Snub Pollard: Australia’s Quiet Achiever
While the name Snub Pollard may not be as well-known as Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton, this modest Australian performer quietly kept working continually for over five decades, contributing a small yet significant part to the motion picture industry, and enduring in it far longer than most of his contemporaries.
This is his story:
Snub Pollard was born as Harold Fraser in Melbourne in 1889, and began his performing career with the Pollard Lilliputian Opera Company which was first established in Tasmania, and eventually toured around the whole world. Children and people of small stature were hired to perform in vaudeville acts, which was the popular form of entertainment before moving pictures took the world by storm in the early 1900s.
It was during this early time with the Pollard Opera Company that Harold Fraser adopted the professional surname of Pollard, and he was first known as Harry Pollard then later as ‘Snub’. This would have prevented any confusion with the American actor and director Harry A. Pollard, as well as give him a suitable name for the comical on-screen persona he was developing.
By 1910 he was ready to pursue his entertainment career in the US, and with his experience in vaudeville entertainment, he shared the same background as most of the slapstick comedians who found success in the early days of the motion picture industry.
Pollard’s small stature was no impediment to entering the burgeoning motion picture industry, and sporting a large, drooping moustache, he was keeping pace with the likes of Chaplin and Keaton who were also small in stature and had found a trademark look for their comedy persona.
Soon he was playing bit parts for the new studios of Hollywood such as Essanay and Keystone, playing a Keystone Cop and other bit parts, gradually progressing until he was credited in nearly twenty films in the year 1915. This was also the year he began a successful two-year stint as Harold Lloyd’s sidekick in over fifty Lonesome Luke comedies.
Comedies in those days were usually only ten to twenty minutes in length, but often still required careful planning and forethought, especially when stunts and all kinds of gimmicks were involved. Harold Lloyd became ‘the third great silent comedian’ next to Chaplin and Keaton, and Harry ‘Snub’ Pollard no doubt benefitted from working with Lloyd, as well as frequent female co-star Bebe Daniels, who also went on to have a successful career as a fine actress.
When Harold Lloyd put aside his Lonesome Luke character and donned glasses, he created the look for which he became famous and moved on to even bigger things. Snub also enjoyed continuing success under Hal Roach, one of the biggest producers of comedies in the silent era, who presented Snub in the lead role of several popular comedies in the early 1920s.
The best known films from this time include It’s a Gift in which he played an inventor of useless and unnecessary gadgets, which was a popular gag at the time. He played ‘inventor Pollard’ and many other varied roles during these golden days of silent comedy, notching up a staggering forty-nine roles in the year 1919, and nearly as many in the few years before and after!
Always happy to have a minor yet often significant part, Snub kept working during leaner years as slapstick comedy waned in popularity and then when sound was introduced in 1929. His experience as a comedian was always sought after in ‘B’ Westerns and other films requiring some comedy relief during the 1930s and 1940s.
Even without his trademark comical moustache, he went on to play many more small parts, often without dialogue, all through the following decades, enjoying a small piece of the limelight in classics such as Miracle on 34th Street and Singin’ in the Rain, as well as Frank Capra’s Pocketful of Miracles.
The latter was one of his last roles before his death in 1962. Altogether Snub Pollard accumulated a grand total of 508 roles, over 300 of them during the silent era in which he thrived and worked along with some of the best and most talented and popular stars in the industry.
Pollard enjoyed considerable success as a comedian in the competitive world of slapstick comedy in the early days of Hollywood, earning him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Satisfied with playing a large variety of small roles and always giving his best performance rewarded him with a lifetime of work in the industry he loved.
Harold Fraser, professionally known as Harry Pollard, Snub Pollard and also Peewee Pollard, was born on 9 November 1889 in Melbourne, Victoria, and died on 19 January 1962 in Burbank, California. He was not related to actress Daphne Pollard, who also started her career with the Pollard Opera Company and chose to use the name Pollard, as was the popular custom at the time.