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Lige Conley

Personal information
Birth dateDecember 5, 1897
Place of birthSt. Louis, Missouri, USA
Date of deathDecember 11, 1937(age 40)
Death placeHollywood, California, USA

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Lige Conley (born Elijah Crommie, 5 December 1897 in St. Louis, Missouri - died 11 December 1937 in Hollywood, California), was an American actor of the silent era. He appeared in 140 films between 1915 and 1938.

As Lige Crommie, the curly-haired young comedian joined the stock company of the Mack Sennett studio in 1915. In 1917 he moved to the up-and-coming Hal Roach studio, then producing one-reel comedies with Harold Lloyd, Bebe Daniels, and Snub Pollard. The Roach comedies credited the actor as "Lige Cromley," but since Lloyd and company dominated their pictures, which were limited to single reels, there was little chance for Lige to distinguish himself. He returned to Sennett as a stock player, again as Lige Crommie.

When Sennett director Fred Fishback left Sennett for his own unit at Universal Pictures. Lige soon joined him there.

The comic finally achieved stardom at Educational Pictures, where he appeared in a long string of brisk, elaborately staged two-reel comedies. Some of these were directed by Fishback, under the pseudonym of Fred Hibbard. Educational took out trade ads in the mid-1920s, hailing Conley as the next Charlie Chaplin. Conley, with his curly hair and coy grin, did indeed bear a resemblance to the out-of-character Chaplin.

Conley's stock-in-trade was the comedy of embarrassment, as his meek screen character earnestly failed at any occupation he tried. Conley's two most famous comedies are both 1924 releases. Fast and Furious, directed by Norman Taurog, is a fast-moving comedy set in a general store, with Lige doing everything from demonstrating pancake batter to selling shoes. The last half of the film is a spectacular car-motorcycle-and-train chase, some of which was excerpted in the Kevin Brownlow-David Gill silent-film documentary Hollywood. Conley's other major credit, Air Pockets, was directed by Fred Hibbard. It casts Lige as the inventor of a collapsible automobile, and the last half features an airborne chase climax.

Conley's comedies have very few close-ups of the star, because identically dressed stuntmen double him in daring sight-gag sequences. Educational's gag writers and directors, compensating for Conley's own limited bag of tricks, threw in all sorts of obvious humor that any comedian could play: physical comedy, vehicular chase scenes, pratfalls. and large doses of racial stereotypes. The gags weren't always original; Fast and Furious even copies Buster Keaton's gag from Sherlock, Jr. in which the hero is sitting on the handlebars of a runaway motorcycle.

Conley's series for Educational lapsed in 1926. He returned to freelance work for Mack Sennett, as a director and supporting player. His starring days were over; he played only incidental roles for the next decade.

Lige Conley was very prolific in the 1920s but hardly any of his work survives today. Educational lost most of its silent-film backlog in a 1937 laboratory fire. Conley himself died in 1937, struck and killed by an automobile soon after playing a small role in the Fred Allen comedy Sally, Irene and Mary.

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