Keystone Cops

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The Keystone Kops featured in a series of silent film comedies about a completely incompetent group of policemen. The movies were produced by Mack Sennett for his Keystone Film Company between 1912 and 1917. The idea came from Hank Mann who also played police chief Tehiezel in the first film before being replaced by Ford Sterling. Their first film was Hoffmeyer's Legacy (1912) but their popularity stemmed from the 1913 short The Bangville Police starring Mabel Normand.

As early as 1914, Sennet shifted the Keystone Kops from starring roles to background ensemble, in support of comedians like Charlie Chaplin and Fatty Arbuckle. The Keystone Kops serve as supporting players for Marie Dressler, Mabel Normand, and Chaplin in the first full-length Sennett comedy feature, Tillie's Punctured Romance (1914), as well as in Mabel's New Hero (1913) with Normand and Arbuckle, Making a Living (1914) with Chaplin in his first screen appearance (pre-Tramp), In the Clutches of the Gang (1914) with Normand, Arbuckle, and Al St. John, and Wished on Mabel (1915) with Arbuckle and Normand, among others.

Two Keystone Kop players who starred in the Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops (which starred Sennett in a cameo role-as himself) were Heinie Conklin as an elderly studio Guard; and Hank Mann as a prop man. Comedian/actors Chester Conklin; Jimmy Finlayson; Ford Sterling and director Del Lord were also Keystone Kops.

In 2010, the previously lost short A Thief Catcher was rediscovered at an antique sale in Michigan. The short, filmed in 1914, stars Ford Sterling, Mack Swain, Edgar Kennedy, and Al St. John and includes a previously unknown cameo with Charlie Chaplin as a Keystone Kop.[1]


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