Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Betsy Ann Hisle

Last month's issue of Classic Images contained a fascinating article by J. Philip Hysell called “Betsy Ann Hisle: Finding a Lost Player” (Classic Images No. 417, March 2010). In it, Hysell reveals a lot of details about this obscure child performer which he gathered through detailed genealogical research. He even tracked down Hisle's daughter, who still had a "resume" of film appearances which Betsy Ann (real name: Juanita) kept. On that list are three Mack Sennett Comedies from 1924-25.

Using the photographs accompanying the article, I can confirm that indeed Betsy Ann Hisle did appear in very small parts in these three films. In THE HOLLYWOOD KID (1924) (which incorporated scenes from an unfinished short entitled ROUGH AND READY), Betsy plays the older of two daughters of Charlie Murray and Louise Carver. In the Harry Langdon-starred ALL NIGHT LONG (1924), she is one of the three children of Harry and Natalie Kingston who are seen at the very end of the film (she is mostly seen from the back, though there are brief shots of her face). And most interestingly, in REMEMBER WHEN? (1925) Betsy Ann Hisle appears to be playing Harry Langdon as a boy (wearing male drag) at the beginning and during a brief flashback in the middle of the film.

Not long after this brief work at the Sennett studio, Betsy Ann Hisle appeared in a number of high profile silent features such as BEAU GESTE, THE WAY OF ALL FLESH and SORRELL AND SON. Thanks to Mr. Hysell's excellent work, we can also now add her to the ranks of Mack Sennett performers.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Mr. Walker,
    I wanted to take this opportunity to praise you (profusely I might add) for the blessed arrival of what was obviously a labor of love, your wonderful new book, "Mack Sennett's Fun Factory". It was my one gift to myself on the 50th anniversary of my own birth in February. I only slightly regret that I could have saved myself more than $25.00 by waiting to purchase it from Amazon. Because I would have had to wait, don't you see.
    As a lifelong fan of both silent and "All Talking" photoplays from Hollywood's golden years (those glorious days of block- booking when the film "factories" controlled production, distribution and exhibition) I have collected hundreds of books about films for over forty years now. Your latest Herculean effort has already become one of my favorites. It ranks right alongside the beautifully researched and written tomes chronicling the history of Republic Studios by the late great Jack Mathis.
    Like you so obviously do, I too love gathering the most complete credits possible for each and every film made during those years. Ever since I was a kid I have collected and collated the names of cast members and stunt performers, right down to bit parts and background extras (just last night I found that the incomparable Bess Flowers was not credited on the IMDB for her appearance in Columbia's 1941 film "Time Out for Rhythm"). My undying love for these old "gray movies", as a niece once called them, is due in large part to these sometimes sung/mostly unsung character actors and bit part players. Sadly, there are so very few books like yours that provide such detailed cast lists for short subjects. That is why I wanted to take this time to thank you for dedicating so much effort and talent, as well as so much of your life, into the writing of this wonderful work that is now such a treasured addition to my library of film books. Not only has it quickly found a special place on my sway-backed shelves but it has already entertained and informed me endlessly with its wealth of information detailing the production of Mack Sennett's films, a knowledge that no doubt will greatly enchance my enjoyment of them.
    And please continue the excellent endeavor of updating the credits through this website. I love reading about your further research and the often serendipitous discoveries that result from your "archeological digs" into the distant hardscrabble past of film history.

    Dan Noutko-Kennedy (at

    A grateful film fan

    P.S. I love as well my copy of the book you co-authored with David Hayes, "The Films of the Bowery Boys". I salutate your tributary to "Slip Mahoney" (Leo Gorcey is the original malaprop comic), as well as "Sach", "Whitey", "Chuck" and the rest of the gang's various incarnations. (By the way, another treasured book in my collection is Leo Gorcey's autobiography, "Wedding Bells..., etc."---I bought an autographed copy through the mail when I was about ten or so.)