Familiar Faces #11: When Candy Johnson Got Us All Shook Up!

Candy Johnson, dubbed “The Perpetual Motion Machine” by American-International publicists, shaked, rattled, and rolled her way across the Silver Screen in the first four AIP/Beach Party flicks, then just as quickly disappeared from the scene. But just who was this undulating beach bunny with the amazing ability to send Eric Von Zipper flying through the air with her hip-quaking booty shaking?

‘Candy’ was the childhood nickname of Vicki Jane Husted, born in San Gabriel, California on Feb. 8, 1944. She was the niece of race car driver Jim Rathmann, who won the Indy 500 in 1960. Candy loved dancing (obviously!) and her energetic go-go shimmying landed her a two-year gig as the featured attraction at Palm Springs’ Safari Lounge, backed by The Exciters Band, where she drew sold-out crowds on a nightly basis. The California Girl and her band next hit glittering Las Vegas, where the local press first coined that “Perpetual Motion Machine” nickname. It was there she caught the eyes of American-International Pictures honchos, who were looking for youthquakers to cast in their new film series about frolicking hormonal teenagers at the beach.

BEACH PARTY  was released in the summer of 1963 P.B. (that’s Pre-Beatles) and the low-budget formula of sand, sun, and surf became a smash on the Drive-In circuit. Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello were the nominal stars (along with “oldsters” Robert Cummings and Dorothy Malone), but Candy received a special ‘Introducing’ credit as the vigorously frugging girl with the hips that caused horny surfers to hurl across the beach! Next up was MUSCLE BEACH PARTY (1964) , featuring the great Peter Lorre in his penultimate role as Mr. Strangedour.

BIKINI BEACH (1964)  followed quickly, and this time Candy and The Exciters got to do their own number, a Swingin’ Sixties sax-honking classic titled “Gotcha Where I Wantcha”, which Candy joyously reprises during the end credits accompanied by veteran character actress Renie Riano:

It was during this time The Candy Johnson Show appeared at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, drawing massive crowds to the Bourbon Street Pavilion with their act at the ‘Gay New Orleans Nightclub’. The Pavilion was the Fair’s biggest hit, and attracted the attention of future Studio 54 owner Mark Fleischman, who opened the New York discotheque The Candy Store, headlined by Our Girl Candy and her Exciters. Members of rock band The Strangeloves allegedly saw Candy perform and came up with the perennial rock classic “I Want Candy”, which rose to #11 in 1965:

Candy’s last beach flick was PAJAMA PARTY before being replaced by AIP exec James Nicholson’s new squeeze, starlet Susan Hart. Candy retired from show-biz in 1968 and settled into a quiet life away from the spotlight. She was urged by friends to attend a special 2006 screening of BEACH PARTY in Los Angeles, and when she was introduced to the audience at the film’s conclusion, they surprised her with a thunderous standing ovation! Candy Johnson passed away of brain cancer just six years later at age 68, and her cremated remains were shot into space aboard the Celestis Centennial Memorial Spaceflight… Candy Johnson is now One with the Universe!

Now enjoy Candy along with 13-year old Stevie Wonder as we roll the end credits from MUSCLE BEACH PARTY! Thanks for the summertime memories, Candy:

Familiar Faces #10: Harold Sakata, Man of Many Hats!

Most of you know burly Harold Sakata for his role as the steel-hat-flinging Oddjob in GOLDFINGER , the third movie in the James Bond franchise. But Mr. Sakata did much more than that one iconic part. In fact, you could say that Harold Sakata wore many hats during his colorful career, and not just on the Silver Screen!

He wasn’t always known as Harold “Oddjob” Sakata, his given name being Toshiyuki Sakata. Born in Holualoa, Hawaii in 1920, Harold was raised in a large family – six brothers and four sisters! Believe it of not, as a teen he was a scrawny 113 pounds, until he took up weightlifting at age 18. Harold bulked right up, and after a stint in the Army during WWII, he became a top powerlifter, so good he made the U.S Weightlifting team at the 1948 Summer Olympic Games in London, where he won the silver medal in the light-heavyweight class by pressing 410 kg, which is more than 903 lbs! Harold also competed in bodybuilding contests, and once won the Mr. Hawaii title.

He began training to become a professional wrestler, and made his ring debut as a “good guy” in 1950. But with his 20″ neck, 50″ chest, and fearsome scowl, Harold reinvented himself as the dastardly, rule-breaking villain ‘Tosh Togo’, billed as the brother of another wrestling heel, The Great Togo. Together the pernicious pair travelled the world, winning numerous tag-team championships along the way. ‘Tosh’ also captured singles gold in Los Angeles, Texas, Puerto Rico, and his native Hawaii. During a grappling tour of Great Britain, film producers Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli spotted him on the telly, and thought the massive wrestler would make a great henchman in their latest James Bond epic, GOLDFINGER.

In my 2017 review, I called GOLDFINGER “the ultimate James Bond movie”, and Sakata plays a large part in making it so. He had no acting experience, but his career as a wrestling villain gave him more than enough training to play the right-hand man of Gert Frobe’s Auric Goldfinger – with no dialog, all he had to do was look menacing! It took Harold about five months to get that hat-flinging trick down pat before he finally mastered it. His “electrifying” battle with Sean Connery’s 007 is one of the series’ best, and if he had never made another movie after GOLDFINGER, his place in the James Bond Rogue’s Gallery would forever be assured.

But GOLDFINGER was just the beginning of Harold Sakata’s next career, and after roles in a trio of European movies (the German crime thriller 4 SCHLUSSER, the Spanish spy spoof BALERIC CAPER, and the French comedy SEVENTEENTH HEAVEN), he appeared in the all-star TV film THE POPPY IS ALSO A FLOWER, produced under the aegis of the United Nations, and featuring (among others) Stephen Boyd, Yul Brynner, Angie Dickinson , Rita Hayworth , Marcello Mastroianni, Gilbert Roland, Omar Sharif, and Eli Wallach in a tale about a team of international narcs out to stop the heroin pipeline in the Middle East. The movie was “based on” a story by none other than 007 creator Ian Fleming, and directed by Bond vet Terence Young.

With Rory Calhoun on an episode of “Gilligan’s Island”

Harold was next cast as crime boss Big Buddha in the sci-fi/spy flick DIMENSION 5, a low-budget effort starring Jeffrey Hunter and France Nuyen. He was no stranger to episodic TV either, appearing on GILLIGAN’S ISLAND in a spoof of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME as the henchman of big-game hunter Rory Calhoun, who’s out to hunt down a man – namely Gilligan! Around this time he also showed up on variety shows like THE JERRY LEWIS SHOW and ROWAN & MARTIN’S LAUGH-IN. After appearing in the all-star bomb THE PHYNX , Sakata landed a regular role on SARGE, starring Oscar winner George Kennedy as a cop-turned-priest, with Harold as Sarge’s cook at the mission who just happens to be a martial arts expert. The series lasted but one season.

In William Grefe’s “Impulse” (1974)

Yet Harold pressed on, landing a part in Florida filmmaker William Grefe’s 1974 horror movie IMPULSE, starring William Shatner as a serial killer of rich widows! He also played in another Grefe epic, 1976’s MAKO: THE JAWS OF DEATH, one of the first of the Spielberg rip-offs. He kept active on television too, guest starring on HAWAII 5-0, THE BLUE KNIGHT (with old pal Kennedy), QUINCY, POLICE WOMAN, and THE ROCKFORD FILES. He was also noted for starring in a series of TV commercials for Vicks Formula 44 Cough Syrup, dressed in his ‘Oddjob” get-up, as a man whose coughing fits cause destruction before he takes his dose:

Sakata parodied his TV ads on an episode of Johnny Carson’s TONIGHT SHOW, with hilarious results!:

The remainder of his film resume includes turkeys such as THE HAPPY HOOKER GOES TO WASHINGTON, DEATH DIMENSION ( an Al Adamson film featuring Jim ‘BLACK BELT JONES’ Kelly and ex-Bond George Lazenby !), GOIN’ COCONUTS (starring Donny & Marie Osmond!), and a recurring role on  the short-lived horror comedy sitcom HIGHCLIFFE MANOR. Harold Sakata died of liver cancer on July 29, 1982 in a Honolulu hospital, and though his film career wasn’t really very memorable, the man himself certainly was. He did indeed wear many hats during his colorful lifetime, from Olympic strongman to pro wrestler to iconic James Bond villain to TV pitchman, and Harold Sakata is still fondly remembered by his legions of fans – including Yours Truly!

Spot more “Familiar Faces” on Cracked Rear Viewer:

Hank Worden  – Martin Kosleck – Esther Howard – Rainbeaux Smith – Samuel S. Hinds  – Jack Norton – Gordon Jones – Angelique Pettyjohn – Ethelreda Leopold

Familiar Faces #9: Stooges, Chorus Lines, and Ethelreda Leopold!

She may not have been as prolific as Hollywood’s “Queen of the Extras” Bess Flowers, but once you’ve discovered Ethelreda Leopold, you’ll find the blonde beauty popping up everywhere, mainly in uncredited roles. Three Stooges fans certainly know of her work, as she appeared in eleven of their Columbia shorts, but there’s a whole lot more Ethelreda out there in classic film land!

Ethelreda (3rd from right) in 1934’s “Dames”

The girl with the unique name (‘Ethelreda’ is from Olde English, meaning ‘of noble strength’) was born in Chicago on July 7, 1914. She was working as a teenage model, and doing very well, when she was discovered by a Warner Brothers talent scout and brought out to Hollywood. Ethelreda made her debut as one of the chorus girls in Busby Berkeley’s 1934 extravaganza DAMES, and became one of Busby’s busiest girls. She can be seen in the chorus in GOLD DIGGERS OF 1935, STAGE STRUCK, VARSITY SHOW, HOLLYWOOD HOTEL, SWEETHEARTS, and GOLD DIGGERS OF PARIS.

The Busby Berkeley Girls in “Gold Diggers of 1935”

The latter film found Ethelreda voted “Most Popular” Berkeley Girl (out of 109!), and the studio sent her on a promotional tour that included a stop in New York, where the writer H. Allen Smith made a nervous attempt to take her measurements (it’s a funny story and can be found by following this link!).

Grooming the Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)

Ethelreda can be spotted in many classic films of the day, mostly uncredited: MY MAN GODFREY, MARKED WOMAN, THE WIZARD OF OZ (helping groom   Bert Lahr’s Cowardly Lion!), DANCING CO-ED, THE RAGE OF PARIS, CITY FOR CONQUEST, HE STAYED FOR BREAKFAST, ANGELS OVER BROADWAY, BALL OF FIRE, SABOTEUR , WORDS AND MUSIC, ALL ABOUT EVE, and many more. She had a bigger role (billed as ‘Ethel’ Leopold) in the 1938 exploitation film RACE SUICIDE, dealing with an illegal abortion racket and produced by Willis Kent, who made a bunch of these type of things (THE PACE THAT KILLS, THE ROAD TO RUIN, SMASHING THE VICE TRUST, CONFESSIONS OF A VICE BARON, and the immortal COCAINE FIENDS!).

Taking dictation in Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” (1940)

Besides choruses and background beauty, Ethelreda made her mark in comedy, working with all the great comedians, including Abbott & Costello Charlie Chaplin (THE GREAT DICTATOR), Andy Clyde, W.C. Fields (YOU CAN’T CHEAT AN HONEST MAN), Bob Hope , Harry Langdon, Laurel & Hardy The Marx Brothers (A NIGHT IN CASABLANCA), Olsen & Johnson (HELLZAPOPPIN’, CRAZY HOUSE), and The Ritz Brothers . But it’s her work with The Three Stooges she’s fondly remembered for by Knuckleheads everywhere! Her first was 1936’s A PAIN IN THE PULLMAN, where she’s one of the chorus girls on a train kept awake by The Stooges’ madcap antics.

With Curly Howard in “Wee Wee Monsieur” (1938)

In HALF SHOT SHOOTERS (’36) she’s just a (pretty) face in the crowd, and  GOOFS AND SADDLES (1937) finds Ethelreda as a saloon girl out West, encountering Wild Bill Hiccup (Moe), Just Plain Bill (Larry), and Buffalo Billious (Curly). In BACK TO THE WOODS (’37) she’s a Colonial maiden, WEE WEE MONSIEUR (1938) casts her as a harem girl, CALLING ALL CURS (1939) a nurse to the boy’s wacky veterinarians, NUTTY BUT NICE (1940) as a waitress, ALL THE WORLD’S A STOOGE (1941) a party guest (with the boys hired to dress and act like children – not a stretch!), MATRI-PHONY (1942) she’s Miss Syracuse in Ancient Rome.

Let the pies fly! “In the Sweet Pie and Pie” (1941)

Her two biggest Stooge appearences are among the team’s best shorts. IN THE SWEET PIE AND PIE (1941) has Ethereda as Baska, who along with her sisters Tiska (Dorothy Appleby) and Taska (Mary Ainslee) get married to three condemned convicts in order to claim an inheritance. The plan backfires when the boys are pardoned, and the girls do whatever it takes to get divorced – namely insisting they become high society gentlemen! The craziness culminates in a wild pie fight (The Stooges’ first!) and Ethelreda here was more than willing to take one for the team – a pie, that is! G.I. WANNA HOME (1946) finds The Stooges returning from WWII to their sweeties Bessie (Doris Houck), Tessie (Judy Malcolm), and Jessie (Ethelreda) and attempting to build a home for them all to live in, with the expected disastrous results!

A more mature but still beautiful Ethelreda Leopold

After a 1953 appearance on TV’s THE ABBOTT & COSTELLO SHOW, Ethelreda disappeared from screens both large and small. She seems to have slipped into a life a domesticity with husband Joseph Pine, a hotel executive, and son Victor. It wasn’t until ten years later that she returned to acting – with a vengeance! Ethelreda’s list of TV credits reads like a Television Hall of Fame: HAZEL, BONANZA, BATMAN , THE MONKEES , THAT GIRL, THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW , IT TAKES A THIEF, BEWITCHED, MARY TYLER MOORE , THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY (4 episodes), RHODA, THE A-TEAM, HART TO HART, DYNASTY (6 episodes). Older but still attractive, Ethelreda graced many a film during this time as well: THE KILLERS (Ronald Reagan’s last movie), TWO ON A GUILLOTINE , HARUM SCARUM, MARRIAGE ON THE ROCKS, THE OSCAR, I LOVE YOU ALICE B. TOKLAS, HELLFIGHTERS, MYRA BRECKINRIDGE, THE MEPHISTO WALTZ, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN . Wherever there was a need for a sophisticated older woman, Ethelreda was there!

Ethelreda meets Al & Peg Bundy on “Married With Children”

Her last acting credit was an episode of MARRIED WITH CHILDREN in 1989, with Al Bundy and his lowbrow brood having a night out at a swanky restaurant! A year later, Ethelreda made a personal appearance as guest of honor at a Three Stooges Convention in Philadelphia, where she was a big hit with fandom and treated like a star. She died of pneumonia in 1998, but her legacy lives on; just watch any classic movie or TV show, and there’s a good chance Ethelreda Leopold will pop up! I don’t even think IMDB has all her complete credits listed, so keep a sharp eye out for that beautiful young blonde or elegant older woman in the background. Now that you know about Ethelreda, happy hunting!

From 1940’s “Angels Over Broadway”

 

Familiar Faces #8: In Search of Angelique Pettyjohn

I first became aware of the gorgeous Angelique Pettyjohn, like most fans, through her appearance as Shahna in the STAR TREK episode “The Gamesters of Triskelion”. The statuesque, green-haired beauty fascinated me as much as she did Captain Kirk, churning my then-adolescent hormones into a frenzy! Since then, I’ve been obsessed with the lovely Miss Pettyjohn, and have made it my mission to discover All Things Angelique!

Angelique Pettyjohn was not her given name, of course, nor was it her only screen name. She was born Dorothy Lee Perrins in the City of Angels on March 11, 1943, and studied dance as a young girl. According to IMDB, her first film appearance was the “Blonde in U.S. sex insert” in Argentine director Armando Bo’s PUT OUT OR SHUT UP in 1959, which would’ve made her 16 years old at the time. She’s also credited as a juror in 1961’s THE PHANTOM PLANET, a low-budget sci-fi film notable for featuring former silent star Francis X. Bushman as an alien and the debuting Richard Kiel as a monster. Having never seen these two films, I can’t confirm if that’s indeed Angelique in them.

The cleverly disguised Agent Charlie Watkins on “Get Smart” (with star Don Adams)

Angelique’s first break came in the spy-spoof sitcom GET SMART, starring comedian Don Adams as the inept Maxwell Smart, CONTROL Agent 86. Angelique makes two appearances as Agent Charlie Watkins, a male master of disguise who’s really good  – so good that he looks like the beautiful Angelique! The actress has the part of Charlie in two episodes, “Smart Fit the Battle of Jericho” (disguised as a cigarette girl) and “Pussycats Galore” (as a waitress at the Pussycat Club). Though the parts are brief, they got Angelique noticed, yet stardom still eluded her.

Playing in Elvis’s band in 1967’s “Clambake”

Bit parts and uncredited roles followed: big films like HOTEL, A GUIDE FOR THE MARRIED MAN, ROUGH NIGHT IN JERICHO, WHERE WERE YOU WHEN THE LIGHTS WENT OUT?, and THE ODD COUPLE, smaller ones such as THE COOL ONES and FOR SINGLES ONLY. She’s seen to good advantage in the Elvis Presley musical CLAMBAKE, but around this time, Angelique also began taking jobs in softcore porn: Michael Findley’s THE TOUCH OF HER FLESH, Joseph Sarno’s THE LOVE REBELLION, William Rose’s PROFESSOR LUST.

Angelique as Shahna and William Shatner as Capt. Kirk in the STAR TREK episode “The Gamesters of Triskelion”

Angelique guested in episodes of THE GREEN HORNET, MR. TERRIFIC, THE FELONY SQUAD, BATMAN , and THE GIRL FROM UNCLE before landing the part that would gain her sci-fi immortality: Shahna the Thrall in the STAR TREK Season 2 episode, “The Gamesters of Triskelion”. Captain Kirk (William Shatner ), Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), and Ensign Chekov (Walter Koenig) are hijacked by alien gamblers who spend their time betting on to-the-death gladiator matches. Forced to wear “collars of obedience”, each is assigned a trainer to prepare them for combat, and Kirk is assigned to the green-haired Shahna, who naturally falls for him (because all women do!). This was Angelique’s biggest part to date, and would be her claim to fame in the future.

In AIP’s bike-sploitation epic “Hell’s Belles”

She lost the part of Nova in 1968’s PLANET OF THE APES to Linda Hamilton, but next up for Angelique were co-starring roles in two drive-in classics. 1969’s MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND found her in a Filipino-lensed horror thriller opposite ‘Beach Party’ alum John Ashley being terrorized by a green-skinned monster, and she plays a biker chick in HELLS’ BELLES alongside bike-sploitation vets Jeremy Slate (THE MINI-SKIRT MOB, HELL’S ANGELS ’69) and Adam Roarke (THE SAVAGE SEVEN, HELL’S ANGELS ON WHEELS). That same year saw the release of CONFESSIONS OF TOM HARRIS, codirected by John Derek and David Nelson (Ozzie & Harriet’s son) in a story about an alcoholic ex-serviceman who breaks arms for the mob before coming to Jesus and helping drunks. Don Murray, Linda Evans (Derek’s then-wife), and former Warner Bros star David Brian are also in the film, which has gained a bit of a cult status.

Angelique in her days performing at Las Vegas’s Silver Slipper

But nothing came of these, and she was back to bits (HEAVEN WITH A GUN, THE LOVE GOD?) and dreck like THE CURIOUS FEMALE, UP YOUR TEDDY BEAR, and WIT’S END (also known as G.I. EXECUTIONER, and directed by Joel M. Reed of BLOODSUCKING FREAKS infamy). In the early 70’s, Angelique moved to Las Vegas and became a stripper and showgirl, dancing at The Silver Slipper and The Aladdin. She’d developed a problem with drugs and alcohol, and by the early 80’s was performing in Triple X fare like TITILLATION, BODY TALK, and STALAG 69 under the pseudonyms Heaven St. John and Angel St. John.

The “family friendly” version of her popular poster

What saved Angelique from a life of porn, drugs, and obscurity was the STAR TREK revival that burst forth after the release of 1979’s STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE and its sequels. Trekkies and their conventions were everywhere, and anyone remotely connected to the original series was automatically embraced by fandom. Angelique began making appearances at these conventions, where she was welcomed with open arms – a star at last, at least in Trekkies’ eyes! She sold photos of herself dressed as Shahna in two versions, one of which was in the nude, and fanboys ate them up like Tribbles gobbling quadrotriticle grain!

As the whip-crackin’ Whiplash in 1984’s “The Lost Empire”

Angelique returned to films mostly made by former fans who knew of her work on STAR TREK and the exploitation field. She’s in Alex Cox’s REPO MAN, Jim Wynorski’s THE LOST EMPIRE (as the leather-clad Whiplash!), Fred Olen Ray’s BIOHAZARD, Mike Jittlov’s THE WIZARD OF SPEED AND TIME, and her last film, SORORITY GIRLS AND THE CREATURE FROM HELL (under the name Ashley St. John). Returning to the Vegas stage as a burlesque queen in 1989, Angelique was a popular attraction until her diagnosis with cervical cancer, which took her in 1992. There’s a rumor circulating around the Internet that Angelique bore a child by Elvis while working on BLUE HAWAII (one Philip Stanic, now known as Elvis Presley, Jr. and working as an Elvis impersonator), and was paid off to give him up for adoption. But since Angelique isn’t even in BLUE HAWAII (at least according to IMDB), it’s probably a bunch of baloney. Best we forget stuff like this and fondly remember Angelique Pettyjohn for what she was, a Hollywood hopeful whose one brief, shining moment as STAR TREK’s Shahna made her a star in the hearts of Trekkies everywhere:

 

 

Familiar Faces #7: Gordon Jones, Working Class Hero

Brawny actor Gordon Jones (1911-1963) was never a big star, but an actor the big  stars could depend on to give a good performance. Stars like John Wayne, Roy Rogers, and Abbott & Costello knew Gordon could deliver the goods in support, and he spent over thirty years as a working class actor. Not bad for a small town kid from Alden, Iowa!

Gordon as The Green Hornet with Keye Luke as Kato

Jones originally came to California on a football scholarship, playing guard for UCLA. Like his fellow Iowan John Wayne , Gordon began his film career in uncredited parts, and soon moved up in casts lists with films like RED SALUTE (1935), STRIKE ME PINK (1936), and THERE GOES MY GIRL (1937). Gordon’s big lug persona made him ideal for second leads as the hero’s pal, though he did get some leading roles in Poverty Row vehicles like THE LONG SHOT (1938), opposite Marsha Hunt. His big break came in the title role of THE GREEN HORNET, a 1940 serial based on the popular radio program, with Charlie Chan’s #1 Son Keye Luke playing his aide Kato.

‘The Wreck’ menaces Richard Quine as Janet Blair & Rosalind Russell look on in “My Sister Eileen”

Gordon displayed a flair for comedy, and one of his best parts was in 1941’s MY SISTER EILEEN as “The Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech”, neighbor to sisters Rosalind Russell and Janet Blair. He made his first film with The Duke in 1943’s FLYING TIGERS as Alabama, a member of Wayne’s volunteer squadron fighting the Japanese in China before the onset of Pearl Harbor. Like many actors of the era, Jones served in WWII, and returned to the screen with 1947’s THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY, starring Danny Kaye as James Thurber’s notorious daydreamer.

Gordon as Mike the Cop on “The Abbott & Costello Show”

Also in 1947, Jones made his first appearance with Abbott & Costello in THE WISTFUL WIDOW OF WAGON GAP, with Marjorie Main co-starring. Gordon’s the comic villain of the piece, and his work here led to his being cast as antagonist Mike the Cop in the team’s TV series. He makes the perfect foil for Costello’s zany antics, becoming more frustrated and exasperated every time Costello does something stupid… which is always! Jones was one of two cast members retained after A&C revamped the show in its second season, along with vaudeville vet Sidney Fields, a sure sign the boys appreciated his talents.

Lobby card from 1950’s “Sunset in the West”

Along came Roy Rogers, who employed Gordon as a comic sidekick in six of his cowboy movies. Jones played the character ‘Splinters’ McGonigle in TRIGGER JR, SUNSET IN THE WEST, NORTH OF THE GREAT DIVIDE, TRAIL OF ROBIN HOOD (all from 1950), SPOILERS OF THE PLAINS, and HEART OF THE ROCKIES (1951). TRIGGER JR. is considered by many sagebrush aficionados to be Roy’s best, while TRAIL OF ROBIN HOOD is an All-Star ‘B’ Western featuring veteran cowboys Rex Allen, Ray “Crash” Corrigan, George Chesebro, William Farnum, Monte Hale, Jack Holt, Tom Keene, Kermit Maynard, and Tom Tyler all playing themselves, as Roy and Gordon help save Holt’s Christmas Tree farm from poachers!

The 1950’s found Gordon again supporting John Wayne in the anti-Communist film BIG JIM MCLAIN (1952) and William Wellman’s plane crash drama ISLAND IN THE SKY (1953), but most of his work was now on television. Besides the Abbott & Costello show, Gordon had recurring roles in three other sitcoms: MEET MR. MCNULTEY (also known as THE RAY MILLAND SHOW) cast him as a friend of Ray’s all-girls-college professor; SO THIS IS HOLLYWOOD found him as the stuntman boyfriend of Hollywood hopeful Mitzi Green; and he was one of a succession of neighbors to OZZIE AND HARRIET. Of course, there were plenty of guest shots, too: THE GENE AUTRY SHOW, MY LITTLE MARGIE, WYATT EARP, LARAMIE, HAWAIIAN EYE, SURFSIDE-6, PERRY MASON, THE RIFLEMAN, THE REAL MCCOYS, MAVERICK, etc, etc.

Gordon and Strother Martin in 1963’s “McLintock!”

Jones made his Disney debut in 1959’s THE SHAGGY DOG as a police captain, and followed it with THE ABSENT MINDED PROFESSOR (1961) and it’s sequel SON OF FLUBBER (1963), playing the football coach in both. His last role was again with The Duke, as the smarmy land agent Douglas in 1963’s MCLINTOCK. This comedy Western features another All-Star cast (Maureen O’Hara, Stefanie Powers, Chill Wills, Jerry Van Dyke, Yvonne DeCarlo, Edgar Buchanan), and Gordon’s right in the thick of things. Unfortunately, Gordon Jones was felled by a heart attack five months before the film’s premiere, passing away at age 52.

Gordon Jones may not have been a big star, but his contributions to film and television did not go unnoticed: That’s right, he has his own star on the fabled Hollywood Walk of Fame! Like I said earlier, not bad for small town kid from Alden, Iowa!

Familiar Faces #6: Jack Norton, Hollywood’s Favorite Souse

For fifteen years, whenever Hollywood producers needed a drunk, they called Jack Norton. The perpetually inebriated man with the funny moustache made a career out of playing drunken barflies, mostly in uncredited bit parts. Everyone knew they were in for a good laugh when Jack, the ultimate Familiar Face, staggered onscreen. In real life, Jack Norton was a teatottler who never touched the stuff, and learned to “play drunk” by following tipsy people around and copying their mannerisms. Now that’s dedication to your craft!

Jack in 1934’s “A Duke for a Day”

Jack Norton was born in Brooklyn in 1882, and began his show biz career in vaudeville. He soon moved to Broadway, starring in Earl Carroll’s Vanities. Coming to Hollywood in 1934, Jack played his first lush in FINISHING SCHOOL, an early effort for Frances Dee and Ginger Rogers. After that, his specialty would be in constant demand, though he did do other, non-alcoholic roles, such as reporters in films like ALIBI IKE , PAGE MISS GLORY, and AFTER THE THIN MAN.

with William Demarest in Preston Sturges’ “The Palm Beach Story” (1942)

Comical drunks became his bread and butter though, and Jack had a long and prosperous career reeling his way across the screen. He worked with all the comedy greats of the era, including the Ritz Brothers (KENTUCKY MOONSHINE), Bob Hope (GHOST BREAKERS, LOUISIANA PURCHASE, MY FAVORITE SPY), Olsen & Johnson (CRAZY HOUSE, GHOST CATCHERS), The Great Gildersleeve (GILDERSLEEVE ON BROADWAY, GILDERSLEEVE’S GHOST ), Laurel & Hardy (THE BIG NOISE), Jack Benny (THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT), Abbott & Costello (THE NAUGHTY NINETIES), and Danny Kaye (THE KID FROM BROOKLYN). Jack was featured in the first Three Stooges Columbia short WOMEN HATERS, and again in RHYTHM AND WEEP and MALACE IN THE PALACE.

Jack (in pith helmet) as director A. Pismo Clam in “The Bank Dick” (1940)

Classic comedy fans cherish best his turn as drunken movie director A. Pismo Clam in W.C. Fields’ THE BANK DICK , so bombed the producers hire Fields (as Egbert Souse’, not exactly the model of sobriety himself!) to replace him! Jack was also a favorite of Preston Sturges, who used him as part of his stock company in THE PALM BEACH STORY, MIRACLE OF MORGAN’S CREEK, HAIL THE CONQUERING HERO, and THE SIN OF HAROLD DIDDLEBOCK (Harold Lloyd’s failed comeback attempt).

Jack with Billy DeWolfe in 1946’s “Blue Skies”

Jack pops up in movies both classic and no-so classic, adding his particular talent to RUGGLES OF RED GAP, SHE GETS HER MAN, GOLDDIGGERS OF 1937, PICK A STAR, THE GREAT GARRICK, JEZEBEL, THE LONE WOLF SPY HUNT, THE ROARING TWENTIES , THE VILLAIN STILL PURSUED HER, COVER GIRL … the list, like a barfly’s story, goes on and on. Illness forced him to slow down after 1949; he made just a handful of TV appearences before passing away in 1958. Jack Norton was never a major star, but his crocked cameos in so many films are one of the reasons we all love watching classic movies so much. Our eyes light up when he pops up three sheets to the wind, and we smile and say, “Hey, there’s THAT GUY again!”. A Familiar Face indeed, and one of those unsung working actors we all know and love!

Familiar Faces #5: The Law and Mr. Hinds

I first became aware of actor Samuel S. Hinds watching those old Universal pictures that played frequently on my local channels. What I didn’t know about the stately, distinguished thespian is he had a secret past: Hinds was a successful, practicing attorney for over 30 years before the stock market crash of 1929 wiped him out, and he decided at age 54 to pursue his second love, acting. Hinds, born in Brooklyn in 1875, was a Harvard educated lawyer who had a long interest in amateur acting. When he made the decision to turn pro, he wrangled film parts large and small, credited and uncredited. His first talking picture was 1932’s all-star comedy drama IF I HAD A MILLION, in which he played…. you guessed it, a lawyer! (Hinds previously had a small role in the silent 1926 THE AMATEUR GENTLEMAN starring Richard Barthelmess).

Hinds had a small role as a dinner guest in 1933’s MURDERS IN THE ZOO, a Pre-Code horror starring Lionel Atwill , but it wasn’t until 1935 he came into his own in scary movies. THE RAVEN cast him as Judge Thatcher, father of beautiful Jean (Irene Ware), with Bela Lugosi’s mad, Poe obsessed Dr. Richard Vollin determined to posses her – or else! Vollin, driven insane by Jean’s rejection, straps the Judge to a slab and lowers a PIT AND THE PENDULUM-inspired blade designed to slice the jurist in two! Boris Karloff lends strong support as Bela’s reluctant henchman Bateman in one of the Demonic Duo’s best efforts, and Hinds adds a touch of sanity to the demented proceedings.

Sam returned to horror with 1941’s MAN MADE MONSTER, which introduced Lon Chaney Jr. to genre fans. Hinds is well cast as kindly Dr. Lawrence, whose attempt to help Chaney’s ‘Dynamo’ Dan McCormick is thwarted by his evil assistant Dr. Rigas (Atwill again). THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. RX (1942)  typecast him as a lawyer in a spooky murder mystery with Atwill a red herring. Hinds and Chaney reteamed for Robert Siodmak’s SON OF DRACULA (1943), with Lon as the undead Count and Sam in the small role as yet another judge. Hinds closed out his Universal Monster career with a bit as a coroner in 1944’s JUNGLE WOMAN, the second entry in the Paula Dupree/Ape Woman series.

Hinds was also kept busy on the Universal lot supporting the studio’s comedy kings Abbott & Costello. The team scored big with 1941’s BUCK PRIVATES , and Sam was right in the thick of things as the base commander. RIDE EM COWBOY (1942), one of my favorite A&C flicks, has him as the owner of a dude ranch, and father of lovely Anne Gwynne. PARDON MY SARONG (1942) has the dignified actor as a native chieftain on a South Seas island, once again encountering Lionel Atwill. 1943’s IT AIN’T HAY, his last with the comedians, finds him as owner of champion race horse Tea Biscuit.

The actor appeared in his share of classics, as well. The screwball YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU (1938) saw Sam as Jean Arthur’s dad. 1939’s DESTRY RIDES AGAIN cast him as the crooked mayor of wild west town Bottleneck. Both films starred James Stewart, who figured prominently in what’s perhaps Hinds’ best known role: Pa Bailey in the 1947 Christmas classic IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Hinds is also known for playing Lew Ayres’ dad in six of the Doctor Kildare films.

From film noir ( SCARLET STREET, CALL NORTHSIDE 777) to Westerns (SHEPHERD OF THE HILLS, BADLANDS OF DAKOTA) to comedies (HELLZAPOPPIN’, THE EGG AND I), Samuel S. Hinds lent his easy-going, dignified presence to over 200 movies of the 30’s and 40’s. His last, 1949’s THE BRIBE , was released posthumously; the actor passed away October 13, 1948 at age 73. He worked right up to the end, a real trouper, and I for one am glad he gave up the dramatics of the courtroom for the dramatics of the screen. Hollywood was all the better for it!