Bouncing Baby


The film Bouncing Baby, featured here, is a prime example of the works produced by the Vim Comedy Company in Jacksonville, Florida, during the early years of silent films. Favorable weather, political support, and cheap real estate and labor helped to make Jacksonville a major center for motion picture production in this period. The mayor of Jacksonville in 1915−17, J.E.T. Bowden, set out to restore business confidence in northeastern Florida after a recessionary slump and extended an open invitation “to the moving picture fraternity of this country” to relocate to his city. Film companies at first thrived in Jacksonville's hospitable climate, but citizens and government officials grew tired of the studios, whose stunts—such as unannounced car chases, or falsely reporting fires in order to film the response—threatened public safety. In 1917, John W. Martin was elected mayor on a platform to curtail the film industry. By this time, Hollywood, California, offered a more viable location and much of the American film industry moved west. The Vim Comedy Company, founded in late 1915 by Louis Burstein and Mark Dintenfass, typified the short-lived studios of the movie boom in Florida. Vim employed many intriguing personalities and made 156 one-reel films in 1916 alone. In the same year, Vim also created a series of 35 slapstick comedies starring Oliver “Babe” Hardy and Billy Ruge entitled “Plump and Runt,” which occasionally included cameos by Ethel Burton. Other regulars with the company were Harry Meyers, Rosemary Thebe, Kate Price, and Billy Bletcher and his wife Arline Roberts. Including casts, directors, camera crew (known at the time as “knights of the crank”), and administrative personnel, the Vim Southern Studio in Jacksonville employed nearly 50 people in 1916, with a regular weekly payroll of approximately $3,800. Production at Vim studios came to a halt in 1917 after Oliver Hardy discovered that Burstein and Dintenfass both were stealing from the payroll.

Last updated: October 17, 2014