Charles Fred Lamont was a man of slightly mysterious origins. He was apparently born on May 5, 1895, in St. Petersburg, Russia. His father's last name was Ausmus, and his mother's maiden name was Barenco. They were French actors from theatrical families, who happened to be touring Imperial Russia when their son was born. Soon after, they came to the United States on another tour, and decided to stay, winding up in San Francisco. Charles would later claim to have been born there in 1899, possibly to hide the fact that he never bothered to be naturalized.
Lamont moved to Los Angeles in 1919, where he worked as a property man and part-time actor for Mack Sennett. In 1922 he switched to directing two-reel comedies, and also got himself married. The marriage lasted only a year, but Lamont would continue directing for another thirty-five. He not only directed comedy shorts, he also wrote them, which may be why he insisted there be no ad-libbing in his films; all lines had to match what was in the script. Aside from this one insistence, he was well-liked and easy to work with, a genial elf who stood barely 5'5". In 1925 he married again, to a seventeen-year old actress from Georgia, named Estelle Bradley, who would remain his wife until her death in 1990.
In 1932, while casting background children for a short for Educational Pictures, he discovered five-year old Shirley Temple, and gave her a prominent part in The Pie-Covered Wagon. He also wrote and directed her next film, Merrily Yours (1932), her first starring role and his first feature-length film. He continued to direct shorts and grade B features throughout the thirties, until he switched to Universal. There he got to make slightly better films, though not by much. He specialized in musical comedies, made several Abbott and Costello flicks and a slew of the Ma & Pa Kettle pictures in the late forties and early fifties.