Clyde Adolf Bruckman was born on June 30, 1894 in San Bernardino, California. In 1911, Bruckman's father Rudolph was in a car accident that left him with headaches and brain damage. Rudolph shot himself in 1912.
Bruckman began writing for the sports pages of the San Bernardino Sun in the spring of 1912. In 1914, he moved to Los Angeles and got a job as a sportswriter for the Los Angeles Times. He later worked for the Los Angeles Examiner and the Saturday Evening Post.
On July 29, 1916, Bruckman married Lola Margaret Hamilton.
Bruckman first worked in film in 1919, writing intertitles for Universal Pictures. In 1921, he moved to Warner Brothers and began writing gags for Buster Keaton.
Bruckman (pronounced "Brook-man") may be best known for his collaborations with Buster Keaton, as Bruckman co-wrote several of Keaton's most popular films, including Our Hospitality, Sherlock Jr., The Navigator, Seven Chances, The Cameraman, and The General, which Bruckman also co-directed.
Bruckman continued directing comedies during the sound era, his most famous credit being The Fatal Glass of Beer, W. C. Fields' esoteric satire of Yukon melodramas. Unfortunately for his career path, Bruckman's fondness for alcohol caused production delays that cost him directorial assignments. From 1935 forward, Bruckman would be limited to writing scripts.
Bruckman's wealth of silent-comedy experience earned him a steady position in Columbia Pictures' short-subject department (Bruckman was instrumental in Columbia's hiring his old boss Buster Keaton in 1939). Bruckman continued to write new material for The Three Stooges and other comics, but as time went by, he resorted to borrowing gags from Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton's silent films. After Bruckman lifted the magician's-coat sequence from Lloyd's Movie Crazy for The Three Stooges' Loco Boy Makes Good, and the "loosely basted tuxedo" routine from Lloyd's The Freshman for the Stooges' Three Smart Saps, Lloyd sued Columbia and won. "Never mind that Bruckman had co-written and co-directed Movie Crazy, giving him a pretty strong claim to intellectual ownership of the routine, or that Bruckman and Lloyd may very well have borrowed their ideas from a vaudeville act in the first place", wrote Ethan Gates in The New Republic, reviewing Matthew Dessem's 2015 biography of Bruckman, The Gag Man.
Bruckman was hired by Universal Pictures to write comedy scenes for the studio's "B" musical features. This was a lucrative assignment that paid better than short subjects. He continued recycling gags but on a larger scale, now lifting entire sequences from older films. He inserted the tuxedo routine into Universal's "B" musical-comedy feature Her Lucky Night. Bruckman adapted material from Lloyd's Welcome Danger into Universal's Joan Davis-Leon Errol comedy She Gets Her Man, and again consulted Movie Crazy for Universal's "B" comedy So's Your Uncle. Lloyd, outraged by three "wholesale infringements" within months, filed suit for US$1,700,000; the court ruled for Lloyd but granted damages of $40,000. Bruckman was fired, and never worked on a feature film again. Demoralized, he returned to Columbia, where his work was now so slipshod that he would simply hand in an old script, without any attempt at updating or revising it.
The advent of television, and its constant need for broadcast material, gave Bruckman a new start. Abbott and Costello launched a filmed television series in 1951. Having used up most of their own familiar routines during the show's first season, the comedians hired Clyde Bruckman, and his mental storehouse of gags saw them through a second season. Although Bruckman received credit for several scripts, these turned out to contain reworkings of old Keaton and Lloyd gags. Again, Lloyd filed suit, naming Abbott & Costello's production company as a party to the suit. As a result, other producers were unwilling to hire Bruckman.
Bruckman's only safe haven was Columbia, but producer Jules White had already filled his quota of scripts for that season, and had no immediate need for Bruckman's services.
With nowhere else to turn, the desolate Bruckman borrowed a .45-caliber pistol from Buster Keaton, claiming to need it for a hunting trip. On the afternoon of January 4, 1955, Bruckman, a resident of Santa Monica, California, parked his car outside a local restaurant, entered a restroom and shot himself in the head.
Some reports claim the location was Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood, but according to his January 5 obituary, it was in the city of Santa Monica, and Bruckman left a typewritten note for the "gentlemen of the Santa Monica Police Department." Neither Jules White nor Buster Keaton had any inkling of Bruckman's intentions.
Bruckman married first wife Lola in 1917. She died after complications from emergency surgery on October 8, 1931. He was married to his second wife, Gladys, from March 1932 until his death.