(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
Charles 'Charlie' 'Blackie' King
Full name (from World War I military records, World War I and World War II draft registrations):
Charles La Fayette King Jr.
1895 - 1957
If there was one actor who epitomized the bad guy of the B western, it was Charlie King. He was born February 21, 1895 in Whitesboro, Grayson County, Texas and his father was a physician.
When he registered for the World War I draft in 1917, King was in Hollywood and employed as an actor by the Universal Film Co., Universal City, California. He enlisted in the U. S. Navy in August, 1918 and was discharged in early 1919. In the mid 1920s, he starred in some silent comedy shorts produced by the Stern Brothers and released by Universal. When sound arrived, he came into his own as a western and serial villain and appeared in productions from Universal, Columbia, Monogram and Republic as well as lower-budget stuff churned out by Tiffany, Colony, KBS WorldWide, PRC and more.
You can also spot him doing small bit parts in B melodramas, crime flicks, Three Stooges shorts, etc., and portraying a gang member, thug, driver ... or whatever role he could find.
Above - 1926 tradepaper ad for the Stern Brothers "The Excuse Makers" two-reel comedies starring Charlie King.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above are Jean Porter and Charlie (as henchman 'Blackie Black') in the non-western INSIDE INFORMATION (Stage and Screen, 1934) which starred Rex Lease. This is the earlier Jean Porter who did some silents and 1930s films ... not to be confused with the vivacious, dancin' Jean Porter who worked in about a half dozen westerns (including some with Autry and Rogers) as well as dozens of 1940s and 50s films.
I've always separated King's B western career into three rather arbitrary periods:
My fondest remembrances of Charlie King are those great fight scenes - where he would pummel - and be pummeled - by the likes of Bob Steele, Buster Crabbe and Tex Ritter. Easy to recall Charlie's long, straight hair flopping in his face during those wonderful screen brawls. Some folks even compare him to a punching bag.
There were a few occasions when he wasn't doing villainy. Examples:
There's a chart below with statistics on his work with various B western heroes and series. Topping the "Charlie appeared most often with list" are Steele, Crabbe, Ritter, followed by Johnny Mack Brown, Ken Maynard, Tim McCoy, Buck Jones, Tom Tyler, and the Texas Rangers. As to directors that King worked for - the clear winner was prolific Sam Newfield. Charlie appeared in over sixty Newfield films, beginning with those silent Stern Brothers comedies and continuing in the sound era with Crabbe, Steele, the Lone Rider series (George Houston and Bob Livingston), the Frontier Marshal trio, others. What's more interesting is the grocery list of people with whom he didn't work - ol' Charlie didn't do any Hopalong Cassidys or oaters with Reb Russell, Dick Foran, Allan Lane, several others.
Les Adams has ol' Charlie identified in about 350 sound era films, and of that number, 264 are westerns and 38 are serials. This includes about 45 westerns and chapterplays for Republic Pictures during the years 1935-1949.
Long, long time ago, I did an multi-issue article on Kermit Maynard for Norm Keitzer's Favorite Westerns (and Serial World) magazine. I spent a great deal of time visiting and chatting with Kerm's wife Edith Maynard, who often accompanied her husband on location when he was starring in the mountie and western flicks in the 1930s for Maurice Conn's Ambassador Pictures. Edith recalled Charlie King as a nice, quiet, soft spoken fellah ... but one who would often join in a poker game while on location.
Various sources mention that King's wife was very assertive, and would often accompany him when he picked up his paycheck ... which she immediately confiscated to ensure there were groceries in the house.
There were three marriages. He tied the knot with Pauline Dorothy Nelson on December 14, 1919 in Los Angeles and they had two sons, Charles King III (1910 - 1990) and William Nelson King (1923 - 2005). Both boys wound up in Hollywood with Charles III (Chuck) being a sound technician and William a cameraman. The marriage to Pauline ended in the mid 1920s, and 1926 tradepapers reported that Charlie was often behind on his alimony payments. At the time of the 1930 census, the two sons were living apart. William was with with Pauline's mother in Long Beach, California while Charlie and son Charles III were in Los Angeles. There was a 1927 marriage to Dorothy G. Klauber who was reported to be a stage actress. And sometime in the late 1920s, he married Ellen Etoile Dier and they had a son, Robert Lafayette King (1928 - 1999). Unsure how long that pairing lasted, but Charlie was divorced when he passed away in 1957.
Looking back at all the cowboy movie villains that flashed across the silver screen, Charlie King ranks among the most memorable.
Years of alcohol abuse caught up with him and 62 year old Charlie King passed away on May 7, 1957 at the John Wesley County Hospital, Los Angeles. He - and his physician father - are interred at Oak Wood Cemetery, Whitesboro, Grayson County, Texas.
Tragedy struck on June 29, 1990 when first son Charles III was shot and killed by an intruder in his Hollywood apartment. More on his death toward the bottom of this webpage.
From Bobby J. Copeland:
Everyone knew Charlie was an alcoholic, but it was said it never affected his work. Although he worked in pictures for many years, he was often in need of money and 'hit on' his friends for loans that they knew would never be repaid. Movie badman Terry Frost told me "Charlie was a great guy, but he was an alcoholic. He tried to kill himself twice. One time he shot himself with a .22, and another time he climbed a tree and tried to hang himself. Either the limb or the rope broke and Charlie ended up with a broken leg".
Some claimed he died of a heart attack immediately after playing a corpse on the GUNSMOKE TV show. I think the reason this story got started was because there was a technician on the program named Charles King. Many feel that he was the one who played the corpse and when it was reported, people assumed it was Charlie King the actor. King worked in films under the name of Charles King and Charles King, Jr. Because he sometimes used the Jr., some historians have said that King's son worked in pictures. However, that is not the case as King and King, Jr. were one in the same. Circa 1990, King's son, Charles Lafayette King, III was murdered (shot in the chest). Some think that King, III, and Charles S. King (the informant on Charlie King's death certificate) were the same person.
From Minard Coons:
Minard chatted with Bob Steele at one of the 1970s conventions, and Steele commented that "they would always do his fight scenes with Charlie King at the end of the filming. He and Charlie would go out and drink a little lunch then come back, do the scenes, and totally tear the place apart".
From Jim Martin:
Got an e-mail from Arizonian Jim Martin in July, 2001. Jim wrote: "About 1955 or 56 I went out to the San Fernando Valley to Menasco Steel Company and had to check in at the security guard's office in the rear before I could get in. The security guard was Charlie King. He was working there to supplement his retirement after leaving the movie business and continued working there till he died. We had quite a long conversation before I had to finish my business and talked a few more times after that when ever I got back there."
Charlie King's movie stats. A very busy guy.
Charlie's movie work from 1918 - 1953 in westerns, serials, shorts, other films. Does not include TV shows. I've used the RELEASE dates (not filming dates) from the Internet Movie Database so the results may be a little skewed. Total films in the chart below = 407.
|King did westerns with these heroes and series:|
|Bob Steele (30 films - includes the Trail Blazers and Three Mesquiteers series)|
|Tex Ritter (22 films - includes the Texas Rangers series)|
|Buster Crabbe (22 films in Crabbe's Billy the Kid / Billy Carson series at PRC)|
|Johnny Mack Brown (19 films at Supreme, Universal, Monogram)|
|Ken Maynard (18 films - includes the Trail Blazers series)|
|Texas Rangers series at PRC (17 films)|
|Buck Jones (16 films - includes the Rough Riders series)|
|Tim McCoy (14 films - includes the Rough Riders series)|
|Tom Tyler (12 films - includes the Three Mesquiteers series)|
|Hoot Gibson (12 films - includes the Trail Blazers series)|
|Wild Bill Elliott (10 films at Columbia and Republic)|
|At Republic with Gene Autry (7 films) and Roy Rogers (1 film)|
|PRC Lone Rider series with George Houston (6 films) and Bob Livingston (2 films)|
|Jack Randall at Monogram (7 films)|
|Don Barry (6 films at Republic and Lippert)|
|Range Busters at Monogram (5 films)|
|Tom Keene (5 films at RKO, Crescent, Monogram)|
|John Wayne (4 films - includes 2 Republic solo oaters; one Three Mesquiteers; and a Mascot serial)|
|PRC Frontier Marshal series (4 films)|
|Rex Bell (4 films)|
|Kermit Maynard (4 films)|
|Charles Starrett (3 films)|
|Jimmy Wakely (3 films)|
|At PRC with Eddie Dean (3 films) and Lash LaRue (1 film)|
|Fred Scott (2 films)|
Who didn't Charlie menace?He didn't appear in any of the Hopalong Cassidy series. And none with Allan Lane, Monte Hale, Rex Allen, Whip Wilson, Dick Foran or Reb Russell. He did one with Bill Cody; one with Roy Rogers; one with Tom Mix (MIRACLE RIDER serial), one Sunset Carson; one Tim Holt; one with Kirby Grant at Universal; one with Rod Cameron at Allied Artists; and one George O'Brien.
|Charlie's three wives and three children:|
|Pauline Dorothy Nelson||married December 14, 1919 and she and Charlie were together in the 1920 census.||Son Charles La Fayette King III (1920 - 1990) was born December 30, 1920 in Los Angeles and was a movie sound technician.
Son William Nelson King (1923 - 2005) was born June 12, 1923 in Los Angeles. He became William Nelson Clark and was a movie camera operator.
|Dorothy G. Klauber||married April 5, 1927.|
|Ellen Etoile Dier||Charlie and Ellen were together in the 1930 and 1940 census.||Son Robert Lafayette King (1928 - 1999) was born February 9, 1928 in Los Angeles.|
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on:
B western baddie Charlie King: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0454559/
Sound technician Charles 'Chuck' King (1920 - 1990) - the IMDb credits for him go beyond his death date: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0454383
Camera operator William Nelson King who became William Nelson Clark (1923 - 2005): http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0164618
Daniel Neyer's "The Files of Jerry Blake" website has lots of details on Charlie King in serials: https://filesofjerryblake.com/serial-henchmen/charles-king/
Charlie appeared in a few shorts with the Three Stooges: http://www.threestooges.net/cast/actor/33
Various tradezines from about 1917 - late 1920s have lots about Charlie and his years doing "Mike and Ike" and "The Excuse Makers" comedy shorts for the Stern Brothers and Universal. Below are a few about his early movie period ... and lots of marriage and alimony problems:
Family Search, California Death Index, and the Death Certificate provide more on Charlie King. Couple tidbits in the information below:
Existing King biographies have him born in Hillsboro, Texas (which is south of Fort Worth). That appears to be incorrect. On his draft registrations, Charlie listed his birth location as Whitesboro, Texas which is north of Fort Worth. Charlie - and his father - are interred at Oak Wood Cemetery, Whitesboro, Grayson County, Texas.
Charlie and first wife Pauline had two sons, Charles Lafayette King III (born 1920) and William Nelson King (born 1923). At the time of the 1930 census, Charlie and Pauline were divorced and the two boys were living apart - Charles III was with Charlie in Los Angeles and William was living with Pauline's mother in Long Beach, California.
Marriage number two was to Dorothy G. Klauber in 1927. The marriage license has her occupation as "Actress - Stage", but I've been unable to locate any further details on her.
There was a third marriage - to Ellen Etoile Dier who was born about 1911 in British Columbia. Son #3 was Robert Lafayette King, born February 9, 1928. Etoile and Charlie are living with Etoile's mother Gertrude Dier in the 1930 census. In the 1940 census, they're married. But there's no trace of Robert in those 1930 and 1940 census records.
Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website notes that Charlie and his father are interred at Oak Wood Cemetery, Whitesboro, Grayson County, Texas:
Dr. Charles L. King I: https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=24960492
Charlie married Pauline Dorothy Nelson on December 14, 1919 in Los Angeles, and they had two sons, Charles King III (1910 - 1990) and William Nelson King (1923 - 2005). By the 1930 census, they were divorced and the sons were living apart - son Charles III was with Charlie in Los Angeles and William was with Pauline's mother in Long Beach. In 1946, Pauline married noted movie photographer Sherman Clark (1900 - 1978).
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Sherman Clark: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0164510
Charles III was born December 30, 1920 to Charlie and Pauline Dorothy Nelson King, and he became a movie sound technician.
Variety tradepaper and newspapers had news on his death: 69 year old Charles L. King was shot and killed by an intruder in his Hollywood apartment on June 29, 1990. He began his film and TV work circa 1950 and retired as a sound mixer in 1989. In TV, he worked on "The Six Million Dollar Man", "Bionic Woman", "Wagon Train", many other series. His film work included SOMEWHERE IN TIME. After retirement, he was training as the apartment manager in the complex where he was killed. Survivors were his wife Suzy; son Clark, a sound mixer; brother Bill Clark, a cameraman; and brother Robert.
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on sound technician Charles 'Chuck' King (1920 - 1990) - the IMDb has credits for him which go beyond his death date: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0454383
(Courtesy of Parry Hall)
Above from L-to-R are Buster Crabbe, Eddie Hall, Charlie King and Al St. John in a lobby card from SHADOWS OF DEATH (PRC, 1945).
Years ago, Parry Hall provided biography info on his actor father Eddie Hall. Parry also provided background on his parents ... and Charlie King's son was mentioned:
"My dad and his first wife Pat had a Las Vegas wedding ceremony in May, 1944, but the couple later divorced. Pat later married baddie Charlie King's son, Charles 'Chuck' King, Jr., who was a film sound technician."
William Nelson King was born June 12, 1923 to Charlie and Pauline Dorothy Nelson King, and he became a movie camera operator. After Pauline and Charlie split and divorced, William lived with Pauline and her family. In 1946, Pauline married noted movie photographer Sherman Clark. Unsure if William did a formal/legal name change to "Clark" ... or if he just began using that last name.
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on camera operator William Nelson King who became William Nelson Clark (1923 - 2005): http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0164618