Mack Swain

Mack Swain (born Moroni Swain,[1] February 16, 1876 August 25, 1935) was an early American film actor, who appeared in many of Mack Sennett’s comedies at Keystone Studios, including the Keystone Cops series. He also appeared in major features by Charlie Chaplin.

Mack Swain
Photograph by Albert Witzel, 1920
Moroni Swain

(1876-02-16)February 16, 1876
DiedAugust 25, 1935(1935-08-25) (aged 59)
OccupationActor, vaudevillian
Years active1913-1935
Cora Claire King (m. 1899)

Early years

Swain was born on February 16, 1876 to Robert Henry Swain and Mary Ingeborg Jensen in Salt Lake City, Utah and was educated in Salt Lake City's public schools. He ran away from home at age 15, joining a minstrel show. His mother took him home after one performance, but he persuaded her to let him continue in entertainment.[2]


In the early 1900s, Swain had his own stock theater company, which performed in the western[3] and midwestern United States.[4]

Swain worked in vaudeville before starting in silent film at Keystone Studios under Mack Sennett. While with Keystone, he was teamed up with Chester Conklin to make a series of comedy films. With Swain as "Ambrose" and Conklin as the grand mustachioed "Walrus", they performed these roles in several films including The Battle of Ambrose and Walrus and Love, Speed and Thrills, both made in 1915.

Besides these comedies, the two appeared together in a variety of other films, 26 all told, and they also appeared separately and/or together in films starring Mabel Normand, Charles Chaplin, Roscoe Arbuckle and most of the rest of the roster of Keystone players.

Swain later took his Ambrose character with him to the L-KO Kompany. Having already worked with Charles Chaplin at Keystone, Swain began working with Chaplin again at First National in 1921, appearing in The Idle Class, Pay Day, and The Pilgrim. He is also remembered for his large supporting role as Big Jim McKay' in the 1925 film The Gold Rush,[1] for United Artists, written by and starring Chaplin.[5]

Personal life

Swain was married to actress Cora King.[6]


Swain died in Tacoma, Washington on August 25, 1935 following an illness that only lasted a few hours.[5]


For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Swain received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 1500 Vine Street.[7]

Partial filmography

Year Title Role Notes
1914A False BeautyThe Policeman
1914Caught in the RainHusbandShort
1914His Musical CareerMike aka Ambrose - Tom's PartnerShort
1914Tillie's Punctured RomanceJohn Banks
1914Getting AcquaintedAmbroseShort
1915Love, Speed and ThrillsShort
1921The Idle ClassEdna's FatherShort, Uncredited
1922Pay DayForemanShort
1923The PilgrimDeacon Jones
1925The Gold RushBig Jim McKay
1925The EagleInnkeeperUncredited
1926Hands Up!Silas Woodstock
1926TorrentDon Matías
1926Sea HorsesBimbo-Bomba
1926The Cohens and KellysMinor RoleUncredited
1926Footloose WidowsLudwig, Marian's husband-in-retrospect
1926Honesty – The Best PolicyBendy Joe
1926The Nervous WreckJerome Underwood
1926Her Big NightMyers
1926Whispering WiresMcCarthy
1927The Beloved RogueNicholas
1927See You in JailSlossom
1927The Shamrock and the RoseMr. Kelly
1927The Tired Business ManMike Murphy
1927MockeryVladimir Gaidaroff
1927Finnegan's BallPatrick Flannigan
1927My Best GirlThe Judge
1927BeckyIrving Spiegelberg
1927A Texas SteerBragg
1927The Girl from EverywhereWilfred Ashcraft - Director
1928Gentlemen Prefer BlondesSir Francis Beekman
1928Tillie's Punctured RomanceTillie's Father
1928Caught in the FogDetective Ryan
1928The Last WarningRobert Bunce
1929The Cohens and the Kellys in Atlantic CityMr. Tom Kelly
1929The Locked DoorHotel Proprietor
1930The Sea BatDutchy
1930Soup to NutsFirst Fat DinerUncredited
1931Finn and HattieLe Bottin
1932The Midnight Patrol
1935Bad BoyMan on Rowing MachineUncredited, (final film role)



  1. Hunter, James Michael (2013). Mormons and Popular Culture: The Global Influence of an American Phenomenon. ABC-CLIO. pp. 250–251. ISBN 9780313391675. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  2. "Mack Swain, Colorful Film Comedian and Pioneer, Dies". The Salt Lake Tribune. Utah, Salt Lake City. Associated Press. August 27, 1935. p. 18. Retrieved May 14, 2018 via
  3. "'The Little Minister'". Petaluma Daily Morning Courier. California, Petaluma. Napa Journal. February 18, 1907. p. 1. Retrieved May 14, 2018 via
  4. "At the Opera House". The Alliance Herald. Nebraska, Alliance. October 14, 1904. p. 4. Retrieved May 14, 2018 via
  5. "Mack Swain Dead. Pioneer Film Actor. Appeared With Charlie Chaplin in Keystone Comedies Before Days of 'Stars'". New York Times. Associated Press. Retrieved March 9, 2015. Mack Swain, stage and screen actor, died here late last night after a few hours' illness. He had suffered an internal hemorrhage in the afternoon. ...
  6. "Death Calls Mack Swain". The Los Angeles Times. California, Los Angeles. Associated Press. August 27, 1935. p. 3. Retrieved May 14, 2018 via
  7. "Mack Swain". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Archived from the original on May 15, 2018. Retrieved May 15, 2018.

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