Joe Roberts, born on February 19, 1871, in Newcastle, New Brunswick, Canada, was a prominent figure in the silent film era and a frequent collaborator of legendary comedian Buster Keaton.
He became known for his towering stature and memorable roles in silent comedies, including the classic film “ Our Hospitality” (1923).
Standing at a towering height of 6 feet 2 inches, Joe Roberts was a physically imposing presence on the screen. His appearance alone could elicit laughter, but it was his comic timing and physicality that endeared him to audiences. Roberts often played the role of the heavy or antagonist in silent comedies, creating a delightful contrast to the film’s heroes.
Roberts’ association with Buster Keaton began in the early 1920s when they worked together on several films, including the notable “ Our Hospitality.” In “ Our Hospitality,” Roberts portrayed the Canfield patriarch, a member of a rival family to Keaton’s character. The film, set against the backdrop of an ongoing family feud, provided ample opportunities for physical comedy and gags. One memorable scene involves Keaton and Roberts navigating a rickety train along treacherous tracks, resulting in a series of slapstick and dangerous stunts.
The chemistry between Keaton and Roberts was evident on screen, with the two playing off each other’s physical attributes and comedic skills. Roberts’ imposing presence complemented Keaton’s deadpan expressions and incredible physical feats, creating a perfect comedic partnership.
Roberts’ physicality and ability to endure slapstick abuse made him a valuable asset in the world of silent comedy. He often found himself on the receiving end of Keaton’s inventive gags, from falls and collisions to absurd situations that maximized his height and physicality for comedic effect.
In addition to his work with Keaton, Joe Roberts had a prolific career in silent film, appearing in over 100 films during the silent era. His roles ranged from villains and authority figures to comedic foils, and he left an indelible mark on the world of early cinema.
As the silent era gave way to sound films, Joe Roberts, like many silent film stars, faced challenges in adapting to the new medium. His distinct physicality and non-traditional appearance made it difficult to find suitable roles in the evolving industry. Despite this, he remained a beloved figure among those who appreciated the artistry of silent comedy.
Joe Roberts passed away on July 28, 1923, at the age of 52, leaving behind a legacy of laughter and a unique contribution to the world of silent film. His work in “ Our Hospitality” and other classic comedies continues to entertain and amuse audiences, reminding us of the enduring appeal of silent cinema and the comedic giants who graced the silver screen. Joe Roberts’ towering presence and comedic talents will forever be celebrated in the annals of cinematic history.