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Arthur Lake Article "Lamparski's Whatever Became Of..."
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Jeff Silver- Blondie Radio Series
Patricia Van Cleve Lake
Silverlake Family Circus History

Birth Name:  Arthur Patrick Silverlake, Jr.
[Arthur's middle name information courtesy of Darren in Georgia; a rare piece of information indeed.]
Born:  April 17, 1905 in Corbin, Kentucky, USA
Died:  January 9, 1987 in Indian Wells, California, USA
Cause of Death:  Heart Attack

Biography:  Don't let his real name fool you; Arthur Lake wasn't Jewish.  In fact, Corbin, Kentucky has been chastized for years and years for being an extremely racist town.  No black person has ever lived in Corbin and some people say there are reasons.  Lots of stories float around about Corbin, Kentucky.  I've actually been to Corbin several times in my travels and personally did not see anything racist about the town or its people.  If you really want to know, you'll have to actually go there yourself and be your own judge.

    His parents were circus acrobats when he and his sister Florence (later an actress of fame) became part of their act.  When they changed to vaudeville and wound up in California, he got a job in the movies.  The founder of Universal Pictures, Carl Lammle, Sr., changed his name to Lake (for the fact that Silverlake sounded too Jewish).  In silent films Lake became known for playing boyish characters and when he got into talkies his boyish characters were made even funnier by giving them squeaky voices.  He met the lady who would become his wife at actress Marion Davies' beach house.  Patricia Van Cleve was her niece, and when Lake married Van Cleve, he was Marion Davies' nephew by marriage.  Marion Davies', incidentally, was courted by the powerful newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst.  William owned King Features, which published the "Blondie" comic strip.  With these two powerful people in Arthur Lake's corner, he was able to get the much-deserved attention needed to star as Dagwood Bumstead in the Blondie movies.  Arthur Lake had two children with Patricia Van Cleve, a son named Arthur and daughter named Marion.

    The long-running part of Dagwood Bumstead played from 1938-1950 in the Blondie movies continued this pattern into adult life.  He and Penny Singleton also appeared in the half-hour Blondie radio program from CBS (and later ABC and NBC) from 1939-1946.  After Penny Singleton quit the radio show, she was replaced by Arthur's real-life wife Patricia Van Cleve for the rest of its run to 1950.

    I'm always looking for more information on Arthur Lake.  If you have any, CONTACT ME.

Arthur Lake Article
"Lamparski's Whatever Became Of... Giant 2nd Annual" By Richard Lamparski
December, 1977
Bantam Books
Pages 295-303

At the time of this writing (May 2005) I was recently contacted by a James P. McDonald who. like you and I, is a big fan of the Blondie movies.  He sent me rare information and pictures on Arthur Lake, Penny Singleton, Larry Simms, Marjorie Kent (Marjorie Ann Mutchie).  I will always be grateful for this information as I'm sure you will be when viewing it.  Thanks, James!  If anyone out there has any information on anything dealing with the Blondie movies, cast or crew I would love to hear from you.  CONTACT ME.

    The actor who became world famous as "Dagwood Bumstead" was born in Corbin, Kentucky, on April 17, 1905.  At the time, his father and uncle were touring with a circus in an aerial act known as "The Flying Silverlakes".  His mother, Edith Goodwin, was an actress.  His parents later appeared in vaudeville in a skit called "Family Affair" and spent years traveling with small shows that played throughout the South and Southwest.  Arthur and his sister, Florence, became part of his parents' act in 1910.

    Mrs. Silverlake brought her children to Hollywood in 1917, hoping to get them into movies.  Arthur had already made his screen debut in "Jack and the Beanstalk" (1917).  He acted in Westerns and eventually got a good part in the successful feature "Skinner's Dress Suit" in 1925.

    Universal Pictures signed him to a contract and changed his last name.  He was featured in their "Sweet Sixteen" series of comedies.  First National Pictures borrowed him to play the title role in "Harold Teen" (1928) which was based on the popular comic-strip character.

[I'm going to interject here with this fun fact taken from a photo caption in this article:  "When Carl Laemmle, Sr. signed Arthur Lake to a contract with Universal Pictures, he shortened his last name, explaining that Silverlake sounded too Jewish."  Of course, he wasn't.  In fact, the town in which Arthur Silverlake was born (Corbin, Kentucky) has been accused of being extremely racist as no African-American has ever lived there.  Lots of stories have floated around about Corbin, Kentucky since the 1800s.  An interesting sidenote, this is also the town where Colonel Harlan Sanders started the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain and where you can still go to the first ever KFC restaurant and museum.]

    Shortly after RKO was formed, Arthur became one of their contract players.  There he made "Dance Hall" (1929), a hit of the time, and "Cheer Up and Smile" (1930), playing a part that had originally been written for "Whispering" Jack Smith.  His leading lady in it was Dixie Lee, who had not yet married Bing Crosby.  Arthur was all set to play "Tol'able David", but at the last minute, his studio refused to loan him.  The late Richard Cromwell got the role, and it made him a star.  A few of Lake's other talkies were "Indiscreet" (1931) with Gloria Swanson, "Silver Streak" (1934), "Orchids to You" (1935), and "Topper" (1937).

    Lake was free-lancing when he heard that Columbia Pictures was looking for someone to play "Dagwood Bumstead" in a series of low-budget films to be based on the "Blondie" comic strip.  Louella Parsons claimed that she was the first person to suggest Arthur to studio head Arthur Cohn.  Although it is hard to imagine anyone else playing the character, over two-dozen name actors were tested.  Two who were seriously considered were Eddie Quillan and the late Frank Albertson.  "But," Lake admits, "I had a couple of people rooting for me named Marion Davies and William Randolph Hearst."

[Here I go again with another fun fact taken from a photo caption from this article:  "Arthur Lake as Dagwood Bumstead has been called the greatest piece of casting in the history of movies.  Don Miller added the comment, 'A lot of credit goes to Lake himself.  Actually, he made Dagwood a bit dumber than he was in the funnies and etched the characterizations more broadly.  The Blondie series has never received its due, especially the first dozen entries.  Production, direction, cast- all were excellent."]

    Lake had become very friendly with the sons of the newspaper tycoon and was a frequent guest at the beach house of Marion Davies, Hearst's mistress.  There, he met her niece, Patricia Van Cleve, whom he later married at San Simeon.  "Blondie" was syndicated by King Features which was owned by Hearst.

[To share with you how Marion Davies loved Arthur Lake, I'm going to bring in this fact from a photo caption from this article:  "Marion Davies was Arthur Lake's aunt by marriage.  One evening Lake, his wife and Ms. Davies were at Ciro's night club when Harry Cohn came over to their table.  Cohn, who was noted for his rudeness and gaucheries, was the head of Columbia Pictures, which produced the "Blondie" pictures.  'Well, Marion,' said Cohn 'thanks to me your nephew is now a star.  What do you think about that?'  Without missing a beat, Marion Davies replied, 'You son of a bitch!  Thanks to my nephew and the success of those movies, your studio is still in business.'
'Aunt Marion always spoke her mind,' said Lake recently.  'But talking like that to Harry Cohn really had me scared.  I kept thinking he'd fire me because everyone around us heard what she said, and some of them laughed out loud.  But nothing ever came of it.']

    Arthur Lake had been on the first picture "Blondie" (1938) for about a week when Shirley Deane, the original actress playing the title role was replaced by Penny Singleton.  "That first gal was real good, I thought," says Lake.  "But when we looked at the rushes, she seemed kind of mean.  When she scolded Dagwood, there was a harshness there that just wasn't right.  Now when Penny would get mad at me, it was kind of cute-mad."

    Ms. Singleton and Lake played the characters in all twenty-eight of the features.  They were also together on the radio show for the first seven years of its twelve-year run.  Lake did "Dagwood" all the time it was on the air and for a brief time on TV.

[I'm going to interject here with some more fun facts taken from a photo caption from this article:  "Blondie began in 1939 over the CBS Radio Network and lasted for twelve years.  After seven seasons, Patricia Van Cleve, the wife of Arthur Lake and the niece of Marion Davies, replaced Penny Singleton.  THIS PORTION OF THE CAPTION IS FULL OF INNACCURACIES.  PLEASE CLICK HERE TO GET THE "REAL" SCOOP.  For the broadcasts which had a studio audience, Lake wore the same little, tight suit he used in the movies.  He had only to appear on the stage for the audiences to be convulsed with laughter."]

    Penny Singleton insisted on doing other roles besides "Blondie".  Lake, however, was quite content and did very little else after the series began.  Lake says that he was sorry when the Blondie pictures were discontinued after "Beware of Blondie" (1950).  His grandchildren and many of his friends still call him "Dagwood".  He never misses an installment of the comic strip, which is now drawn by Dean Young, the son of the late Chic Young who created it.

    The Lakes spend most of their time at their home on the ground of the Thunderbird Country Club in Palm Desert, California.  Their next-door neighbor is silent star Billie Dove.  Arthur runs into Norris Goff, who played "Abner" of "Lum 'n Abner", on the golf course several times a week.  Their desert home contains many of the things left to them by Marion Davies.  Its walls are decorated with the original drawings done by Henry Clive as covers for Hearst's "American Weekly" magazine.  Autographed photos in their living room include General MacArthur, Lindbergh, and George Bernard Shaw.

    Mrs. Lake was a Wampas Baby Star in 1940 and the daughter of Marion Davies' sister, Rose.  Throughout their marriage, she and Lake have had a large house several doors away from Marion Davies' famed beach house.  Their son and his children now live there.  Their grandson, Arthur Lake IV, is a champion skateboard rider.  The Lake's daughter lives in Paris.  Arthur and his wife have six grandchildren and twelve dogs, the youngest of which is named "Baby Dumpling".

    Lake hasn't heard from Larry Simms, who played "Baby Dumpling", in many years.  He ran into the father of Marjorie Kent, who played "Cookie", not long ago.  "She's got a little 'Cookie' of her own now," says Arthur.

[Because facts are fun, let me cut in here with some more fun facts taken from a photo caption in this article:  "Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake always got along very well and have kept in touch over the years.  The two were reunited in 1976 when they were starred in a Milwaukee production of "No, No, Nanette".  Ms. Singleton lives in New York.  She is the executive president of the American Guild of Variety Artists."]

    Fan mail still pours in for "Dagwood" from around the world.  He delights in being recognized and often appears at benefits where he is invariably presented with a "Dagwood" sandwich.

    Recently Lake watched several women at a party cut in while former President Gerald Ford was dancing.  "I was going to cut in on him, too," says Arthur.  "But I lost my nerve.  He's a real good sport, so the next time I'm going to do it.  People would love to see that- a President of the United States dancing with "Dagwood Bumstead"!  This statement was concluded with the famous "Dagwood" laugh, which has been described as "a sound not unlike that heard at a zoo around feeding time".

Arthur & Patricia Lake 1977
Arthur & Patricia Lake in 1977.  This rare photo was contributed by James P. McDonald.  I apologize for the quality of the scan, but it's the best I could make it come out.  If I can find a better quality version of this picture I'll replace this one.  Promise!

Jeff Silver- Blondie Radio Series

On July 6, 2005 I received this very interesting e-mail.  It corrects what I said in Arthur Lake's biography about the Blondie radio show.

"I just logged onto your site and really enjoyed it.  I would like to correct one of your bits of information, though.  Arthur Lake's wife did not replace Penny Singleton on the radio show.  She was replaced by Ann Rutherford for the rest of the run of the show on NBC.  When the show moved to ABC his wife did play Blondie on the opening program, but was quickly replaced by Ann Rutherford for the rest of the season, which was the last of the run.  By the way, I should know.  I was the last boy to play the part of Alexander...from 1948 through 1950.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like any more information that I might be aware of." - Jeff Silver

Patricia Van Cleve Lake

Not much is known about Arthur Lake's wife, Patricia Van Cleve.  I'm just posting things people might find informative.

    On June 21, 2005, I was contacted by Cindy Johnson who, while researching on the Internet, came across this interesting bit of information on Encyclopedia Brittanica's Women in American History website under the Marion Davies entry.  "Upon the death of Patricia Van Cleve Lake, a woman thought to have been Davies' sister Rose's daughter, Lake's family revealed that Patricia was in fact the only child of Davies and Hearst."  Thanks, Cindy!

Silverlake Family Circus History

On July 2, 2005 I received this interesting e-mail.  It is as follows:
  "Hi Blair, I just surfed into your site and picked up a few tidbits of information that helped me on my circus research.  I have been trying to find out about the Flying Silverlakes and who were the parents of Arthur Lake.  My wife's grandmother, Ruby Fisher Haag, was in the circus from the 1920's through the 1970's.  Her sister, Josephine Fisher, married Melvin "Brownie" Silverlake on the Mighty Haag Shows.  Here is the connection, Melvin Silverlake's father was Archie Silverlake.  Archie had a twin brother.  His brother was Arthur Lake's father.  Does that make sense?  Here is where the puzzle pieces are starting to fit together.  Silverlake (stage name) (Timberlake) Family Circus History"

Vaudeville Act
Archie Silverlake and wife
Melvin Harry Sr. "
Brownie" a baby (early 1900's)

Gollmar Bros and Schuman (1901-1902)
The Silverlake Brothers (1902) (could this be Archie and Arthur's Dad?)

Wiedemann's Shows (1906-1911)
Wiedemann Bros. Shows
Wiedemann Bros Big American Show and Custer's Last Charge
Wiedemann's Kit Carson Show
Tom Wiedemann - owner
Brownie's mother dies ( ? )
Brownie still a child
Tom Mix (1909)
Tom Mix looked after Brownie, made sure he had supper every night

M L Clark and Son's (1902-1921, 1923-1930, 1943, 1945-1946)
The Silverlakes - contortion, aerialists (3-19-1910)

Downie and Wheeler Circus
Andrew Downie  and Al F Wheeler - owners (1911-1913)
Silverlake Brothers - clowns (7-15-1911) (could this be Archie and Arthur's Dad?)

Signor Sautelle's Circus, 9 Big Shows (1911-1914)
Sig Sautelle, Oscar Lowande and George W. Rollins - owners (1911-1914)
Silverlake - flying trapeze (1913), (5-24-1913)
Melvin Silverlake - Silverlakes - (8-23-1913)

LaTena (1914-1917)
LaTena's Big 3 Ring Wild Animal Circus
"Andrew Downie" Mcphee- owner (1914-1917)
Brownie Silverlake - cowboy (8-23-1913)
Flying Sivlerlakes - aerialists (5-30-1914)  (who could this be?)
Brownie - clown (5-30-1914)

Sells Floto (1906-1932)
Harry Tammen and Fred Bonfils - owners (1906-1920)
Silverlakes - double trapeze, roman rings (1919?)

LaRoy's Circus (1922-1925)
Harry and Marie LaRoy - owners (1922-1925)
Silverlakes (three) aerialists (9-9-1922)  (who could this be?)

    It's so exciting to find someone doing research on Arthur Lake.  I hope to continue to share information." - Darren in Georgia

Thank you Darren, and I hope we'll hear more from you soon!  [FYI:  I believe, but am not completely certain, that Arthur Lake's circus career falls in the LaTena period from 1914-1917.]