Ford Sterling

Ford Sterling (born George Ford Stich Jr., November 3, 1883 – October 13, 1939) was an American comedian and actor best known for his work with Keystone Studios. One of the 'Big 4', he was the original chief of the Keystone Cops.

Ford Sterling
George Ford Stich Jr.

(1883-11-03)November 3, 1883
DiedOctober 13, 1939(1939-10-13) (aged 55)
OccupationActor and comedian
Spouse(s)Teddy Sampson (1914-1939; his death)


Born in La Crosse, Wisconsin, he began his career in silent films in 1911 with Biograph Studios. When director Mack Sennett left to set up Keystone Studios in 1912, Sterling followed him. There, he performed various roles, such as 'Chief Teeheezel' in the Keystone Cops series of slapstick comedies in a successful career that spanned twenty-five years.

From 1913 and throughout the 1910s, Sterling was among the most popular screen comedians in the world. Charlie Chaplin recalled that, when joining Keystone in early 1914, he was at first dismayed to discover that he was expected to imitate Sterling.[1] Chaplin and Sterling played together at least twice on film, in the one-reelers A Thief Catcher and Between Showers (both 1914).

In the 1920s, Sterling abandoned the short comedy format, instead playing supporting roles in both comedic and dramatic feature-length films, such as He Who Gets Slapped (1924) opposite Lon Chaney. After talking pictures came along, Sterling returned to appearing in short comedies.

Sterling was also a renowned amateur photographer, who won many prizes and at one point (in 1924) even had some of his work exhibited at the Louvre.[2]


Making a smooth transition to talking films, Ford Sterling made the last of his more than two hundred and seventy film appearances in 1936. He died in 1939 of a heart attack (following long standing diabetes) in Los Angeles, California and is interred in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Ford Sterling has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6612 Hollywood Blvd.

Partial filmography


  1. Chaplin, Charles: My Autobiography (Bodley Head, 1964), p. 143.
  2. White, Wendy Warwick: Ford Sterling - The Life and Films (McFarland & Company, 2007), p. 87.
  • Wendy Warwick White, Ford Sterling - His Life and Films (McFarland & Company, 2007) ISBN 0-7864-2587-3
  • Simon Louvish, Keystone: The Life and Clowns of Mack Sennett (Faber & Faber, 2005) ISBN 0-571-21100-3
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