Chester Conklin
(01/11/1886 - 11/11/1971)

Born in Oskaloosa, Iowa, Chester Conklin was one of three children who grew up in a violent household. Chester Conklin ran away from home and headed to Des Moines where he found employment as a hotel bellhop but then moved to Omaha, Nebraska where his interest in live theatre led to a career in comedic acting. He spent several years touring with stock companies, doing vaudeville shows, as well as clown work with a travelling circus.

A short, stocky man, as part of his vaudeville act Conklin grew a large moustache that later in film became a trademark. While in Venice, California during the 1913 winter break, the then twenty-seven-year-old Conklin went to Keystone Studios and applied for a job. Hired, Henry Lehrman directed him in his first film, a comedy short titled "Cupid in a Dental Parlor." After making several films, in 1914 Conklin appeared in "Making a Living," in which Charlie Chaplin made his film debut. He would go on to make more than a dozen films with Chaplin while at Keystone and the two became lifelong friends. Years later, Conklin would perform with Chaplin two more times in feature-length films, first in 1936 in Modern Times and in 1940's The Great Dictator.

However, while at Keystone, Conklin became most famous when he was teamed up with the robust comic Mack Swain to make a series of comedies. With Swain as "Ambrose" and Conklin as the grand mustachioed "Walrus", they performed these roles in several films including "The Battle of Ambrose and Walrus" and "Love, Speed and Thrills," both made in 1915. Beyond these "Ambrose & Walrus" comedies, the two appeared together in twenty-six different films.

In 1920, Chester Conklin went to Fox Film Corporation then to Famous Players-Lasky Corporation where he worked for several years doing comedy shorts. In between, he had a significant role in director Erich von Stroheim's acclaimed 1924 MGM production, Greed and in 1928 in the Christie Film Company version of Tillie's Punctured Romance with W.C. Fields. In the 1930s, Conklin made the transition to talkies, and although he would continue to act for another thirty years, age and the shift in moviegoer tastes to more sophisticated comedy saw his roles limited to secondary or smaller parts.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Chester Conklin has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1560 Vine Street.

Available Films

Keystone Comedies - Volume #1 (1915-1924)

Droppington's Family Tree (1916)

Yankee Doodle in Berlin (1919)

The Duchess of Buffalo (1926)

Behind the Front (1926)

We're in the Navy Now (1926)

The Nervous Wreck (1926)