Clyde Cook (actor)

Clyde Wilfred Cook (16 December 1891 – 13 August 1984) was an Australian-born vaudevillian who went on to perform in Hollywood and whose career spanned the silent film era, talkies and television.

Clyde Wilfred Cook
Cook in 1920
Born(1891-12-16)16 December 1891
Died13 August 1984(1984-08-13) (aged 92)
Years active1901–53

Career in Australia

He was born to John and Annie Cook at Hamilton, near Port Macquarie, Australia.[1] Cook moved with his family to Sydney when he was 6. He was already a skilled acrobat and dancer before he first appeared on stage in 1901 and within a few years he had developed a successful reputation as an all-round comic entertainer.[2][3] In 1906, J. C. Williamson placed Cook under contract and he worked with the company until about 1911, when he departed for the United Kingdom, determined to try his luck in the London music hall scene.[4] After some difficulty he succeeded and subsequently also worked at the Folies Bergere for 14 weeks.[5] He returned to Australia in 1916.[6]

Although he appears to have expressed a desire to join up during the First World War, unspecified "physical defects" meant he was unable to join the AIF. Instead he devoted much time to fund-raising and entertaining soldiers. His trademark moustache also appeared for the first time during Australian performances in 1917.[4] In 1918 he appeared in his first film, His Only Chance a J. C. Williamson's production made to support Red Cross fund-raising.[7] Then in 1919, in the height of the spanish flu epidemic, Cook brought an action against J. C. Williamsons over the impact on performers contacts caused by their closure of theatres. The action failed.[8] Soon after Cook left Australia for the United States.

Move to the United States

Appearing at the New York Hippodrome from mid 1919 until early 1920, he was reportedly immediately a success - often styled as the "Inja Rubber Idiot" in his early US performances.[4] During this season he was seen by film producer William Fox, who signed him for a series of comedy shorts to be made in Hollywood. He arrived there in 1920, making a string of comedies. In 1925 he was signed by Hal Roach and in 1927 by Warner Brothers.[4] His output was significant through the 1920s and he worked with many of the other well known silent comedians who had transitioned from vaudeville. He was popular and well enough known to headline many of the comedies.[6] He made a transition to supporting character roles in sound films, often playing cockney types in later life, as in the Bulldog Drummond film series, Mysterious Mr. Moto and as a London newspaper vendor in "A Ghost for Scotland Yard", a 1953 episode of The Adventures of Superman.[9]

Cook married actress Alice née Draper in 1925 and a child, Julia, was born of the union.[6] However, the marriage was not a success and they divorced acrimoniously in 1938.[10] In 1948 Cook returned to Australia to make contact with his older brother Tom, with whom he had had no contact for twelve years.[11]

His final film was a part in the John Ford film Donovan's Reef, made in 1963.

Cook died on 13 August 1984, at his home in Santa Barbara.[4]

Partial filmography


  1. Cook's biographer, Mitch McKay, argues that Cook's DOB was 1889. NSW Births, Deaths and Marriages states 1890 NSW Births Deaths & Marriage records. Archived 26 June 2019 at the Wayback Machine
  2. Tasmanian News (Hobart, Tas. : 1883 - 1911) Sat 13 Jun 1903 Page 4 "BAIN'S GAIETY ENTERTAINERS." Accessed 13 January 2017
  3. The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 - 1947) Fri 25 May 1906, Page 4, "Evening Entertainments." Accessed 13 January 2017
  4. Dr Clay Djubal. "Clyde Cook Research notes" (PDF). Australian Variety Theatre Archive. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  5. Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW : 1895 - 1930) Sun 20 Apr 1913 Page 24 "Theatrical and Musical." Accessed 13 January 2017
  6. M. Mckay (2012) Gone but not forgotten: the Clyde Cook story: the remarkable story of Australia's first true Hollywood star, Clyde Cook 1889-1984. Dashing Print, Port Macquarie, N.S.W. ISBN 9780987068415.
  7. Andrew Pike & Ross Cooper (1980) Australian Film 1900-1977 P.104. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0 19 554213 4
  8. Daily Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1915 - 1954), Sat 30 Aug 1919, Page 4, "CLYDE COOK'S APPEAL DISMISSED" Accessed 13 January 2017
  9. Anthony Slide (2012)Hollywood Unknowns: A History of Extras, Bit Players, and Stand-Ins P.162, University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 978-1617034749
  10. The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954), Sat 28 May 1938, Page 7, "Clyde Cook's Wife Gets £9000" Accessed 14 January 2017
  11. News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 - 1954), Wed 13 Oct 1948 Page 5 "'Custard pie' Comedian" Accessed 13 January 2017
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