(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
Charles 'Charlie' 'Blackie' King
Full name (from World War I military records):
Charles La Fayette King Jr.
1895 - 1957
If there was one actor who epitomized the bad guy of the B western, it has to be Charlie King. He was born February 21, 1895 in Whitesboro, Texas and his father was a physician.
King was in Tinseltown when he registered for the World War I draft in 1917. He identified himself as an Actor and was employed by the Universal Film Co., Universal City, California. Shortly thereafter, Charlie enlisted in the U. S. Navy for WWI duty. In the 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 villain. He appeared in productions from Universal, Columbia, Monogram and Republic as well as lower-budget stuff from companies such as Tiffany, Colony, KBS WorldWide, PRC and more.
You can also spot him doing small bit parts in B melodramas, crime flicks, serials, et al, portraying a member of a gang, a thug, a driver ... or whatever role he could find.
Above - 1926 tradepaper ad for the Stern Brothers two-reel comedies starring Charlie King.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above are Jean Porter and Charlie (as henchman 'Blackie Black') in a still from 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 - generally in 1930s era sagebrushers - where he would pummel - and be pummeled - by the likes of Bob Steele, Buster Crabbe and Tex Ritter. Some folks even compare him to a punching bag. I can still recall Charlie King's long, straight hair flopping in his face during those wonderful screen brawls.
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.
Twenty plus years ago, I did an extensive multi-issue article on Kermit Maynard for Norm Keitzer's FAVORITE WESTERNS (AND SERIAL WORLD) magazine. I spent a great deal of time chatting with Kerm's wife Edith Maynard, who had often accompanied her husband on location when he was starring in the mountie and traditional 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 insure that they had groceries in the house.
There were two marriages. He tied the knot with Pauline Dorothy Nelson on December 14, 1919 in Los Angeles. There were two sons - Charles King III was born December 30, 1920 and William Nelson King arrived June 12, 1923. That marriage ended in the mid 1920s, and 1926 tradepapers note that Charlie got 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. Charlie and son Charles were rooming with the Cornelius family in Los Angeles. Sometime in the 1930s, he married Etoile / Etoule Cornelius. Unsure how long that marriage lasted, but Charlie was divorced when he passed away in 1957.
Looking back at all the cowboy villains that flashed across the silver screen, Charlie King ranks among the most memorable.
Years of alcohol abuse caught up with him and Charlie passed away on May 7, 1957 at the John Wesley County Hospital, Los Angeles. He was 62 years old.
Remembering Charlie King:
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."
On the trail of Charlie King:
Various tradezines from about 1917 - late 1920s have lots about Charlie and his three years doing comedy shorts for the Stern Brothers and Universal. Below are a few related more to Charlie's time in the military and early career in silents:
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). 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 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.
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
More on Charlie's two sons, Charles Lafayette King III (born 1920) and William Nelson King (born 1923):
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Charlie King: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0454559/
Daniel Neyer's "The Files of Jerry Blake" website 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