Larry Semon — Simple Semon (1925) 🇬🇧

Larry Semon — Simple Semon (1925) |

February 22, 2024

Little would one think that for years Larry Semon, one of the screen’s cleverest fun-makers had been consumed with a great desire to make a film of America’s foremost fantastic comedy story.

Comedians are usually labelled as being born idiots who are as funny off the screen as they are on it; who toss custard pies at the luncheon table, place pails of whitewash in grandfather’s path, ogle all the pretty girls and think only in terms of baggy trousers, and funny hats. Few are given credit for being-serious-minded men, and it does, not seem to occur to anyone that perhaps the comedian really hates his job and is merely giving the public what he is told the picturegoers want.

“Film stars are what the public make them,” I once heard someone say, and this, in a sense, is true.

Mary Pickford did the most daring thing in her career when she decided to forsake short frocks and play a grown-up part on the screen. Most people thought they would never like Mary again — and Mary showed her bravery by doing just what she thought the public might like- She might have failed, and then… well — Mary scored a triumph, so why dwell on what might have been.

Larry Semon in filming a spectacular comedy has also dared what few others would have cared to undertake.

To dive straight from slap-stick into a romantic comedy with the imaginary city of Oz as a background, to build “sets” which would do justice to an historical super film, and to introduce such artistes as Bryant Washburn, Mary Carr, and Josef Swickard into comedy took a lot of courage. But Semon has the courage of his convictions.

Few realise that Semon is one of the most modest and retiring of film stars, and that if he were not such a successful film comedian, he could earn a fortune as a cartoonist and caricaturist, or as a magician. But Semon wouldn’t tell you so. It must have been the magician in him which so attracted him to L. Frank Baum’s story, which is full of wizardry. The Wizard of Oz, magic runs riot — all the eye-deceiving “stunts” which Larry has stored up in his brain ever since he first read the story, have been allowed full play.

In Italy Semon has a bigger vogue than Chaplin. He has been awarded the Medal d’Onore of the Milan Fair, and so much have the Italians taken him to their hearts that they call him, not Larry Semon — but Ridolini.

Now, their Ridolini is married and one day, soon, Semon hopes to visit Italy. With the signing of his new contract with British Exhibitors’ Films for the distribution of his films in England comes the promise from Semon to make a film in Britain. It is rumoured that he may combine a delayed honeymoon and business and come to London within the next few weeks. If so, we shall have the opportunity of meeting in person not only Semon, but his charming wife née Dorothy Dwan, with whom he fell in love whilst she was creating his Princess in The Wizard of Oz.

Larry Semon is reminiscent of the most popular of French clowns, with a whimsicality which has brought him thousands of admirers. Clowns are born tragedians, and one wonders if some day Semon may not be seen in serious productions. It takes a clever man to be a fool — and if Semon should suddenly desire to play Hamlet we shall have lost one of the few screen stars who make life more bearable.

Larry Semon — Simple Semon (1925) |

Below: Dorothy Dwan, who has become Mrs. Larry Semon

Top left: The final stunt in The Wizard of Oz.

Above: Bryant Washburn who grew a moustache specially for his role in this movie.

Larry Semon — Simple Semon (1925) |

Three of the principals in The Wizard of Oz

Left: Larry Semon as the Kansas simpleton The Wizard of Oz

Below: Charles Murray and a resplendent “Topper.”

Above: Dorothy Dwan and Larry Semon.

Collection: Picturegoer Magazine, May 1925