Eddie Quillan — Pride of the Clan (1929) 🇺🇸

Eddie Quillan — Pride of the Clan (1929) | www.vintoz.com

February 25, 2024

Eddie Quillan left the Sennett lot “for purity.” Like Iris March, in “The Green Hat,” [Transcribers Note: The play “The Green Hat” was also released in a film version: A Woman of Affairs (1928] Eddie had his ideals — or Eddie’s Scottish papa did — and throwing pies at ladies in lingerie was not one of them. Fortunately for the censors, and unfortunately for Sennett, Eddie comes of a stern, Scotch-Presbyterian clan whose motto is, “Clean fun for the public, or we quit, by crackety.”

by Ann Sylvester

For years the Quillans, mère, père, and many kids, had been touring these more or less United States as a vaudeville act of genteel saxophone tooting, refined hoofing and funny, but clean, jokes. Eddie’s father was very proud of that record, and when he woke up one morning to find his next-to-the-youngest making a name for himself in Sennett pranks of the more boisterous variety, he thundered into the Sennett office and thundered right out again with Eddie — minus a contract.

The leave-taking of the Quillans from the comedy lot was almost as startling as their advent had been.

To get at the very beginning, it all started back on Hollywood Street in Philadelphia, with the birth of Eddie. From the time he was old enough to realize that he had been born, into a theatrical family, he had his eye on the movies. Other actors standing in the wings, watching Eddie as a kid performer in his imitation of Harry Lauder, used to say, “That boy ought to be in the movies.” Eddie felt the same way about it. Even when he was removed, by compulsion, from the stage, and entered in school, he continued to nurse a yen for the movies.

About eight or nine years dragged by before Eddie was legally permitted to join his father’s act again, and by that time the yen had grown into a complex. Before he started out on the road with his two brothers and a sister, he made his father promise by all the bagpipes in Scotland, that when they reached Hollywood Eddie should get a chance at the studios.

Papa Quillan promised elaborately. After all, it ought to be comparatively simple to get a clever kid like Eddie in pictures.

The first day the troupe landed in Los Angeles, Quillan, Sr., hied himself out to the Sennett Studio and demanded an audience with none other than Mack himself. Strange things happen in Hollywood — he was granted an audience. He told Sennett he had a couple of movie-struck kids who wanted to work in his comedies, and then he sat back as though willing to sign a contract any time. Sennett, was not interested. He said so, in no uncertain terms. But the lusty vaudevillian wouldn’t have it that way. He appealed to his ancestry. As one Scotsman to another, wouldn’t he give the kids, particularly Eddie, a chance? More to get rid of him than, anything else, Sennett consented to test the Quillans.

Bright and early the next day, Eddie and family presented themselves.

“I didn’t know a thing about the movies,” said Eddie, picking up his story at this point,

“and my knees were slightly wabbly when they got me before the camera. I don’t know exactly what we did. I think we did a little bit of our act. We didn’t know we were supposed to act before the camera, so we just stood still and wise-cracked at one another, as we did on the stage. It would have been all right for a talkie, but for a silent test it was terrible.

“A couple of days later, they ran off the test for us, and it was worse than expected. It is an awful blow to see yourself on the screen, after you have imagined yourself there. I almost sank right through the floor. All I could think of was, that I wanted to get out of there without any one seeing me. When they flashed a close-up of me — that was the last straw. Some one snickered. I thought they were laughing at me, so I motioned to my brothers and we sneaked out the side door.”

That snicker in the projection room had not been ridicule. It had been a chuckle of mirth from the august producer himself. He realized that the kid had possibilities, and just when he was getting ready to say so, they discovered that the Quillans had beat it!

“A detective finally traced us,” Eddie continued, perching himself on a desk. “For a minute I thought he was arresting me for being so rotten in the movies. I certainly was surprised when it turned out to be a contract.”

At first everything went along pretty well at Sennett’s. Eddie was funny. No two ways about that. People began to notice the kid who played goofy messenger boys, and nut kid-brothers. He became so good that he was promoted to stardom. But it was a stardom that never reached the public.

It was about that time that Eddie’s papa took exception to some of the gags Eddie had to do. He thought they were vulgar, and he said so, loudly and lustily. This burned Sennett up, and he made use of a producer’s revenge by working Eddie as the star through six two-reelers, and giving somebody else the star advertising.

“After that, things went from bad to worse for me on that lot,” Eddie admitted. “I was just about ready to give up pictures, and go back on the road with my dad’s act. When my original contract expired, I walked out.

“We were pretty green, and it never occurred to any of us that I might get a job at any other studio. I got out the old saxophone, and was all ready to set out on the Orpheum circuit, when Tay Garnett, a director for DeMille [Cecil B. DeMille], advised me to come out there for a test in The Godless Girl.

“I was pretty glad, because I liked pictures. DeMille, himself, took a test of me for The Godless Girl, and signed me before I left the lot that day. It was a great break for me. In the first place, the comedy in The Godless Girl is just the sort of stuff I want to do. It’s funny, and yet it doesn’t offend. There are so many ways to get a clean laugh that it seems silly to gag the other kind. I guess the studio must feel about the same way I do about comedy, so they’ve signed me on a long contract. I’ve already done Show Folks, with Lina Basquette, and now I’m making Geraldine, with Marian Nixon. The next picture they have slated for me is called Noisy Neighbors, and my whole family is going to be in the cast.”

And maybe you think Eddie’s papa isn’t going to keep an eagle eye on the gags! Instead of louder and funnier laughs, they’re going to be funnier and cleaner.

For Mr. Quillan’s little boy Eddie is the pride of a clan that prides itself on wholesome fun.

Eddie Quillan — Pride of the Clan (1929) | www.vintoz.com

Although Eddie had longed for years to see himself in pictures, he ran away from his first screen test, and it took a detective to find him.

The entire Quillan family will be in the cast of Noisy Neighbors, with Jane Keckley, second from the right.

Eddie Quillan — Pride of the Clan (1929) | www.vintoz.com

Collection: Picture Play Magazine, February 1929