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(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
Charles 'Charlie' 'Blackie' King

Full name:
Charles Lafayette King, Jr.

1895 - 1957


If there was one actor who epitomized the bad guy of the B western, it has to be Charlie King.  King started working in Hollywood during the 1920s, probably even earlier. And he even 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, where he appeared as a member of a gang, or a driver ... or whatever role he could find.



(Courtesy of Les Adams)




(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 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 compared Charlie 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.

Looking back at all the cowboy villains that flashed across the silver screen, Charlie King ranks among the most memorable.

Go to the In Search Of ... page on the Old Corral, and then click the link for the California Death Records database.  You will find a record for Charles Lafeyette King, born 2/21/1895 in Texas, and passed away on 5/7/1957. Note that Charlie's middle name is spelled Lafeyette (with a middle E), and his father's last name is spelled (probably misspelled) as Lafeyettee (with two E's at the end).  The California Death Records also has a record for King's son: Charles Lafayette King, born 12/30/1920 in California, died 6/30/1990, and his Mother's maiden name was Nelson.

Thanks to Bobby J. Copeland for providing the following info on Charlie King:

Information from King's death certificate reads:
Name: Charles Lafayette King, Jr.
Place of death: John Wesley County Hospital, Los Angeles, CA
Date of death: May 7, 1957.  Hour: 7:45 pm
Date of birth: Feb. 21, 1895
Specify marriage: Divorced
Usual occupation: Actor.  Kind of business or industry: Motion picture studio
Name and birthplace of father: Charles Lafayette King, Sr., Kentucky
Maiden name and birthplace of mother: Unknown
Birthplace: Texas
Informant: Charles S. King
Armed forces: Yes, WWII
Last usual address: 4914 Bellaire Avenue, North Hollywood, CA
Cause of death: Hepatic coma
Antecedant causes: Cirrhosis and chronic alcoholism
Burial: Cremation

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.  In 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.

(Bobby Copeland did author a biography on King. Info is available on all of Bobby's books at the bottom of his Bunkhouse News webpage. Click HERE.)

Minard Coons 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".

Got an e-mail from Arizonian Jim Martin in July, 2001. Jim writes: "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."

Rick Albright checked the 1930 online census database and found the following info on Charlie and family:

14 April 1930, 178 N. Mariposa St., Los Angeles, Lines 19 and 16, Enumeration District 175.
Charles KING, age 34, divorced, married at age 24, born Texas, parents born Texas and Arizona, actor/theater.
Charles KING (Jr.), age 9, single, born California, parents born Texas and Arizona.
Both were among several roomers in the household of a Mrs. Cornelius.

  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/




(From Old Corral image collection)

The above still shows a rather slim Ken Maynard and King in a scene from FIGHTING THRU (Tiffany, 1930).  Looks like Charlie is wearing a "hero's shirt".



(From Old Corral image collection)

Can't remember King without his moustache?  Above - Bob Steele is about to chat with the great screen baddie in THE FIGHTING CHAMP (Monogram, 1932).



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above from L-to-R are Frank Yaconelli, Ken Maynard and Charlie King in a scene from Maynard's THE STRAWBERRY ROAN (Universal, 1933).



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above - stuntman Dave Sharpe is on the far left with his arm wrapped around Charlie King, while star Rex Bell has a neck lock on an unidentified player in this lobby card from IDAHO KID (Colony, 1936).



(From Old Corral image collection)

Perpetual baddie Charlie King has the grips on whiskered codger Buck Connors while Barney Furey has a sixgun on Bob Steele in a lobby card from THE LAW RIDES (Supreme, 1936).



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above - King and Bob Steele are about to duke it out in THE TRUSTED OUTLAW (Republic, 1937), one of the A. W. Hackel/Supreme oaters that was released by Republic Pictures.



(From Old Corral image collection)

Ken Maynard is pounding away on Charlie King while Fay McKenzie looks on in this lobby card from DEATH RIDES THE RANGE (Colony, 1940).



(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

Above from L-to-R are Bud Osborne, Kermit Maynard, Charlie King and Lynton Brent.  Scene from Range Busters adventure #18, THE TRAIL RIDERS (Monogram, 1942).



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above - the moustached Steele vs. the moustached Charlie King in AMBUSH TRAIL (PRC, 1946).



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