Hairbreadth Harry


Click to enlarge — it’s worth it!

I’ve been greatly enjoying Dan Nadel’s Art Out of Time, Unknown Comics Visionaries, 1900-1969, a stupendous compilation of funnybook esoterica. Above we see an adventure of Hairbreadth Harry, a twenties newspaper strip. It’s nice to see that Winsor McCay’s GERTIE THE DINOSAUR was still remembered in 1924 (the nightmarishly expanding creature also recalls McCay’s Rarebit Fiend short THE PET). According to Rudi Blesh’s Buster Keaton biography, Gertie inspired the dinosaur scene in THE THREE AGES, with Keaton reasoning that animation and live-action could be combined in a way inspired by McCay’s short.

This got me thinking about that dinosaur again — I’ve often wondered who made it. A Google search brought me a sample of Mark F. Berry’s indispensible-sounding The Dinosaur Filmography, published the same year as Nadel’s book, in which Lou Bunin (he of the peculiar ALICE IN WONDERLAND) named the great Charley Bowers as the artist responsible. This would make a lot of sense — Willis H. O’Brien is the only other Hollywood stop-motion man I can think of from this period, but if it was him we would know, wouldn’t we? — and would be Big News — a Bowers-Keaton collaboration! I hope it’s true, but we may never know.

Here’s another bit of Maurice Ketten’s strip with another movie reference ~


6 Responses to “Hairbreadth Harry”

  1. DBenson Says:

    “Hairbreadth Harry” was freely adapted into a series of silent two-reelers by the low-budget Weiss Brothers. Didn’t spot any on Google, but three are available in VCI’s “Weiss-O-Rama” collection and one more is included in Image Entertainment’s “Slapstick Encyclopedia.”

    Mostly crazy chase gags; nothing so coherent as the dinosaur scheme (or any of the strip’s Sunday pages). Still, there’s a fun intentional goofiness that makes them amusing if less than classic. A trick shot lets Rudolph and his henchmen all hide behind a street lamp; Belinda sniffs an ink-covered bouquet and her face is covered with cartoony flowers; Harry leans in a window to retrieve a floor safe and lifts it as if weightless. And the silly-gag intertitles include several with the single word “CURSES!

  2. Ha! That sounds pretty delightful, I’m going to seek them out.

  3. revelator60 Says:

    Nadel’s book sounds a terrific read, though to the American public pretty much every comic strip that isn’t Calvin and Hobbes or Peanuts is unknown. I’ve been enjoyed Otto Messmer’s Felix the Cat comic strip, which he worked on far longer than the cartoons. “Nine Lives to Live: A Classic Felix Celebration” is the best available collection.

  4. I’ll certainly look out for that!

    Have been meaning to dig up Denis Gifford’s Film Fun, collecting terrible British comic strips inspired by the movies — Chaplin, Laurel & Hardy, etc.

  5. I love these color strips–never saw them before! I’m glad to find out about Nadel’s book. Not to plug myself, but I thought you might be interested in the small bit of info about HH in this essay:
    In the second strip on the below page, Harry behaves ungallantly while on “movie heroes” strike–I can’t help but wonder about Kahles’ opinion of unions…
    re: Film Fun comics
    There are lots of examples on this site, if anyone on this page hasn’t already found it:

  6. Thanks! I’m really enjoying Ominous Octopus Omnibus now that you’ve led me to it. And I founf the San Francisco Silent Film Fest very useful when I had to give a lecture on comic books at the movies in June! Thanks!

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