1884–1944, American silent film comedian and director, b. Council Bluffs, Iowa. He repeatedly ran away from home to join traveling shows and circuses as a youngster, and later developed a successful vaudeville routine. He began acting in films in 1923, and soon was with Mack Sennett
's Keystone Co. With director Harry Edwards and writers Arthur Ripley and Frank Capra
, he developed a character that made him a star and one of silent film's great comedians: a babyish innocent with a white-powdered face, a blend of man, child, and clown who was charming yet passive and seemingly helpless in dealing with life's difficulties. After forming his own company in 1926, he made a string of classic silent features, particularly Tramp, Tramp, Tramp
(1926), The Strong Man
(1926), and Long Pants
(1927), the last two directed by Capra, but he then directed himself in box-office failures. The coming of sound further diminished his success, though he continued to work, writing for films and playing mild-mannered characters.
See biographies by W. Schelly (2008), C. Harter and M. J. Hayde (2012), and G. Oldham and M. Langdon (2017); study by J. L. Neibaur (2012); B. Walker and B. Anthony, Nothing on the Stage is Permanent: The Harry Langdon Scrapbook (2016).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Film and Television: Biographies