Oswald starred in several motion pictures in a career lasting roughly a decade from the late 20s to the late 30s, but you’ve probably never heard of him. His career witnessed the transition from silent movies to talkies. Oswald indeed made that transition. One of his greatest collaborators during his career noted that his primary charm was his personality. Oswald, this person observed, was, “Peppy, alert, saucy and venturesome, (always) keeping neat and trim.” And personality certainly sold tickets in the movie industry, then as now.
Oswald was a comedian. He mirrored the work of the great early film clowns, titans like Keaton, Chaplin, Lloyd, and even Laurel and Hardy. However, his robust personality seemed to be more in line with the sheer bravado of early screen swashbuckler Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. He was seen to be courageous and adventurous as well as downright funny.
27 films were produced that had Oswald listed as top billing. Two producers, Charles Mintz and George Winkler, put up the money to get Oswald on the big screen in 1927, and got they got Oswald sold to Universal Pictures in a short called Trolly Troubles. The film was a success, and Universal ordered more of this rising new star. Indeed, more of Oswald’s films were made in that year than in any other.
The stock market crash in 1929 caused the team that wrote and produced Oswald’s films (the old studio system usually kept the same crew together on projects) to break up. Some went to other studios. Others quit the business altogether. That left Oswald without backing for many other projects. 1938 was pretty much the end of the line for his career. He faded into obscurity for the most part, replaced by new faces and more popular characterizations.
The main writers for Oswald, however, went on to bigger and better things. In fact, when they were writing for Oswald in the late 1920s, the were working and writing for a brand-new star that would become one of the biggest stars the world has ever known.
You see, Oswald was a rabbit. An animated rabbit. His creators were Ub Iwerks and Walt Disney. The star they replaced him with you know as Mickey Mouse.