Billy West

Billy West (September 22, 1892 - July 21, 1975) was a film actor, producer, and director of the silent film era. He is best known as a Charlie Chaplin impersonator. Born Roy B. Weissburg in Russia, West adopted his professional name some time after emigrating to America. He appeared in many short films, first in Apartment No. 13 in 1912. In 1917 movie theaters couldn't get enough Charlie Chaplin comedies, and an enterprising producer hired West, who had been doing comic pantomimes on the vaudeville stage, to make imitation-Chaplin subjects to meet the demand. West, wearing the identical "tramp" costume and makeup, copied Chaplin's movements and gestures so accurately that he is often mistaken for the genuine performer. Chaplin himself saw the Billy West company filming on a Hollywood street, and told West, "You're a damned good imitator." Some West comedies were later re-released on the home-movie market as "Charlie Chaplin" pictures. Most of the West comedies of 1917-18 resembled the Chaplin comedies of 1916-17, with Oliver Hardy approximating the villainy of Eric Campbell, and Leatrice Joy in the Edna Purviance ingenue role.




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