Vernon Bruce Dent (February 16, 1895 – November 5, 1963) was a comic actor who appeared in over 400 films in his career. He co-starred in many short films for Columbia Pictures, frequently as the foil to the Three Stooges.
In the early 1920s, Dent was a fixture at the Mack Sennett studio, working with comedians Billy Bevan, Andy Clyde, and especially Harry Langdon. Dent alternately played breezy pals and blustery authority figures opposite Langdon's timid character. Sennett voided all contracts when it came time to retool his studio for sound, and Dent moved to Educational Pictures in 1929. Dent's supporting performances were frequently funnier than the sometimes uninspired antics of the nominal stars. When Educational hired Harry Langdon for a series of two-reelers in 1932, Vernon Dent resumed his place as Langdon's co-star.
Dent joined Columbia Pictures' short-subject department in 1935, and achieved his greatest success there. He went on to work with practically every star on the payroll, including Andy Clyde, Charley Chase, and Eddie Quillan (all fellow Mack Sennett alumni), as well as Buster Keaton, El Brendel, Barbara Jo Allen (Vera Vague), Hugh Herbert, Schilling and Lane, Harry von Zell, and Bert Wheeler. Dent appeared very occasionally in feature films, including Million Dollar Legs, Chip Off the Old Block, Kill the Umpire, The Harvey Girls and Rockin' in the Rockies, but was much more visible in two-reel comedies.
Dent was most often featured in the Three Stooges films; in fact, he made more appearances in their films than any other supporting actor. Dent also appeared with The Three Stooges on a live CBS Television broadcast of The Frank Sinatra Show on January 1, 1952. Through his association with the Stooges, Dent became close friends with Shemp Howard.
Diabetes and death
Dent suffered from diabetes later in life, and eventually went blind. Amazingly, he continued to act in Columbia shorts, in a stationary or seated position, through 1954. His final appearance with the Stooges was in Knutzy Knights; as the film was a remake of 1948's Squareheads of the Round Table, Dent was only needed for a few new shots, and was also uncredited. Every Three Stooges film short with his name that was produced after this used stock footage from his earlier shorts; as such, his last "appearance" was 1957's Guns a Poppin!. By the time Dent retired from film in 1954, he had appeared in over 400 films.
Dent attended Shemp Howard's funeral in 1955. At the time, he was completely blind, and had to be led to Howard's casket. Character actor Emil Sitka was one of many who did not know Dent had lost his sight:
- Vernon came into the parlor, wearing a yarmulke like everyone else since this was a Jewish ceremony. He was led in by his arm, and brought up to Shemp's casket. The man accompanying Vernon told him, 'This is Shemp.' Vernon was staring straight ahead at the wall — it was then that I realized he was blind. Vernon felt Shemp's hand, then his face very gently. Everyone else had been filing past the casket quickly, but Vernon took his time, giving a last goodbye to his friend. It was one of the most moving things I ever saw.
Dent's diabetes worsened after his retirement, limiting his activities. He died of a heart attack on November 5, 1963.