Edward F. Cline Poster

Biography

Edward "Eddie" Cline began his career in the film business as one of the Keystone Kops. The former vaudevillian appeared sporadically in films as an actor until 1922, but became increasingly active behind the camera as a gagman and scenario writer for Mack Sennett. From 1916 he worked on a steady stream of two-reelers, either as director or assistant director, for such comedians as Buster Keaton, Ford Sterling and Mack Swain. An expert in slapstick comedy with an unerring sense of timing, Cline was consistently in demand by Hollywood studios during the 1920s and served short-term contracts with Fox (the "Sunshine" comedies), Pathe, First National, MGM and Paramount.

During the sound era he had more periods of steadier employment, particularly at Universal (1939-45). He became the favorite director of comedian W.C. Fields. In fact, Fields would often demand Cline's participation, much to the consternation of the studios. In one instance, director Edward Sedgwick was assigned to the Fields comedy You Can't Cheat an Honest Man (1939), but was replaced by Cline just two days into shooting because he couldn't get along with Fields. Cline frequently worked out comedy routines by standing in for the Fields character in rehearsals. As for being able to get along with the notoriously prickly star, Cline believed in just "letting him run with it" and later editing out any unwanted ad-libs (which Fields had a habit of inserting at the end of his lines). Unfortunately, those famous ad-libs often tended to crack up the camera crew and ruin the take . . .

Cline directed Fields in some of his funniest comedies, including My Little Chickadee (1940) and The Bank Dick (1940) (the climactic car chase was largely due to Cline's input). He teamed up once more with Keaton for the anachronistic slapstick farce The Villain Still Pursued Her (1940). Cline's output diminished by the mid-'40s and he retired from directing in 1951.