Spotlight on Silent Star "Bud" Duncan

By Robert S. Birchard

Actor. Born: October 31, 1886, Brooklyn, New York. Died: November 26, 1960, Los Angeles, California. Full name: Albert Edward Duncan.

Albert Edward "Bud" Duncan gained screen prominence as partner to Lloyd V. Hamilton in the Kalem Company's "Ham and Bud" comedies, but quickly faded into obscurity after the team broke up.

The son of stage ventriloquist A. O. Duncan, Albert was educated at Berkeley Military School in New York. His first theatrical job was behind-the-scenes as treasurer of the Grand Opera House in New York. When a juvenile was needed for a production of The Postmaster's Daughter, Duncan stepped into the role. He gained his nickname of "Bud" when he played the role of Bud McGinnis in Playing the Ponies.

Much of Duncan's stage career was spent in vaudeville. He appeared in "A Night in a Music Hall" on the U.B.O. (United Booking Offices) circuit, and then appeared with the comedy team of Kolb and Dill in "The Delicatessen Shop" on the Orpheum circuit. Landing in the West, Duncan joined Lee Moran in an act that toured for two years. In 1908 Duncan met his future screen partner, Lloyd V. Hamilton, in a San Francisco theater.

Duncan's first film work was with the Biograph Company in Los Angeles. He spent about a year with comedian Fred Mace, at the Majestic Company (located at the Lasky-DeMille Barn prior to DeMille taking it over). This was followed by an engagement with the Nestor Film Company as Jeff in the Mutt and Jeff series.

When Lloyd Hamilton joined the Kalem Company in 1914, he persuaded Duncan to join the company and soon the pair co-starred in the "Ham" series and became popularly identified in the public's mind as "Ham and Bud."

Duncan gained a taste of stardom when Lloyd Hamilton broke his heel doing a stunt in July, 1915. The diminutive Duncan (4' 11") took over the series during Hamilton's recovery, and his head swelled with his new status. By the time Hamilton returned to work, Duncan was throwing his weight around and the pair's working relationship suffered.

When the Kalem Company sold out to Vitagraph in 1917, Duncan and Hamilton went their separate ways. Duncan appeared in Clover Comedies for the National Film Company, and in 1920 signed with the independent Schiller Production Company for a series of short comedies called "Bud and His Buddies." After that Duncan drifted into bit parts and character work. He made his last credited screen appearances as a sidekick in low-budget Westerns in the early 1930's.