January 2, 2017


Walter Forde (1897-1984) b. Bradford, England.

Walter Forde

Britain’s only major screen comedian of the 1920s, Walter Forde, perhaps disappointed by his efforts in sound films, elected instead to become a director – with amazing success. Forde was born in Yorkshire and became a music-hall entertainer in the north of England. Contributing scenarios to films, he was persuaded to step in front of the camera in 1920, in three two-reeler films he devised himself. He went to Hollywood in 1923 and worked for Universal, without becoming anything of a name. Returning to Britain in 1925, he had already begun directing films in which he did not appear, and Gainsborough were soon assigning him to their more prestigious projects. The enthusiastic reviews he gathered for The Ghost Train (1931) and The Ringer (1932) onvinced both himself and his studio that the right decision had been made. Forde’s best film as director was probably Rome Express (1932), an archetypal train thriller. But it was in comedy that he was predictably most consistent. There were four films with Jack Hulbert and several with Gordon Harker, most notably two of the three popular Inspector Hornleigh capers. In wartime years, however, Forde’s two films that attempted to launch Tommy Handley as a major film comedian proved disappointing, and he was not the same force thereafter, taking an early retirement that lasted 35 years.

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