• 19 November 1883
  •  Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Ned Sparks


Ned Sparks proved himself a top character support whose style would be imitated for decades to come. Although less remembered now, he was an inimitable cinematic player back in 1930s Hollywood. The nasal-toned, deadpan comedian Sparks was born Edward A. Sparkman in Guelph, Canada, and was raised for a time in St. Thomas, Ontario. He attended the University of Toronto and, after a period of soul-searching, decided upon acting. He began, believe it or not, as a honky-tonk balladeer in Dawson Creek, Alaska. In 1907, he went to New York and developed his stone-faced reputation in comic outings. His first film in 1915 did not lead to other offers, particularly during a black-balling incident as a one of the founding members of Actors Equity. In 1922, his movie career headed full steam, but it was the advent of sound with Ned's cynical tones, raspy whines and sour disposition that sparked a comfortable film niche, making close to 100 films in all. Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933), Going Hollywood (1933), the Caterpillar in the all-star Alice in Wonderland (1933), the Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers version of Imitation of Life (1934) were just a few of his more noticeable roles. His cigar-chomping puss became so well-known at Warner Bros., in fact, that Walt Disney's short animated film Broken Toys (1935) had a Jack-in-the-Box character based exclusively on Ned's image. A few years later, when Disney made Mother Goose Goes Hollywood (1938), Ned's caricature played The Jester. In 1939, Tex Avery portrayed him as a hermit crab in Fresh Fish (1939). A radio favorite over the years, he performed alongside Bing Crosby quite frequently. His last disagreeable Hollywood role would be alongside James Stewart in Magic Town (1947). In 1957, he died of an intestinal blockage.