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Iowa History Daily: Iowa's Silent Film Star

Iowa History Daily: On June 15, 1884, American vaudeville, silent film, and talkie comedian extraordinaire Harry Langdon was born in Council Bluffs. Considered one of the all-time greats of the silent film era and a first-rate pantomimist, Langdon often portrayed wide-eyed characters with an innocent understanding of the world’s people.

During a childhood in Pottawattamie County, the future comic shined from a young age. Langdon often imagined and performed neighborhood productions and often won talent shows in Council Bluffs during his adolescence. Running off to join “Dr. Belcher’s Kickapoo Indian Medicine Traveling show,” Langdon honed his skills in front of audiences throughout the country.

Eventually, Langdon returned to Council Bluffs for a few more years during his late-teen years. He often ventured out on the road for long stretches of time to continue to develop his skills in front of audiences while performing with minstrel shows and circuses. Starting in Vaudeville in 1915, Langdon honed a sketch called “Johnny’s New Car,” which became a staple of his act for years.

Langdon joined Principal Pictures Corporation in 1923 before ultimately rising to stardom with The Mack Sennett Studios. Eventually acting under the direction of legendary directors Arthur Ripley and Frank Capra, a string of successes followed. Forming The Harry Langdon Corporation in the late 1920s, the vaudeville turned early film star hired Capra while also making his own forays into directing.

Starring in over 30 silent comedies over the course of his career, Langdon struggled a bit adapting his acting and directing style to talkies. Langdon’s legacy lives on with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, as well as through Council Bluffs’ Harry Langdon Boulevard. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar


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