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|Born||Clyde A. Bruckman
September 20, 1894
San Jose, California
|Died||January 4, 1955
Santa Monica, California
(1917–1931; her death)
(1932–1955; his death)
Clyde A. Bruckman (September 20, 1894 – January 4, 1955) was an American writer and director of comedy films during the late silent era as well as the early sound era of cinema. Bruckman collaborated with such comedians as Buster Keaton, W. C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges, Abbott and Costello and Harold Lloyd.
Bruckman (pronounced "BROOK-man") may be best known for his collaborations with Buster Keaton, as Bruckman co-wrote several of Keaton's most popular films, including Our Hospitality, Sherlock Jr., The Navigator, Seven Chances, The Cameraman and The General, which Bruckman also co-directed.
Bruckman continued directing comedies during the sound era, his most famous credit being The Fatal Glass of Beer, W. C. Fields' esoteric satire of Yukon melodramas. Unfortunately for his career path, Bruckman's fondness for alcohol caused production delays that cost him directorial assignments. From 1935 forward, Bruckman would be limited to writing scripts.
Bruckman's wealth of silent-comedy experience earned him a steady position in Columbia Pictures' short-subject department (Bruckman was instrumental in Columbia's hiring his old boss Buster Keaton in 1939). Bruckman continued to write new material for The Three Stooges and other comics, but as time went by he resorted to borrowing gags from Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton's silent films. After Bruckman lifted the magician's-coat sequence from Lloyd's Movie Crazy for The Three Stooges' Loco Boy Makes Good, and the "loosely basted tuxedo" routine from Lloyd's The Freshman for the Stooges' Three Smart Saps, Lloyd sued Columbia and won. ("Never mind that Bruckman had co-written and co-directed Movie Crazy, giving him a pretty strong claim to intellectual ownership of the routine, or that Bruckman and Lloyd may very well have borrowed their ideas from a vaudeville act in the first place", wrote Ethan Gates in The New Republic, reviewing Matthew Dessem's 2015 biography of Bruckman, The Gag Man.)
Bruckman was hired by Universal Pictures to write comedy scenes for the studio's "B" musical features. This was a lucrative assignment that paid better than short subjects. He continued recycling gags but on a larger scale, now lifting entire sequences from older films. He inserted the tuxedo routine into Universal's "B" musical-comedy feature Her Lucky Night. Bruckman adapted material from Lloyd's Welcome Danger into Universal's Joan Davis-Leon Errol comedy She Gets Her Man, and again consulted Movie Crazy for Universal's "B" comedy So's Your Uncle. Lloyd, outraged by three "wholesale infringements" within months, filed suit for US$1,700,000; the court ruled for Lloyd but granted damages of $40,000. Bruckman was fired, and never worked on a feature film again. Demoralized, he returned to Columbia, where his work was now so slipshod that he would simply hand in an old script, without any attempt at updating or revising it.
The advent of television, and its constant need for broadcast material, gave Bruckman a new start. Abbott and Costello launched a filmed television series in 1951. Having used up most of their own familiar routines during the show's first season, the comedians hired Clyde Bruckman, and his mental storehouse of gags saw them through a second season. Although Bruckman received credit for several scripts, these turned out to contain reworkings of old Keaton and Lloyd gags. Again, Lloyd filed suit, naming Abbott & Costello's production company as a party to the suit. As a result, other producers were unwilling to hire Bruckman.
Bruckman's only safe haven was Columbia, but producer Jules White had already filled his quota of scripts for that season, and had no immediate need for Bruckman's services.
With nowhere else to turn, the desolate Bruckman borrowed a .45-caliber pistol from Buster Keaton, claiming to need it for a hunting trip. On the afternoon of January 4, 1955, Bruckman, a resident of Santa Monica, California, parked his car outside a local restaurant, entered a restroom and shot himself in the head.
Some reports claim the location was Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood, but according to his January 5 obituary it was in the city of Santa Monica and Bruckman left a typewritten note for the "gentlemen of the Santa Monica Police Department." Neither Jules White nor Buster Keaton had any inkling of Bruckman's intentions.
Bruckman married first wife Lola in 1917. She died after complications from emergency surgery on October 8, 1931. He was married to his second wife, Gladys, from March 1932 until his death.
The X-Files Season 3 episode "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" features a character, played by Peter Boyle, who foresees how other people die. Two detective characters on that episode are named Havez and Cline, after Jean Havez and Eddie Cline, two other writers who also worked with Buster Keaton. As with his real-life namesake, Boyle's Bruckman character commits suicide.
- Gates, Ethan (September 9, 2015). "Once A Joke Goes Viral, Who Cares Where It Came From?". The New Republic. Retrieved September 10, 2015.
- Variety, January 6, 1955, Clyde Bruckman Obituary