• Billy Gilbert

A page from an autograph album signed with a fountain pen by Billy Gilbert, the American comedian and actor who began working in vaudeville at the age of 12. In 1929 Gilbert was spotted by Stan Laurel who was in the audience of Gilbert's show Sensations of 1929 and Laurel introduced him to comedy producer Hal Roach. Gilbert was employed as a gag writer, actor and director, and at the age of 35 he appeared in his first film. He appeared in support of Roach's comedy stars Laurel and Hardy, Charley Chase, Thelma Todd and Our Gang, and like many other Roach contractees, Gilbert found similar work at other studios. He appears in the early comedies of the Three Stooges as well as other RKO shorts. This led to featured roles in full-length films, and from 1934 Billy Gilbert became one of the screen's most familiar faces. One of his standard routines had Gilbert progressively getting excited or nervous about something, and his speech would break down into facial spasms, culminating in a big, loud sneeze. He used this routine so frequently that Walt Disney thought of him immediately when casting the voice of Sneezy in 1937's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Gilbert and Disney would later work together again in Mickey and the Beanstalk, with Gilbert voicing Willie the Giant in a very similar way to Sneezy. He appeared as "Herring", the minister of war in Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator, he danced with Alice Faye and Betty Grable in Tin Pan Alley and he stole scenes as a dim witted process server in the fast-paced comedy His Girl Friday. Gilbert also worked in 1950s television, including a memorable pantomime sketch with Buster Keaton. He died of a stroke on September 23, 1971, in Hollywood.

Billy Gilbert

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