Ned Sparks

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Ned Sparks
Edward Arthur Sparkman

(1883-11-19)November 19, 1883
Guelph, Ontario, Canada
DiedApril 3, 1957(1957-04-03) (aged 73)
Years active1912[1]-1956
SpouseMercedes Cabalerro (1931-1936)

Ned Sparks (born Edward Arthur Sparkman,[2] November 19, 1883 – April 3, 1957) was a Canadian-born character actor of the American stage and screen. He was known for his deadpan expression and comically nasal, monotone delivery.

Life and career[edit]

Sparks was born in Guelph, Ontario, but moved to St. Thomas, Ontario, where he grew up. He left home at 16 and attempted prospecting in the Klondike Gold Rush. After running out of money, he began performing. Billed as a "Singer of Sweet Southern Songs" and costumed in a straw hat, short pants and bare feet, he won a spot as a singer on a traveling musical company's tour. At 19, he returned to Canada and briefly attended a Toronto seminary. He then worked for the railroad and in theater in Toronto. In 1907, he moved to New York City to try his hand in the Broadway theatre,[3] where he appeared in his first show in 1912.[1]

On Broadway, Sparks developed his trademark deadpan expression while portraying a hotel clerk in the play Little Miss Brown.[4] His success caught the attention of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio head Louis B. Mayer, who signed him to a six-picture deal. Sparks appeared in numerous silent films before making his "talkie" debut in The Big Noise (1928).[5] From 1915 to 1947 he appeared in some 90 pictures.

In the 1930s, Sparks became known for portraying dour-faced, sarcastic, cigar-chomping characters. He became so associated with the type that, in 1936, The New York Times reported that Sparks had his face insured for $100,000 with Lloyd's of London. Sparks later admitted the story was a publicity stunt and he was insured for only $10,000.[6] In another stunt, the studio offered a reward of $10,000 to anyone who could capture Sparks smiling in a photograph.[citation needed]

Sparks is particularly known for the wry, comic characters he portrayed in iconic pre-Code Hollywood pictures, such as Blessed Event (1932), 42nd Street (1933), Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933), Lady for a Day (1933), and Sing and Like It (1934).

Sparks was often caricatured in cartoons, including the Jack-in-the-Box character in the Disney short Broken Toys (1935), the jester in Mother Goose Goes Hollywood (1938),[7] a hermit crab in both Tex Avery's Fresh Fish (1939) and Bob Clampett's Goofy Groceries (1941), a chicken in Bob Clampett's Slap Happy Pappy (1940), Friz Freleng's Warner Bros. cartoon Malibu Beach Party (1940), and Tex Avery's Hollywood Steps Out (1941). He also voiced the cartoon characters Heckle and Jeckle from 1947 to 1951.

Sparks appeared in ten Broadway productions[1] and over 80 films. He retired from films in 1947, saying that everyone should retire at 65.

Sparks is a relative of Canadian comedian Ron Sparks.[citation needed]


Sparks died in Victorville, California, on April 3, 1957, from the effects of an intestinal blockage.[8]

Complete filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1915 The Little Miss Brown Night clerk Short
Lost film
1919 The Social Pirate Harry Barnes
A Temperamental Wife The Hotel Clerk
A Virtuous Vamp Mr. Bell
1920 Nothing But the Truth The Monocle Man Lost film
In Search of a Sinner Waiter Lost film
The Perfect Woman Grimes, the Anarchist
Good References Peter Stearns
1922 A Wide Open Town Si Ryan Lost film
The Bond Boy Cyrus Morgan Lost film
1923 Easter Bonnets Short
Lost film
1924 One Night It Rained Short
Lost film
The Law Forbids Clyde Vernon Incomplete film
1925 Asleep in the Deep Short
Lost film
The Boomerang Bert Hanks
His Supreme Moment Adrian Lost film
Faint Perfume Orrin Crumb Lost film
Seven Keys to Baldpate Bland Lost film
Bright Lights Barney Gallagher Lost film
The Only Thing Gibson Alternative title: Four Flaming Days
Soul Mates Tancred's chauffeur
1926 Mike Slinky Lost film
The Auction Block Nat Saluson Lost film
Money Talks Lucius Fenton Incomplete film
The Hidden Way Mulligan
When the Wife's Away
Love's Blindness Valet Lost film
Oh, What a Night! "Slickry" Benton Lost film
1927 The Secret Studio The Plumber Lost film
Alias the Deacon "Slim" Sullivan
Alias the Lone Wolf Phinuit
The Small Bachelor J. Hamilton Beamish Lost film
1928 On to Reno Herbert Holmes Lost film
The Big Noise William Howard Lost film
Alias the Deacon Slim Sullivan
The Magnificent Flirt Tim Lost film
1929 The Canary Murder Case Tony Sheel
Strange Cargo Yacht First Mate
Nothing But the Truth Clarence van Dyke
Street Girl Happy Winter
Love Comes Along Happy
1930 Double Cross Roads Happy Max
The Devil's Holiday Charlie Thorne
The Fall Guy Dan Walsh
Conspiracy Winthrop Clavering
Leathernecking Sparks
1931 Kept Husbands Hughie Hanready
Iron Man Riley
The Secret Call Bert Benedict
The Way of All Fish Ned Short
Strife of the Party Short
Corsair Slim
The Wide Open Spaces Sheriff Jack Rancid Short
1932 Big Dame Hunting Ned Short
The Miracle Man Harry Evans
Blessed Event George Moxley
Big City Blues "Stacky" Stackhouse
The Crusader Eddie Crane
1933 42nd Street Barry
Secrets Sunshine
Gold Diggers of 1933 Barney Hopkins
Lady for a Day Happy McGuire
Too Much Harmony Lem Spawn
Alice in Wonderland The Caterpillar
Going Hollywood Bert Conroy Alternative title: Cinderella's Fella
1934 Hi, Nellie! Shammy
Sing and Like It Toots McGuire
Private Scandal Inspector Riordan
Down to Their Last Yacht Captain "Sunny Jim" Roberts
Servants' Entrance Hjalmar Gnu
Marie Galante Plosser
Imitation of Life Elmer Smith
Sweet Adeline Dan Herzig
1935 Sweet Music "Ten Percent" Nelson
George White's 1935 Scandals Elmer White
1936 Collegiate "Scoop" Oakland
Two's Company Al
The Bride Walks Out Paul Dodson
1937 One in a Million Daniel "Danny" Simpson
Wake Up and Live Steve Cluskey
This Way Please Inky Wells
1938 Hawaii Calls Strings
1939 The Star Maker Speed King
1941 For Beauty's Sake Jonathan B. Sweet
1943 Stage Door Canteen Cameo as himself
1947 Magic Town Ike


  1. ^ a b c Ned Sparks at the Internet Broadway Database
  2. ^ Kear, Lynn; King, James (2012). Evelyn Brent: The Life and Films of Hollywood's Lady Crook. McFarland. p. 207. ISBN 978-0786454686. Retrieved August 26, 2018.
  3. ^ Foster (2003), pp. 971-972
  4. ^ Peak, Mayme Ober (June 26, 1939). "Plans to Retire And Smile Again". The Boston Globe – via Open access icon
  5. ^ Foster (2003). pp. 973, 977
  6. ^ Foster (2003), p. 980
  7. ^ Lucas, Ralph. "Ned Sparks". Archived from the original on June 6, 2010. Retrieved October 1, 2008.
  8. ^ "Milestones". Time. April 15, 1957. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved October 1, 2008.

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