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Educational Pictures, also known as Educational Film Exchanges, Inc. or Educational Films Corporation of America, was an American film distribution company founded in 1916 by Earle (E. W.) Hammons (1882–1962). Educational primarily distributed short subjects, and today is probably best known for its series of 1930s comedies starring Buster Keaton,as well as for a series of one-reel comedies featuring the earliest screen appearances of Shirley Temple. The studio also distributed short comedies starring Lloyd Hamilton and Lupino Lane.
Hammons established the company to make instructional films for schools, but making comedies for theatrical release proved more lucrative.Educational did issue many educational, travelogue, and novelty shorts, but its main enterprise became comedy. Educational's heyday was the 1920s, when the popular silent comedies of Al St. John, Lupino Lane, Lige Conley, Lloyd Hamilton, and Monty Collins complemented many a moviehouse bill as "the spice of the program." During the 1920s, most of the comedies were produced by Jack White. In 1924 Educational quietly hired two leading figures in the comedy community who had been disgraced in a scandal: comedian Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle (who became a director at Educational under the pseudonym William Goodrich) and director Fred Fishback (under the pseudonym Fred Hibbard).
Educational also released silent cartoons, including the Felix the Cat series. In 1930, cartoonist Paul Terry signed with Educational to distribute his Terrytoons animated cartoons in America and British countries.
Educational made a smooth transition to sound movies by handling the early talking comedies of pioneer producer Mack Sennett. Sennett also introduced singing star Bing Crosby to movie audiences. But Sennett soon became plagued by financial problems, and he left Educational in 1932.Most of Educational's silent stars made only a few talkies for the studio: Lupino Lane left the company in 1930, followed by Lloyd Hamilton in 1931. Most of the earliest Educational talkies feature silent-comedy veterans with stage experience: Vernon Dent, Harry Gribbon, Raymond McKee, Edward Everett Horton, Daphne Pollard, and Ford Sterling. Educational's most prolific comedian in the 1930s was undoubtedly the Sennett star Andy Clyde, who made 54 comedies.
Educational replaced the Sennett films with star-name comedians.Andy Clyde and Harry Langdon led Educational's release schedule for a few years, and then Buster Keaton headlined a series that yielded 16 popular two-reel comedies.
For a time Educational maintained studios on both coasts. The Hollywood productions, in addition to those of Clyde, Langdon, and Keaton, hosted comedy stars Moran and Mack, Edgar Kennedy, and Ernest Truex. New York-based talent from vaudeville and radio starred in Educational's East Coast productions based at the Astoria Studios: Joe Cook, Tim and Irene Ryan, Sylvia Froos, Warren Hull, Tom Howard and George Shelton, Stoopnagle and Budd, Bert Lahr, and Willie Howard. Many stars made debuts in Educational shorts: Bob Hope, The Ritz Brothers, Milton Berle, June Allyson, Imogene Coca, and Danny Kaye in New York; and Shirley Temple, Joan Davis, and Roy Rogers in Hollywood. During its last year of production, Educational showcased the young comedy/dance team of Herman Timberg, Jr. and Pat Rooney, Jr., singers Niela Goodelle and Lee Sullivan, mild-mannered comic Charles Kemper, and wisecracking comedian Harriet Hutchins.
Twentieth Century-Fox and its predecessor, Fox Film Corporation, had been distributing Educational product to theaters. In 1937 Fox dropped its line of short comedies and withdrew its support from Educational. Earle Hammons tried to keep his company going while trying to enter the feature-film market with the financially troubled Grand National Pictures. The drain on his finances forced both companies into bankruptcy. The final Educational comedies (with radio and screen comic F. Chase Taylor as "Col. Stoopnagle") were released in January 1939, and the film library was sold at auction in 1940. Most of the Educational sound shorts were obtained by Astor Pictures, which shrewdly timed its re-releases to cash in on certain performers' popularity. Astor compiled four feature-length comedies showcasing, in turn, Shirley Temple (Our Girl Shirley, 1942), Danny Kaye (The Birth of a Star, 1945), Bing Crosby (The Road to Hollywood, 1947), and Bob Hope and Milton Berle (It Pays to Be Funny, 1948).
Much of Educational's silent film library was lost in a 1937 fire at the 20th Century-Fox film storage facility,but the sound comedies survive today.
Like other short-subject producers, Educational Pictures marketed its assorted offerings in individual series. Among these were [Robert] Bruce Scenics (travelogues, 1918–1920), Lyman Howe's Hodge Podge (miscellaneous human-interest shorts; the series outlived its creator); Treasure Chest (miscellaneous subjects); Coronet Comedies (single-reel subjects, 1929–1931 and 1934–1936); Lloyd Hamilton Talking Comedies (1929–1931); Cameo Comedies (single-reel, 1931–1932); Tuxedo Comedies (two-reel, 1924–1931 and 1935–1936); Ideal Comedies (1930–1932); Vanity Comedies (1931–1932); Baby Burlesks (Shirley Temple, one-reel, 1932–1933), Frolics of Youth (Frank Coghlan, Jr. and Shirley Temple, two-reel, 1932–1934), Marriage Wow Comedies (comprising only three two-reel comedies, starring husband-and-wife comics, 1934); Star Personality Comedies (Buster Keaton, Joe Cook, Willie Howard, two-reel, 1934–1938); Young Romance Comedies (two-reel, 1934–1935); Song and Comedy Hits (one-reel musical comedies, 1935–1938); and Col. Stoopnagle's Cavalcade of Stuff (Educational's last and briefest series – only two one-reel comedies issued just before the studio closed its doors, 1939).
Buster Keaton's career suffered a major downturn in the early 1930s and he was fired by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1933, after which he embarked to Europe. Upon his return to Hollywood, he made a screen comeback in a series of 16 two-reel comedies for Educational Pictures. Most of these are simple visual comedies, with many of the gags supplied by Keaton himself, often recycling ideas from his family vaudeville act and his earlier films.The high point in the Educational series is Grand Slam Opera, featuring Buster in his own screenplay as an amateur-hour contestant. When the series lapsed in 1937, Keaton returned to MGM as a gag writer.
Educational Pictures's logo consists of a genie's lamp, above which the words "Educational Pictures" appear formed by the smoke from the lamp. Below the lamp, enclosed in quotation marks are the words The Spice of the Program.
The use of the logo in film credits was unique to Educational. The shorts would begin with the opening title card, usually having "E. W. Hammons presents" at the top, followed by the title of the short. The Educational logo would then appear full screen. Normally, studios would have their logos appear before the opening titles, while Educational placed its logo after the opening credits. At the end, there would be a standard end title card with the mini-logo for Educational Pictures appearing somewhere in the end title.
Mack Sennett was a Canadian-American film actor, director, and producer, and studio head, known as the 'King of Comedy'.
Joseph Frank Keaton, known professionally as Buster Keaton, was an American actor, comedian, film director, producer, screenwriter, and stunt performer. He is best known for his silent films, in which his trademark was physical comedy with a consistently stoic, deadpan expression that earned him the nickname "The Great Stone Face". Critic Roger Ebert wrote of Keaton's "extraordinary period from 1920 to 1929" when he "worked without interruption" on a series of films that make him "the greatest actor-director in the history of the movies". His career declined afterward with a loss of artistic independence when he signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, his wife divorced him, and he descended into alcoholism. He recovered in the 1940s, remarried, and revived his career as an honored comic performer for the rest of his life, earning an Academy Honorary Award in 1959.
Roscoe Conkling "Fatty" Arbuckle was an American silent film actor, comedian, director, and screenwriter. He started at the Selig Polyscope Company and eventually moved to Keystone Studios, where he worked with Mabel Normand and Harold Lloyd, as well as with his nephew Al St. John. He mentored Charlie Chaplin and discovered Buster Keaton and Bob Hope. He was one of the most popular silent stars of the 1910s and one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood, signing a contract in 1920 with Paramount Pictures for $14,000.
Alfred Ernest Christie was a Canadian-born film director, producer, and screenwriter.
Delmar "Del" Lord was a Canadian film director and actor best known as a director of Three Stooges films.
Edward Francis Cline ("Eddie") was an American screenwriter, actor, writer and director best known for his work with comedians W. C. Fields and Buster Keaton. He was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin and died in Hollywood, California.
Charles Joseph Parrott, known professionally as Charley Chase, was an American comedian, actor, screenwriter and film director best known for his work in Hal Roach short film comedies. He was the elder brother of comedian/director James Parrott.
Lupino Lane was an English actor and theatre manager, and a member of the famous Lupino family, which eventually included his cousin, the screenwriter/director/actress Ida Lupino. Lane started out as a child performer, known as 'Little Nipper', and went on to appear in a wide range of theatrical, music hall and film performances. Increasingly celebrated for his silent comedy short subjects, he is best known in the United Kingdom for playing Bill Snibson in the play and film Me and My Girl, which popularized the song and dance routine "The Lambeth Walk".
Al St. John was an early American film comedian, and nephew of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, with whom he often appeared. He was employed by Mack Sennett and worked with many leading players such as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Mabel Normand. In the talkies, he played the scruffy comedy relief character "Fuzzy Q. Jones" who appeared in dozens of films, including the Producers Releasing Corporation's "Billy the Kid" series from 1940 to 1946, and their "Lone Rider" series from 1941 to 1943.
Alice Lake was an American film actress. She began her career during the silent film era and often appeared in comedy shorts opposite Roscoe Arbuckle.
Lloyd Vernon Hamilton was an American film comedian, best remembered for his work in the silent era.
Charles Lamont was a prolific filmmaker, directing over 200 titles and producing and writing many others. A California native, Lamont was born in San Francisco and died in Los Angeles.
A Country Hero is a 1917 American two-reel silent comedy film directed by and starring Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and featuring Buster Keaton. The film is considered to be lost.
E. W. Hammons was an American film producer. He produced 228 films between 1921 and 1938. In 1915 he founded Educational Pictures, which started out making educational films for schools, but soon changed its focus to comedy short films. He was born in Winona, Mississippi, and died in New Rochelle, New York.
Fred C. Fishback was a film director, actor, screenwriter, and producer of the silent era. Following the 1921 scandal surrounding Roscoe Arbuckle, in which he was involved, Fishback worked mostly under the pseudonym Fred Hibbard.
Elgin Lessley was an American hand-crank cameraman of the silent film era—a period of filmmaking when virtually all special effects work had to be produced inside the camera during filming. Though Lessley worked earlier with Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, and later with Harry Langdon, he is best known for the groundbreaking effects he produced with Buster Keaton, who dubbed him "the human metronome" for his ability to crank consistently at any requested speed.
Al St. John (1893–1963) was an American comic actor who appeared in 394 films between 1913 and 1952. Starting at Mack Sennett's Keystone Film Company, St. John rose through the ranks to become one of the major comedy stars of the 1920s, though less than half of his starring roles still survive today. With the advent of sound drastically changing and curtailing the two-reel comedy format, St. John diversified, creating a second career for himself as a comic sidekick in Western films and ultimately developing the character of "Fuzzy Q. Jones", for which he is best known in posterity.
The Big V Comedies were two-reel comedy film shorts produced by Warner Bros. and Vitaphone between 1931 and 1938, contemporary of the more famous Hal Roach, Mack Sennett and Columbia Pictures comedies.
Luke the Dog (1913-1926) was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier that performed as a recurring character in American silent comedy shorts between 1914 and 1920. He was also the personal pet of actress Minta Durfee and her husband, the comedian and director Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle.
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