Al St. John
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Al St. John
Who's Who on the Screen, 1920
Alfred St. John
September 10, 1892
Santa Ana, California, U.S.
|Died||January 21, 1963 (aged 70)|
Lyons, Georgia, U.S.
|Occupation||Actor, stunt performer, director, writer|
|Spouse(s)||Lillian Marion Ball (1914–1923; divorced); 1 child|
June Price Pearce (1926–1957)
Yvonne St. John (m.19??–19??)
Flo-Bell Moore (19??–1963; his death)
Al St. John (September 10, 1892 – January 21, 1963) was an early American film comedian, and nephew of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, with whom he often appeared. He was employed by Mack Sennett and worked with many leading players such as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Mabel Normand. In the talkies, he played the scruffy comedy relief character "Fuzzy Q. Jones" who appeared in dozens of films, including the Producers Releasing Corporation's "Billy the Kid" series from 1940 to 1946, and their "Lone Rider" series from 1941 to 1943.
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Born in Santa Ana, California to Walter St. John and Nora Arbuckle, he entered silent films around 1912 and soon rose to co-starring and starring roles in short comic films from a variety of studios. His uncle on his mother's side, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, may have helped him in his early days at Mack Sennett Studios, but talent kept him working. He was also an acrobat.
St. John frequently appeared as Arbuckle's mischievously villainous rival for the attentions of leading ladies such as Mabel Normand and Minta Durfee. He worked with Arbuckle and Charles Chaplin in The Rounders (1914), although his most critically praised film during this period with Arbuckle remains Fatty and Mabel Adrift (1916). In France, he was billed as "Picratt."
When Arbuckle formed his own production company, he brought St. John with him and recruited stage star Buster Keaton into his films, creating a formidable roughhouse trio. After Arbuckle was involved in a widely publicized scandal that prevented him from appearing in movies, he pseudonymously directed his nephew Al as a comic leading man in silent and sound films such as The Iron Mule (1925) and Bridge Wives (1932). Dozens of St. John's early films were screened during the 56-film Arbuckle retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 2006.
During the sound era St. John was mainly seen as an increasingly scruffy and bearded comic character. He played this rube role in Buster Keaton's 1937 comedy Love Nest on Wheels. That same year he began supporting cowboy stars Fred Scott and later Jack Randall, but most of his films were made for Poverty Row studio Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC). For that studio, he played "Fuzzy Q. Jones" in the Billy the Kid series starring Bob Steele, the Lone Rider series (starring George Houston and later Bob Livingston), and the Billy the Kid/Billy Carson series starring Buster Crabbe.
The name "Fuzzy" originally belonged to a different actor, John Forrest “Fuzzy“ Knight, who took on the role of "cowboy sidekick" before St. John. The studio first intended to hire Knight for the western series, but then gave the role to St. John instead, who took on the nickname of his rival for his screen character.
Exhibitors loved Fuzzy, who could be counted on to attract moviegoers. Fuzzy's character was the main box-office draw in these films when shown in England and Europe. These ultra-low-budget Westerns took only a bit more than a week to film, so that Crabbe and St. John made 36 films together in a surprisingly short time. When Crabbe left PRC (according to interviews, in disgust at their increasingly low budgets), St. John was paired with new star Lash LaRue. Ultimately, St. John made more than 80 Westerns as Fuzzy.
St. John also created a character, "Stoney," in the film The Law of 45's that later appeared, but played by different actors (including John Wayne), in the continuing Western film series The Three Mesquiteers.
St. John's last film was released in 1952. From that time on until his death in 1963 in Lyons, Georgia, he made personal appearances at fairs and rodeos, and traveled with the Tommy Scott Wild West Show. Altogether, Al St. John acted in 395 movies, spanning five decades from 1912 to 1952. He was working with a traveling Wild West show in Georgia and was waiting to go on when he suffered a massive heart attack and died at age 70.
- Those Great Cowboy Sidekicks, by David Rothel (WOY Publishing, NC, 1984, 2001); ISBN 0-8108-1707-1.
- Fuzzy St. John: Our Fuzzy Q. Jones, by Bobby J. Copeland (Empire Pub. Co. 2010); ISBN 978-0-944019-57-3.
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