Edward F. Cline

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Edward F. Cline
Edward F Cline - May 1920 MPN.jpg
Eddie Cline in 1920
Born Edward Francis Cline
(1891-11-04)November 4, 1891
Kenosha, Wisconsin, U.S.
Died May 22, 1961(1961-05-22) (aged 69)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Occupation Film director, screenwriter, actor

Edward Francis Cline (November 4, 1891 – May 22, 1961) was an American screenwriter, actor, writer and director best known for his work with comedians W. C. Fields and Buster Keaton. He was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin and died in Hollywood, California.


Buster Keaton and Eddie Cline in a 1920 advertisement

Edward F. Cline began working for Mack Sennett's Keystone Studios in 1914 and supported Charlie Chaplin in some of the shorts he made at the studio. At one time he claimed credit for having come up with the idea for the Sennett Bathing Beauties.[1] When Buster Keaton began making his own shorts, after having worked with Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle for years, he hired Cline as his co-director.[2] In Keaton's short films Cline and Keaton himself were the only two regular gag men.[3] For Keaton's 1921 short, Hard Luck, Cline is credited with originating Keaton's personal favorite gag from his films. At the end of the film, Keaton dives into a swimming pool which has been emptied of water. Years later he emerges from the hole which his fall created, accompanied by a Chinese wife and two small Chinese-American children.[4] Besides working on most of Keaton's early shorts, Cline co-directed Keaton's first feature, Three Ages (1923).[1]

Though he worked mostly in comedy, Cline also directed some melodramas, and the musical Leathernecking (1930), Irene Dunne's film debut.[1]

Cline began his association with W. C. Fields in the 1932 Paramount film Million Dollar Legs. The film had several veterans of Mack Sennett's Keystone films, including Andy Clyde, Ben Turpin, and Hank Mann. Producer Herman J. Mankiewicz recalled of Cline, "He was very much of the old, old comedy school. He didn't know what was happening in Million Dollar Legs. At all. But he enjoyed doing it, because he had Andy Clyde. And Ben Turpin. And Bill Fields."[5]

During troubles with the shooting of Fields's 1939 film You Can't Cheat an Honest Man, largely resulting from Fields's clashes with director George Marshall, Fields managed to put Cline in the director's chair. Co-star Constance Moore remembered, "Before Mr. Fields did the famous Ping-Pong scene he wanted Mr. Cline. He said, 'I've worked with Cline. He knows my work.' He first put out his feelers. Then he started asking for Cline. Then he demanded him..."[6] Cline's work on the film lasted only ten days during which he shot the party scene containing the ping pong game.[7]

As director of My Little Chickadee (1940), Cline's desire that the actors follow the script caused some difficulties with Fields, until Cline finally submitted to Fields's tendency to ad-lib. Cline objected to the ad-libbing because it caused the crew to laugh, and Cline's own laughter necessitated a quick cut at the end of one of Fields's barroom scenes.[8]

Cline directed Fields's last two starring films, The Bank Dick (1940) and Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941). Recalling their work together, Cline said that Fields chose him to direct his films because he was the only person in Hollywood who knew "less about making movies" than Fields himself.[8] Assistant director Edward Montagne remembered, "Fields and Cline were basically the same type. They both had great comedy sense... With actors, if he thought they were on the right track, he'd let them go."[8]

Universal Pictures, which had hired Cline to direct Fields, released Fields in 1941 but retained Cline, signing him to a new contract. Cline went on to direct many of the studio's musical comedies, starring Gloria Jean, The Ritz Brothers, and Olsen and Johnson, among many others. He was dismissed, along with other directors, producers, and actors, when new owners took over the studio in 1945. Cline moved over to Monogram Pictures, directing and/or writing the studio's "Jiggs and Maggie" comedies. The last one, in 1950, was co-directed by veteran William Beaudine; it signaled the end of Eddie Cline's movie career.


Cline became a pioneer in television when his old crony, Buster Keaton, became one of the first movie comedians to succeed in the new medium. Keaton and Cline collaborated on two of Keaton's series.

Comic bandleader Spike Jones was famous for using wild visual gags in his band's performances, and his television show required even more material. Jones found an ideal resource in Eddie Cline, whose knack for comedy (and long memory for old sight gags) made him a valuable assistant. Cline remained in Jones's employ well into the 1950s.

Partial filmography[edit]

Cline is credited as director unless noted. He directed nearly sixty Mack Sennett comedies between 1914 and 1933.[9]

Year Title Notes
1914 Rounders, TheThe Rounders Short film; actor only[10]
1916 His Bread and Butter Short film[10]
1920 One Week Short film; also screenwriter[10]
1920 Convict 13 Short film; also screenwriter, actor[10]
1920 Neighbors Short film; also screenwriter and actor[10]
1920 Scarecrow, TheThe Scarecrow Short film; also screenwriter[10]
1921 Haunted House, TheThe Haunted House Short film; also screenwriter and actor[10]
1921 Hard Luck Short film; also screenwriter[10]
1921 The High Sign Short film; also screenwriter[10]
1921 Goat, TheThe Goat Short film; actor only[10]
1921 Playhouse, TheThe Playhouse Short film; also screenwriter[10] and actor
1921 Boat, TheThe Boat Short film; also screenwriter and actor[10]
1922 Paleface, TheThe Paleface Short film; also screenwriter[10]
1922 Cops Short film; also screenwriter and actor[10]
1922 My Wife's Relations Short film; also screenwriter and actor[10]
1922 Frozen North, TheThe Frozen North Short film; also screenwriter[10]
1922 Electric House, TheThe Electric House Short film; also screenwriter[10]
1922 Daydreams Short film; also screenwriter and actor[10]
1923 Balloonatic, TheThe Balloonatic Short film; also screenwriter[10]
1923 Love Nest, TheThe Love Nest Short film; also screenwriter[10]
1923 Circus Days [11]
1923 Three Ages Co-director (with Buster Keaton)[11]
1923 Meanest Man in the World, TheThe Meanest Man in the World [11]
1924 Along Came Ruth [11]
1924 Little Robinson Crusoe [11]
1924 Captain January [11]
1925 Rag Man, TheThe Rag Man [11]
1925 Old Clothes [11]
1927 Let It Rain [11]
1927 Soft Cushions [11]
1929 Forward Pass, TheThe Forward Pass [11]
1930 Hook, Line and Sinker [11]
1930 Leathernecking [11]
1931 Cracked Nuts [11]
1932 Million Dollar Legs [11]
1934 Dude Ranger, TheThe Dude Ranger [11]
1934 Peck's Bad Boy [11]
1935 When a Man's a Man [11]
1939 You Can't Cheat an Honest Man [11]
1940 My Little Chickadee [11]
1940 Bank Dick, TheThe Bank Dick [11]
1941 Never Give a Sucker an Even Break [11]
1942 Give Out, Sisters [11]
1942 What's Cookin'? [11]
1942 Behind the Eight Ball [11]
1943 Crazy House [11]
1944 Hat Check Honey [11]
1944 Ghost Catchers [11]
1945 Penthouse Rhythm [11]
1946 Bringing up Father [11]
1947 Jiggs and Maggie in Society Also screenwriter[11]
1947 Jiggs and Maggie in Court Also screenwriter[11]
1949 Jiggs and Maggie in Jackpot Jitters Screenwriter only[11]
1950 Jiggs and Maggie Out West Co-director (with William Beaudine) and screenwriter[11]


  1. ^ a b c Curtis, James (2003). W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 405. ISBN 0-06-017337-8. 
  2. ^ Meade, Marion (1995). Buster Keaton: Cut to the Chase. New York: Harper Collins. p. 93. ISBN 0-06-017337-8. 
  3. ^ Meade, p. 134.
  4. ^ Meade, p. 104.
  5. ^ Curtis, p. 241.
  6. ^ Curtis, pp. 384-385.
  7. ^ Curtis, pp. 386-387.
  8. ^ a b c Curtis, p. 407.
  9. ^ Walker, Brent E. (2010). Mack Sennett's Fun Factory. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 559. ISBN 978-0-7864-7711-1. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t "Eddie Cline". BFI Film & TV Database. British Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-09-25. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah "Edward F. Cline". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-09-25. 

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