Monday, June 14, 2010

Happy birthday, Gil Lamb!

Rubber-limbed comedian Gil Lamb was born on this date 106 years ago in Minneapolis, Minnesota—and like many of the individuals we give a birthday shout-out to at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, his name may not be familiar but his face probably is. During the 1930s Lamb achieved vaudeville and Broadway fame as an eccentric dancer, and by 1942 he had signed on at Paramount Pictures as a contract player where he did specialty bits in films like The Fleet's In (1942—in which he does his memorable “swallowing a harmonica” gag) and Star Spangled Rhythm (1942). His main motion picture fame was a series of first-rate two-reel comedies that he cranked out for R-K-O between 1949 and 1953 (usually playing a naïve bumpkin named “Slim”) with titles like And Baby Makes Two (1953) and Pardon My Wrench (1953). Gil’s film work continued on, with small roles in The Boss (1956), Bells Are Ringing (1960), Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) and Good Neighbor Sam (1964). Lamb became a noticeable presence in many of the movies released by the Walt Disney Studios, in vehicles like The Gnome-Mobile (1967), Blackbeard's Ghost (1968), The Love Bug (1969) and The Boatniks (1970).

And of course, Gil did not want for work on television—he hosted a variety series entitled Window on the World for the DuMont network in 1949, and made guest appearances on the likes of Bronco, The Twilight Zone, Gunsmoke, My Mother the Car, Pistols ‘n’ Petticoats, My Three Sons, The Wild Wild West, Mayberry R.F.D. and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. (His R.F.D. appearance hasn’t turned up yet, but he was in the “Sam for Town Council” episode of The Andy Griffith Show that I watched about a month back.) Though he may only be remembered today by die-hard film buffs and Disney fans, Gil Lamb was a truly remarkable individual blessed with the gift for making mirth…and for that, we’d like to wish him a most joyous natal anniversary.

(Addendum: Thanks to Facebook compadre Greg Hilbrich, who sent me a heads-up about a half-hour ago, here's Gil's Pardon My Wrench through the magic of YouTube...)

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