jan 02, 2018 2:54 pm

Robert Moulton wrote:Is this the Curtis McHenry you're looking for? I don't know him well enough for a visual id. I thought this could be a contender as he's in Los Angeles, and seems to be doing non cinema work at this period (1929).

The person in this image also seems to be the Curtiss McHenry who was a comedian with the Al G Barnes circus in 1919, working with riding animals. And that McHenry did seem to use the nickname Snowball.

This image is from the Sep 8, 1929 LA Times.

Image


I'd say it's a match, well done Robert, and thanks for posting it.

If he worked for the Al G. Barnes Circus, it would explain why his film credits are spotty, he was probably only doing films when Barnes laid off in California.

RICHARD M ROBERTS

Rob Farr
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Re: Is Spencer Bell G. Howe Black?

Postby Rob Farr » Tue Jan 02, 2018 11:21 pm

The latest find, courtesy of Steve Rydzewski, is that McHenry met his end after being stabbed in a Los Angeles street fight in 1934.
Rob Farr
"If it's not comedy, I fall asleep" - Harpo Marx

Robert Moulton
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Re: Is Spencer Bell G. Howe Black?

Postby Robert Moulton » Wed Jan 03, 2018 8:32 am

I have Barnes' autobiography packed away somewhere, I'll see if it has any info on Mchenry. The earliest I see him with Barnes is 1917. There are ads in Billboard in 1920 trying to get Mchenry to rehire with Sidney Rink as a 'mule rider'. Rink was an animal trainer for Barnes at various times and developed animal acts.

The Mchenry killed in 1934 found by Steve Rydzewski was age 34. So that gives a contender for a WWI draft card for Curtis Mchenry born April 4, 1899 and working in September 1918 as a porter at the Southern Hotel Bar in Bakersfield, CA. That person has a wife Helen listed. Does what Steve found list a widow?


Here's a clipping from the December 04, 1920 Billboard discussing various black actors in Hollywood (including Mchenry). It identifies Thurston Brooks as working with Keaton. Would that likely make Brooks the caddy in Convict 13?

Image

Tommie Hicks
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Re: Is Spencer Bell G. Howe Black?

Postby Tommie Hicks » Wed Jan 03, 2018 11:00 am

Holy mackerel! McHenry and Bell die within a year of each other, both dying from the results of a blade, one in the street, the other in a bed. McHernry's death in 1934 shouldn't have surprised me, I mean after all, he was a male comedian who worked for Al Christie. Mc Henry's performance in GOOFY GHOSTS outperforms everyone else in the film.

Richard recently posted a link for Bobby Vernon's HOLD 'ER COWBOY which features McHenry in the beginning.

Excellent detective work fellows!

Robert Moulton
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Re: Is Spencer Bell G. Howe Black?

Postby Robert Moulton » Thu Jan 04, 2018 12:59 am

Well there's no mention of Mchenry in the Barnes book, but there is a picture of Sidney Rink. I attached the image on the off chance someone recognizes him as an unidentified film performer.

And this link to the Feb 23, 1930 Film Daily indicates that Mchenry appeared in a sound short: The Big Jewel Case.

Image


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