Ford Sterling

Stolen Glory
R: Mack Sennett. D: Ford Sterling, Fred Mace, Alice Davenport, Charles Avery, Victoria Forde. P: Keystone Film Company. USA 1912
Print: BFI

Mack Sennett, Keystone’s presiding genius, ran his studio as an assembly line, pumping out comedies by the yard, with an accomplished, hard-wearing troupe of performers able to fit themselves perfectly into the rigours of whatever routine Sennett had dreamt up for them this week. Three things were particularly noticeable about the films: the unquenchable vitality of the performers, the opportunistic taste for sketches to be devised out of some local event or eye-catching piece of scenery, and the phenomenal speed. One knows all about the knockabout thrills of American slapstick, but looking at a film like Love, Speed and Thrills (1915), the sheer number of shots, angles and different set-ups was prodigious, and seemed to run counter to the demand for getting out the films cheaply and quickly. They made such work for themselves, simply by the pursuit of comic excellence. Not that one could call all of the films strictly funny as such – not funny now, that is – and that the grotesquely gesticulating Ford Sterling was ever revered as a comedian has left posterity baffled. Sterling pulled every face known to man (and a few that man has now happily forgotten) in his efforts to draw laughter out of the curious Stolen Glory (1912), where he and Fred Mace play warring Civil War veterans, filmed interrupting a genuine war veterans’ parade, apparently without any protest from the participants.”
Luke McKernan
Pordenone diary 2008–day four
The Bioscope

A Muddy Romance
R: Mack Sennett. D: Mabel Normand, Ford Sterling, Charles Inslee, Mack Swain, Charles Avery. P: Keystone Film Company. USA 1913

Ford Sterling
“He is remembered for his work with Keystone Studios in Edendale, California and was the original chief of the ever popular fictional bumbling police unit The Keystone Cops. Born George Ford Stich, Jr. he ran away from home at a young age to join the circus and also performed on Mississippi River show boats. In 1905 he got his start on the stage in the play ‘Breaking Into Society.’ He then moved to California and in 1911 began his career in silent films with Biograph Studios. After director Mack Sennett left to set up Keystone Studios, he followed him and there he performed as ‘Chief Teeheezel’ in the Keystone Cops series of slapstick comedies in a successful career that spanned twenty-five years. In 1914 he co-founded the Sterling Film Company with director and cinematographer Fred J. Balshofer. A prolific actor, he appeared in over 275 films during his career, most notably Tango Tangles (1914), Between Showers (1914), and The Show Off (1926). His last film was The Headline Woman (1935, with Heather Angel).”
William Bjornstad
Find a Grave

Double Crossed
R: Ford Sterling. D: Ford Sterling, Emma Bell Clifton, Mack Swain, Chester Conklin, Al St. John. P: Keystone Film Company. USA 1914

“Sterling took to the farcical, fast-paced world of Sennett’s new Keystone Film Company like a fish takes to water. There his stage training, his acrobatic experience, and penchant for silly faces that only a cartoonist could perfect would not only come in handy, but make him famous. He starred in many of Keystone’s earliest releases, including the very first one that was likely filmed, At Coney Island (1912) and the first one Sennett released, Cohen Collects a Debt (1912). Mabel Normand and Fred Mace were frequent co-stars. Sterling seems to have portrayed a comical Jewish character for some of these films, although in a short time he would be identified – perhaps forever – with his ‘Dutch’ character. This character, often called ‘Schintzel’ or other German-sounding names, had a frock coat, a battered top hat, round wire frame glasses and a chin beard. This was merely his look; what made the characterization pure Ford was a hammy, cartoony, go-for-broke performance style complete with his crowning glory: goofy faces. These were his ‘trademarks’ in a sense, even used to advertise his talents.”