Born September 17, 1900, Jules White began working in motion pictures in the 1910s, as a child actor, for Pathé Studios. He appears in a small role as a Confederate soldier in the landmark silent feature The Birth of a Nation (1915). By the 1920s his brother Jack White had become a successful comedy producer at Educational Pictures, and Jules worked for him as a film editor. Jules became a director in 1926, specializing in comedies.
Jules White produced and/or directed more than 130 of the nearly 200 Three Stooges’ comedies in addition to directing such classic slapstick comedians as Buster Keaton, Harry Langdon, Charlie Chase and Chester Conklin. Almost 40% of White’s output stars The Three Stooges. His work earned him four Academy Award nominations.
White, who took over the short subjects department at Columbia Pictures in 1934, died at age 84. He had retired in 1958, the same year that the studio closed his department after the short subject, which was often sandwiched between two major film features, lost its appeal.
He referred to himself as “The Fourth Stooge,” claiming in a 1982 interview with The LA Times that he had earned the sobriquet because “it was easier to show them (Larry, Curly, and Moe) what to do than to write it down.”
Physical comedy was the norm for White’s short features. Some of his personal favorite gags were used repeatedly over the years: a comedian being arrested always protests, “I’m gonna get myself a cheap lawyer!” Or the star comedian accidentally collides with the villain and apologizes, “Sorry, mister, there was a man chasing me… you’re the man!” White’s most familiar gag is probably the one where an actor is stuck in the posterior by a sharp object, and then yells, “Help, help! I’m losing my mind!”
White came to Columbia from Paramount, where he was an assistant director, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where he helped to create “The Barkies,” a series of one-reelers that featured talking dogs.