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John Bunny Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trivia (10) | Personal Quotes (4) | Salary (2)

Overview (3)

Date of Birth 21 September 1863New York City, New York, USA
Date of Death 26 April 1915Brooklyn, New York, USA  (Bright's disease)
Height 5' 7" (1.7 m)

Mini Bio (1)

When John Bunny died the New York Times stated, "The name John Bunny will always be linked to the movies." Little did movie fans of 1915 realize that he would be completely forgotten the next year and completely omitted from many books on silent movies 70-80 years later.

Bunny was the ninth in a line of English sea captains and would be the first not to follow in that profession. He attended St. James High School in Brooklyn and worked as a grocery clerk before running away in the late 1800s to discover the world of entertainment and appear in a small touring minstrel show. He became involved in theater and appeared in musical comedies such as "Old Dutch" with Hattie Williams and Lew Fields. He also worked as a stage manager for various stock companies. Bunny's rebellious nature took over again and he quit the theater to become involved in the "flickers". This was a very bold step. Not only was it a major step down for a "legitimate" stage actor to go into the movies at that time, but Bunny took a pay cut from $150 to $40 a week to work for Vitagraph in 1910. He made more than 250 shorts for Vitagraph over five years and become the best known face in the world.

Bunny always said that he did not aim to be a comedian, but with his short, gnome-like appearance and a weight approaching the 300-pound mark, he wound up taking advantage of these features to play comedy (he once asked rhetorically, "How could I play Romeo with a figure like mine?"). Bunny's co-star for the majority of his films was Flora Finch, who contrasted with Bunny's figure by being tall and thin. They usually appeared as Mr. & Mrs. Bunny. Their shorts were referred to as "Bunnygraphs" and "Bunnyfinches". They stayed away from physical comedy and dealt with relationships, usually the man getting away with something that his wife disagrees with.

Bunny even traveled to England to make a version of Charles Dickens' "Pickwick Papers". He decided to go back on the road with "John Bunny in Funnyland", but it was not a success. Not only did the show fail, but he was tired and ill. He talked to Vitagraph about restarting his film career, but it was too late. The man who led an adventurous life--he raced horses and flew airplanes--died at his home at 1416 Glenwood Road in Brooklyn of Bright's Disease in 1915. His funeral was held at the Elks Club House on West 43rd St. After just five years in the business, Bunny was gone and forgotten. The news of his death was heard around the world. He was so popular in Russia they created a series with an impersonator using the name "Poxon" after Bunny died. Bunny had two children, George (dec. 1958) and John (dec. 1971) Sadly, only a handful of Bunny's films survive. The one most available is the popular A Cure for Pokeritis (1912).

- IMDb Mini Biography By: anthonysusnick@insightbb.com

Spouse (1)

Clara Scallan (23 January 1890 - 26 April 1915) (his death) (2 children)

Trivia (10)

Brother of actor George Bunny
Made 260 shorts with Flora Finch between 1910 and 1914, which were known as 'Bunnygraphs', 'Bunnyfinches', and 'Bunnyfinchgraphs.'
Joined Vitagraph in 1910.
The American cinema's first major comedian.
Born at 115 Mott Street, in lower Manhattan, New York City.
The Bunny Theatre in NYC (now the Nova, at 3589 Broadway between 147th & 148th Sts.) was named after him, & still has 2 big stone bunny faces on its facade. Briefly (1914) a 2nd "Bunny Theatre" operated at 125 E. 116th St. In 1899/1900 John Bunny lived in NYC at 1486 5th Ave.
First person to play Santa Claus in a movie.
A theater-owner, New York City's Bunny Theatre was named after him. The stone bunny rabbit at the top of the theater building bears mute testimony to the transitory nature of silent film superstardom. The theater, which was eventually renamed the Nova, was closed in 2003.
Although he and Flora Finch made more than 250 comedy shorts together for Vitagraph, studio chief Albert E. Smith recalled that "they cordially hated each other".
One of the first mass-merchandised film personalities...many dolls and figurines were made in his likeness, and all are highly prized collector's items today.

Personal Quotes (4)

[on entering films in 1910 after being an actor for 26 years and making $100 a week] Either I must make good on the screen or else starve to death.
How could I play Romeo with a figure like mine?
[on his reasons for leaving the stage to make films] He [the stage actor] doesn't get the big pay that a moving picture actor gets. I get $50,000 a year. How many other legitimate actors get that?
[on leaving the stage to make films] I have chosen a better thing. I shall live longer than Irving or Booth. Not because I deserve to, but because there is a record of me that they did not leave; the public can have me always the same, so long as the pictures are preserved.

Salary (2)

Jack Fat and Jim Slim at Coney Island (1910) $40 /week
Doctor Cupid (1911) $40 /week

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