Flora Finch and John Bunny

Suing Susan
R: Larry Trimble. D: John Bunny, Flora Finch, Dorothy Kelly, James Morrison. P: Vitagraph. USA 1912

Stenographer Troubles
R: Frederick A. Thomson. B: Van Dyke Brooke. D: John Bunny, Flora Finch, Florence Turner, Lillian Walker, Clara Kimball Young, Norma Talmadge. P: Vitagraph. USA 1913
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

“One of the funniest Bunny pictures that has come out. The very best Vitagraph players have good roles, and it made a houseful roar with laughter. Flora Finch, as the stenographer who is acceptable to the boss, John Bunny, because he thinks there will be no danger of her flirting instead of working, draws a most astonishingly farcical character. When Florence Turner, Bunny’s rather fiery wife, got in a rage on account of her the house bellowed. It most surely is a picture not to be missed. It is full of good character and full of laughter from beginning to end. Such a picture will repay special advertising.”
Moving Picture World, February 22, 1913

Flora Finch (1867-1940), like many actresses from the period, tried to capitalize on her fame by starting her own self-titled film production company. Although Flora Finch’s name, as well as her thin, angular face and body, is commonly linked with that of comedian John Bunny, she enjoyed a long and distinguished acting career in her own right, one that went beyond her ‘skinny’ role in the ‘fatty and skinny’ film comedy team of Bunny-and-Finch. Born in Surrey, England, Finch initially pursued a stage career with the Sir Philip Ben Greet Shakespearean Players until 1907. Newspaper reports claim she immigrated to the United States in 1908, working first with the Biograph Company before moving to the Vitagraph Company in 1909. (…) In fact, she appeared on screen in at least seven Griffith Biograph shorts before 1910, including Those Awful Hats (1909), where she plays a film spectator who is lifted out of her seat by a crane-like device in order to prevent her enormous hat from blocking the screen—a not-so-subtle way of warning female spectators to remove their hats during film showings. (…) Finch receives her first official credit for the 1908 Griffith film, The Helping Hand.

After leaving Biograph in 1909, Finch began work at the Vitagraph studios in Brooklyn, New York, where she made The New Stenographer (1911), her first motion picture with John Bunny [not to confuse with the 1913 Stenographer film shown above. KK]. Finch’s work in that film resulted in a five-year contract with Vitagraph, during which she starred with Bunny in a series of extremely popular marital situation farces. Finch claims that while at Vitagraph, she and Bunny ‘turned out a one-reel picture a week’ and ‘produced close on to three hundred comedies”. Described as the screen’s ‘original Ugly Duckling,’ Finch’s harsh, bony features and rail-thin frame delighted audiences in more than two hundred and sixty films, and her style of slapstick, with its frequent incorporation of unique stunts, became a prototype that later comediennes would emulate.

For example, Mabel Normand claimed that Finch was instrumental in the development of Normand’s own intricate comedic style, claiming that ‘every fiber in my body responded to Flora Finch’s celebrated comedies; and though I was quiteunconscious of it, I can see now that I was always wondering how I would do the funny littlestunts she did in her pictures’. When John Bunny succumbed to Bright’s disease on April 26, 1915, Finch’s career also seemed to come to a premature end, and so rare were her screen appearances around 1915 that most newspapers claimed that Finch had retired. In fact, by 1916 Finch was struggling to establish her own venture, the Flora Finch Comedy Company, under which she produced a series of slapstick shorts based on famous photodramas and plays, a development covered in both theLos Angeles Times’ andMoving Picture World.'”
April Miller
Women Film Pioneers Project

>>> John Bunny and Flora Finch

>>> The Stenographer’s Friend