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In the first years of American cinema comedies appeared only occasionally among the numerous documentaries dramas and actioners Edwin S Porter directed at Thomas Edisons New York studio from 1900 to 1909 His earliest comedies up until around 1902 were one-joke shorts in various series Grandma and Grandpa Happy Hooligan Old Maid In his 1906 The Dream Of A Rarebit Fiend Porter deftly employed the fantastic trick-photography humor which Frances George Mlis had developed so brilliantly But the appetite for humor was not in Porters make-up any more than it was in the character of DW Griffith A former Porter actor Griffith began to write and direct at Biograph in 1908 By the summer of 1912 after some 400 split- and one-reel films covering a range of genres hed developed the cinematic vocabulary which is still the fundamental grammar today Less than 80 of those films however were comedies or farces and most of them were made before 1911 By then the genres chief exponent at Biograph was a Canadian who called himself Mack Sennett whod joined Griffiths stock company in 1908 A few months later he played the lead in Griffiths The Curtain Pole a swell in a top hat transporting a lengthy curtain pole via carriage and creating havoc for traffic and pedestrians By 1910 Sennett was acting in writing and directing his own comedies such as The Lucky Toothache and The Masher Hed do at least 30 more before leaving Biograph in 1912 and forming his own production company Keystone The genre had gained considerable momentum by then The successful stage actor John Bunny had debuted in films with the Vitagraph one-reeler Jack Fat And Jim Slim At Coney Island 1910 and soon became an international celebrity starring in over 150 shorts until his sudden death in 1915 at age 51 The portly Bunny excelled at character comedy farcical disguises and domestic intrigues usually playing against the spindly and hawklike Flora Finch
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