Charles Lamont, Director

Charles Lamont (5 May 1895 – 12 September 1993) was a prolific film director of over 200 titles, and the producer and writer of many others. He was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, and died in Los Angeles, California, USA.
Some of Lamont’s earliest directorial jobs were silent short-subject comedies, for Educational Pictures. One of the studio’s popular series was “Juvenile Comedies,” featuring little Malcolm “Big Boy” Sebastian. Lamont directed some of these films, as well as some of the competing “Buster Brown” comedies for Universal Pictures release. Both Educational and Universal figured prominently in Charles Lamont’s career.
In 1932 Educational assigned Lamont to the “Baby Burlesks” series of kiddie comedies, featuring four-year-old Shirley Temple. By 1934 Lamont was Educational’s top director, and he collaborated with Buster Keaton on most of Keaton’s 16 Educational shorts.
After Educational shut down its Hollywood studio, Lamont was hired by Columbia Pictures to work with such stars as Charley Chase and the Three Stooges, but his stay was short (“I had an intense hatred for [Columbia’s president] Harry Cohn,” said Lamont to authors Ted Okuda and Edward Watz).
Lamont then freelanced at various studios (and produced a few features himself) before joining Universal Pictures in 1942. Lamont always had a tremendous rapport with juvenile performers, and Universal entrusted him with a series of musical-comedy vehicles for the studio’s teenage singing star, Gloria Jean. Lamont emphasized the comic elements of the films, with Donald O’Connor and Peggy Ryan contributing their talents, and the teen musicals were very popular with wartime audiences.
Charles Lamont’s experience with limited budgets served him well at Universal, and soon he was promoted to the studio’s more important productions. By 1950 he was established as one of Universal’s most efficient directors. So it was with surprise and reluctance that Lamont received his new assignment: Abbott and Costello movies. These comedy features were moneymakers for the studio but had no prestige at all, and Lamont bristled at what seemed to be a backward career move. His Universal bosses explained their need for a good comedy director who could do the job indefinitely, and Lamont came to realize that “Abbott and Costello were my future.” Lamont remained with Abbott and Costello until the studio discharged the team in 1955.
Lamont also directed Universal’s successful Ma and Pa Kettle comedies; his last film was the final Francis the Talking Mule comedy, Francis in the Haunted House (1956).