(From Old Corral image collection)
|CHARLIE KING ...|
WE CALL HIM "BLACKIE"
by Les Adams
While working on my database, I got around to Charlie King and, when I got through, it suddenly hit me that I finally had a tool to answer a question that I had long been curious about, but dang sure wasn't going to take a week thumbing through a couple of hundred notebooks to answer:
Well, finding the answer to that brought up other questions as I followed the search-and-find process through my database on this fine new piece of Dell (Texas based, of course) equipment that is faster than a speeding bullet but slower than the questions that kept popping up as I went --- who did he fight the most ... where did he have the most fights ... who did he fight the longest in terms of years ... who did he avoid ... how many times was he on the side of law and order and did he uphold his oath of office when he was ... will I get the answers before my wife holds me to my promise of our driving in to Abilene for dinner.
My little spread sheet on King's sound-era films shows that he was in 254 westerns, 39 serials, 31 features and four shorts for a total of 328 films. I'm confident he had more in each category ... just walking across the lot at Columbia would have exposed him to more shorts than that, and while I'm pretty sure all of his Republic stuff is there, I expect he is lurking around in a few Columbia and Universal serials that I haven't screened. There also may be a western or two missing. I've also got a character name and role attached to Charlie on all but eight of the 328 roles.
So, unless he turns out to be named Blackie in those missing eight (none of which are Westerns or serials), the guy who most of us always called Blackie, before we even knew his name or could read credits, only answered to that name in ten --- I counted them --- films (see list at the bottom of this page). Before starting, I figured on finding at least twenty or more. I didn't count Constable Black or Jim Black as being the same as Blackie. But not finding more than ten Blackies isn't what surprised me as much as the fact that he was called Red about the same number of times. I can live with the name associated with him getting tied for multiple use by another name but it turns out that Blackie and Red are only tied for second and third place on the name parade. Some hero or another said to King, "I wouldn't do that if I were you, STEVE" one more time than they offered the same advice to Blackie or Red. (I haven't used an exclamation point in print for over thirty years, but I was nearly tempted to there.)
Of course, a rose is a rose by any name --- I don't have the same discipline with cliches as I do exclamation points --- so, Charlie, by whatever name Tex or Ken offered the advice to, stayed true to character, disregarded it completely and got stomped one more time. As it turns out he also got chastised severely while answering to Joe or Jim seven times and Trigger on six occasions. He tried back-to-back Jakes in a couple of Lone Riders and didn't fare any better leaving one to figure that George Houston, on the way out, tipped Bob Livingston, on the way in, to keep an eye on the guy called Jake. There were lots of other multiple-used names including Tex three times and Ed five. In GHOST OF HIDDEN VALLEY, he was Ed 'Blackie' Decker and I checkmarked both columns. Butch and Duke and Ace got hit more than once, but less than five. He got tagged with VIC a couple of times, but everybody that worked as villains in PRC westerns eventually caught a Vic. That isn't and never was a standard B-western villain handle and I first thought it was just a PRC thing. But it also popped up on rare occasions at Republic, Columbia and Monogram. Turns out to be a Fred Myton thing as his fingerprints, a couple of exceptions, are on all the Vic-is-the-villain scripts. Pure speculation on my part but it appears that somebody named Vic got on Myton's bad side. I already checked on the possibility of a Victor Adamson (Denver Dixon) project gone sour.
Columbia serials gave King his best-name-against-type as Sir Edgar Bullard (in SON OF THE GUARDSMEN), Silk Landon (in THE IRON CLAW) and Ivor (in BRUCE GENTRY) and he responded to, after being called several times, Frenchy in Monogram's HONOR OF THE MOUNTED. On cast-against-type I found four sheriffs, two deputies, three policemen, two constables (RCMP type) and one detective.
PRC only existed for about seven years, but King evidently never went home during that period as he did 75 films there. His 57 at Monogram pales in comparison both numerically and on yearly average, as those stretch across twenty years. With 46 at Columbia and 42 for Republic, King did nearly 65% of his films on just four lots. Harry Webb, A. W. Hackel and Ed Finney signed most of the rest of his pay checks.
Speaking of Ed Finney, another childhood belief was that Tex Ritter beat up Charles King every thirty minutes and only stopped long enough to allow Buster Crabbe a shot or two. Neither threw more punches at the performer-formerly-known-as-Blackie than Battlin' Bob Steele who contested him on 29 occasions. The latter also holds the record for kicking King over the longest period of years, 16 beginning in 1930 through 1946. Buster took him on 24 times and Tex is third at 23. The purists among us might discount some of the Steele and Ritter work as the numbers include their Trail Blazer and Texas Rangers trio entries where they clearly had him outnumbered. My personal opinion is that might be so in the case of Steele, but Ritter with Guy Wilkerson along was more hampered than helped.
For the most amount of punches thrown in the shortest amount of time strictly mano-a-mano, Buster Crabbe wins the Charlie King sweepstakes. The 20 bouts staged by King and Johnny Mack Brown edges out the 18 total Texas Rangers for fourth place. But other than their Supreme and Republic stuff for A. W. Hackel, King was usually just one of the gang in his other Brown films and wasn't Johnny's main concern. Brown usually just told Bob Baker or Fuzzy Knight to take care of Blackie and he'd handle the main guys. Good thing he shared him as Baker never had a solo shot at King in his starring films.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above - Charlie King (as 'Henchman Badger') and Tex Ritter go at it in the saloon brawl from UTAH TRAIL (Grand National, 1938). In the upper right are Ritter's helpers, Horace Murphy (tall hat) and Snub Pollard (handlebar moustache). Sandwiched between Murphy and Pollard is George Morrell, and wearing the dark suit jacket and hat in the photo center is Fred Parker. On the far left is Denver Dixon/Victor Adamson (white hat) and Herman Hack (dark hat).
(From Old Corral image collection)
Above from L-to-R are Kermit Maynard, Buster Crabbe, Frank Ellis, and Charlie King (as 'Barlow') in a lobby card and crop/blowup from FRONTIER OUTLAWS (PRC, 1944), another entry in the Crabbe "Billy Carson" series
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above - Emmett 'Pappy' Lynn and Charlie (as 'Butch') do some arm wrasslin' in a scene from GANGSTER'S DEN (PRC, 1945), which starred Buster Crabbe.
I can only find King in four of the Frontier Marshals, so Charlie either took a couple of days off in 1942 or somebody at PRC decided that King against Bill 'Cowboy Rambler' Boyd and Art Davis was an overmatch in favor of King. An overmatch must have been what King thought Hopalong Cassidy was as I have no record of King in any entry of that series. He was in the Republic/Winchester feature BURNING GOLD with Bill Boyd but stayed clear of the Bar 20. Another player usually often associated with King was Ken Maynard, but those two only tangled 16 times including three Trail Blazers when Maynard was part. But King and Maynard did most of their debating over a short period of time in Maynard's Tiffany and KBS films of the early 30's and the image hung on. Buck Jones also took advantage of King's punch-absorption skills 14 times (including four Rough Riders) with Tom Tyler's 12 shots making up the only other double-digit staging. The Range Busters are way down among the less-than-ten also-rans, but Ray Corrigan, while not in all of the Range Buster films that had King, got a couple of extra chances with THE PAINTED STALLION and 1945's THE WHITE GORILLA. The latter film may be the only time a player had both the starring role and the title role and they weren't the same role.
Charles King as 'Blackie', or a first name or nickname variation of 'Black':
ALIAS THE BAD MAN (1931-Tiffany-Ken Maynard) - 'Black Mike' Richards
INSIDE INFORMATION (1934-Stage & Screen) - 'Blackie' Black (non-western starring Rex Lease)
THE MYSTERY OF THE HOODED HORSEMEN (1937-Grand National-Tex Ritter) - Blackie Devlin
FLAMING FRONTIERS (1938-Universal-Johnny Mack Brown) - Henchman Blackie
TERRY AND THE PIRATES (1940-Columbia-Granville Owen) - Henchman Blackie
BORDER ROUNDUP (1942-PRC-George Houston) - Henchman Blackie
BLAZING GUNS (1943-Monogram-Trail Blazers) - Henchman Blackie
DEATH VALLEY RANGERS (1943-Monogram-Trail Blazers) - Henchman Blackie
SONORA STAGECOACH (1944-Monogram-Trail Blazers) - Blackie Reed
GHOST OF HIDDEN VALLEY (1946-PRC-Buster Crabbe) - Ed 'Blackie' Decker
(From Old Corral image collection)
|And all this time I thought Charles Starrett (picture, left) had exclusive rights on the name Steve.|
Starrett played a character named 'Steve' in 86 of his westerns, and this could be stretched to 87 if his 'Steven' in Warners 1934 GENTLEMEN ARE BORN was included.