Harry (June 23, 1906- January 15, 1992), Herbert (February 27, 1908- August 5, 1999) and Sylvester Wiere (September 17, 1909- July 7, 1970) were a zany comedy team born in Berlin, Vienna and Prague respectively so that each had a different nationality despite being brothers. Their extraordinarily long career stretched from the 1920s right up to the death of Sylvester in 1970 at which time the brothers were appearing on television shows such as Laugh-In.
They appeared in comedy roles in films of the 1930s and 1940s and were a staple on television variety shows in the 1950s. Because their act had little or no dialogue and consisted of tandem dancing, acrobatics, balancing of objects, juggling and music from sophisticated classical to country and western (playing guitar, violin and bass), they were able to reach a broad international audience. Sylvester was particularly known for performing his routines with an almost demonic grin that sent audiences into paroxysms of laughter. In addition, the group always seemed to do something different with each television appearance so that one could never be sure which aspect of their myriad talents one would get.
Early in their careers they would, for example, do a circus-type act with a performing horse but the horse was actually two of the brothers in a horse costume. The horse would be asked to perform all sorts of complicated maneuvers, encouraged by the “trainer” with the result that a great deal of silly yet skillful dancing and prancing occurred. At almost every performance they did completely unified tandem dancing, their trademark, sometimes even doing acrobatic moves at the same time without losing a beat. And they were so sophisticated and trained musically that they could recreate any musical genre with extraordinary accuracy.
The Wiere Brothers were among the last of the great non-verbal comedians, in effect practicing an art more suited to silent film and to stars such as Buster Keaton or Charley Chaplin. But in their overall silliness they had links to The Three Stooges. With this in mind, Jules White sought to create a largely mime, slapstick television show called Oh! Those Bells starring the Weires. It was unique in that it attempted to have the brothers, as workers in a theatrical prop store for an easily irritated boss, attempt to complete a simple project, but the result was always a slapstick fiasco. The show’s format was so similar each week that it was cancelled after just 13 weeks.
In the movies they did cameos, even appearing as late as 1967 as silly detectives looking for Elvis Presley in Double Trouble. Their sister Inga Wiere and her husband Jon Zerby were noted dancers, billed as The Dancing Zerbys, and their daughter was the extremely popular 1970s film star Kim Darby,who became particularly famous after appearing in the movie True Grit opposite John Wayne and who subsequently had a significant career on television. When her film and television career took off, Kim Darby had little chance to show what a fine, trained dancer she also was. These days she gives lectures on acting and her family’s illustrious history at UCLA’s extension program.
The Wiere Brothers give an incredible performance with Jerry Lewis. Quality is poor but well worth viewing to see this: