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Though today he is barely remembered, Clyde Bruckman was a key figure in early film comedy, collaborating with icons like Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, W.C. Fields, Laurel & Hardy, and the Three Stooges. Working while screenwriting was still in its infancy, Bruckman helped shape many influential shorts and films, developed the gags that made them legendary, and eventually became a director himself. But Bruckman’s own life was filled with tragedy and disappointment, from alcoholism to accusations of plagiarism, and over time his story has been relegated to little more than a footnote.
Matthew Dessem’s The Gag Man, an expansion of his study of Bruckman for The Dissolve, will be the first book-length biography of this fascinating but elusive figure. Drawing on archives, court documents, and of course the films themselves, Dessem brings Bruckman’s story to life and shines a light on an important corner of Hollywood history.