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Unkempt, rough and tough looking members of the gang, or lynch mob, or vigilantes, or posse riders, or cow herders. They had minimal or no dialog, not much screen time, and were generally not listed in the film credits. Some would show up as a face in the crowd, portraying townspeople, barflies, deputies, wagon drivers, ranch hands, etc. We tend to recognize some of their faces, but have no clue as to their real names.


Blackie Whiteford

Full name:
John Penman Whiteford

1889 - 1962


Right is Blackie Whiteford, circa 1942, showing that patented scowl/lip curl ... and his left eye problem.

In this photo, Blackie is decked out in more formal attire. He usually wore jeans, a vest, and a hat with a chin strap and the brim pushed slightly up.


(Courtesy of Jack Tillmany)


John Penman 'Blackie' Whiteford was born in Rochester, New York in 1889 and his Hollywood career began in the 1920s. In the sound era, he worked in at least 245 films, and that number includes 160 westerns, 12 serials and 42 shorts. He was often cast in the Columbia Three Stooges two-reel comedies.

Rarely having any dialog, Whiteford was relegated to uncredited roles as a henchman, barfly, townsman, posse rider, etc. and my recollections of him are primarily in 1930s westerns from Columbia and the Poverty Row independents. He only received a few paychecks from Republic Pictures - amongst his many films were only a half dozen for Republic and those were spread over the years 1937-1953.

He also did some stunt work. Names of stunt men employed in Errol Flynn's CAPTAIN BLOOD (Warner Bros., 1935) were highlighted in an "Overheard In Hollywood" column in late 1935 newspapers. Excerpt from the article: "Among them are Artie Ortego, Gene Alsace, Kansas Moehring, Jack Silver, Harry Dean, Si Slocum, Tom Steele, Blackie Whiteford and Jerry Pine."

Blackie seemed to always have that (funny) scowl on his lips. And he also had a physical/medical problem with his left eye.

We can confirm one marriage for Blackie. Silent screen actress Alma Bennett was married to actor, agent and casting director Harry Spingler from 1929 through his death in 1953. She and Whiteford married in December, 1954. Alma passed away in 1958.

Blackie Whiteford had gastric ulcer surgery at the Motion Picture Country Home and Hospital, Woodland Hills, California and passed away there on March 21, 1962.



Blackie Whiteford face closeups - circa 1936
In these photo crops/blowups, notice the scar on Whiteford's left upper lip which is probably the cause of his lip curl/scowl. In a newspaper article (link below), he purportedly got the scar in a tiff with Tom Sharkey, a bare knuckle heavyweight.

In the left image, you can see his normal range costume with vest and pushed up hat. Another consistency was that he utilized the chin/jaw strap on his hat, always pulling it tight.



(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Blackie Whiteford on the left and George 'Arizona Slim' Hazel on the right in FIGHTING BILL FARGO (1941), one of the Johnny Mack Brown oaters for Universal.

At the time this was filmed, Hazel and Whiteford were both in their early fifties.




Links
  Although some of the data may be incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Blackie Whiteford: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0925651/

The Three Stooges Net website includes a listing of the various cast members in the Stooges' shorts. Whiteford worked in about three dozen of the Stooge shorts during the years 1934-1956: http://www.threestooges.net/cast/actor/241


On the trail of Blackie Whiteford
The Family Search website (free), ProQuest obituaries, death certificate, and California Death Index have information on Whiteford. Note the confusing ages listed for Blackie:

  • 1892 New York census - 28 year old James Whiteford (born Scotland; occupation "Laborer"), his 25 year old wife Jennet [sic] (born Scotland), 5 year old son James Jr., 4 year old son John, and 1 year old son Alexander live in Rochester, New York: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-DRJ3-QB5?mode=g&i=4&wc=3FGD-NQ6%3A69520701%2C69757501%3Fcc%3D1529100&cc=1529100
  • 1900 census - living in Rochester, Monroe County, New York are 36 year old James Whiteford (born Scotland), his 33 year old wife Jeanette (born Scotland), 12 year old son James (born New York), 11 year old son John P. (born New York), 20 year old son Alexander (born New York), and 18 year old daughter Maggie (born New York): https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MSJ7-62Q
    1900 census takers worksheet - looks like an error at Family Search when they digitized this 1900 census. 20 year old son Alexander (born New York) is really 9 years old, and 18 year old daughter Maggie (born New York) is 7 years old. Occupation of father James is "Day Laborer": https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-6SDS-DW5?mode=g&i=24&wc=9BQB-3T5%3A1030551901%2C1030551202%2C1035728901%3Fcc%3D1325221&cc=1325221
  • 1930 census - 57 year old John P. Whiteford (born New York) is a lodger living in the Los Angeles area household of 50 year old and divorced Estelle X. Wilk [sic], her 23 year old son George B. Hickman, and three other members of the Hickman family (appears that two of the Hickmans are Estelle's ex-husband and brother-in-law). Whiteford is a widower; his parents were born in Scotland; and his age is listed as 57 which would equate to a birth year of about 1873: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XCJB-S4X
    1930 census takers worksheet - Whiteford is rooming at the home of Estelle X. Wilk [sic] at 1324 North Beachwood Drive, Los Angeles. He reports his occupation as "Actor - Stage and Screen"; his parents were born in Scotland; and he answered "No" to the "are you a veteran" question: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9R4X-WBL?mode=g&i=8&wc=QZF9-Y8C%3A648807101%2C648807102%2C651117801%2C1589282347%3Fcc%3D1810731&cc=1810731
  • 1940 census - 64 year old John P. Whiteford is a lodger residing in the household of 60 year old Estelle Wills and her 33 year old son, George B. Hickman: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/K9CX-ZLF
    1940 census takers worksheet - Estelle Wills and son George B. Hickman are renting at 1152 Gower Street in Los Angeles, and both are divorced. Whiteford is single and his employment is "Characters - Motion Picture Production", and in 1939, he worked 18 weeks and earned $1844.00. His age looks like 62 or 64. Also pay attention to the lines for Estelle and son as their occupations are "Characters & dancing - Motion Picture Production": https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1961-27797-3436-45?cc=2000219&wc=MMYH-FMM:1768590204
  • 1942 World War II draft registration - 53 year old John Penman Whiteford lists his birth date and location as April 27, 1889 and Rochester, New York. He's living at 1201 North Bronson, Los Angeles, and his employment is "Free Lance Actor". He's still resides in the home of Estelle Wills and she is listed as his contact: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1-16414-52668-1?cc=1861144&wc=MMRW-1T3:n153339252
  • December 23, 1954 Los Angeles marriage license of 65 year old John Penman Whiteford (no previous marriages; born New York) to 40 year old Alma Spinger [sic] (one prior marriage; born in Washington state and her maiden name was Alma Long). They were married in Burbank, California. His parents were James Whiteford (born Scotland) and Jeanette Penman (born Scotland). Her parents were Fred Long (born Illinois) and Doris Mc Crea (born Washington).
    (Alma Long / Alma Spinger [sic] is silent screen actress Alma Bennett. She married actor/agent/casting director Harry Spingler in August, 1929 and they were together through his passing in April, 1953): https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L93H-Z9S9-D?i=2878&wc=96PG-823%3A146999001%3Fcc%3D1804002&cc=1804002
  • Death certificate - 72 year old John P. Whiteford, AKA Blackie Whiteford, passed away on March 21, 1962 at the Motion Picture Country Hospital. He was born April 27, 1889 in New York; was a widower; not a military veteran; parents names were unknown; his occupation was "Actor-Motion Picture"; home address was 5230 Clinton Street, Los Angeles. He had surgery for a gastric ulcer and passed away about a week later. Pierce Bros. was the funeral director and burial at Valhalla Memorial Park. The death certificate informant was Vera V. Huebner, 5230 Clinton Street, Los Angeles.
  • The California Death Index mirrors the death certificate: John P. Whiteford, born 4/27/1889, and passed away in the Los Angeles area on 3/21/1962.
  • March 23, 1962 Los Angeles (California) Times newspaper had a funeral announcement for John P. Whiteford. Excerpt: "Services ... at Pierce Brothers' Hollywood ..."

Is this our Blackie Whiteford, actor? Family Search has the United States Registers of Enlistments in the U.S. Army, 1798-1914. John P. Whiteford enlisted on August 6, 1908 at Fort Slocum, New York. He is 25 years and 3 months of age; he's 5' 9 1/2" in height; born in Rochester, New York; and occupation is barber. (If he was 25 years and 3 months old, his birth year would have been 1883. He could have fibbed on his age when he enlisted.)
Regiment is CA (probably the abbreviation for Coast Artillery) and Company is 109
The remarks section shows "Dishon dis, Feb. 2, 09, at Ft Jay, N. Y. " (dishonorable discharge?):
https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-81RJ-N67?mode=g&i=691&wc=M61T-QNL%3A176733101%3Fcc%3D1880762&cc=1880762

Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website notes that Whiteford is interred at Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park, North Hollywood, Los Angeles County, California: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=7967126

  Although some of the data may be incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on the George B. Hickman and Estelle Hickman that are mentioned in the above census info:
     George B. Hickman (1906-1984): http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0382726/
     Estella Hickman (1879-1951): http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2193905/

There's an overly optimistic (and confusing) biography of Whiteford in the November 19, 1950 issue of the St. Petersburg (Florida) Times newspaper at the Google newspaper archive. The article mentions that Whiteford worked in 2000 films ... started in films around 1903 ... got the lip scar in a brawl with a bare knuckle heavyweight Tom Sharkey ... Estelle Wills was on the New York stage ... and is Blackie's wife: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=4f9OAAAAIBAJ&sjid=dE4DAAAAIBAJ&pg=5183,1692812&dq=blackie-whiteford&hl=en

The Internet Broadway database has a 1905 New York stage play credit for Estelle X. Wills: http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=415766


Blackie's wife, silent screen actress Alma Bennett (1904-1958)

On the left is Alma Bennett in a photo from the Picture Show Annual for 1930 available at the Internet Archive.

Alma Long (1904-1958) was born in Seattle, Washington.

She was a Mack Sennett Bathing Beauty, a leading lady to Tom Mix, appeared in Harry Langdon and Ben Turpin comedies, and she also did some higher grade films including a featured role in THE LOST WORLD (First National, 1925). Her movie career ran from about 1919-1930.

Tradezines have Alma Bennett marrying Harry Spingler in August, 1929. He was an actor, agent and casting director. They were together through Spingler's death from cancer on April 22, 1953 at the Motion Picture Home and Hospital, Woodland Hills, California.

On December 23, 1954, about a year and a half after Spingler's death, Alma married Blackie Whiteford.

Alma Whiteford passed away on September 16, 1958.


The Family Search website (free), ProQuest obituaries, and California Death Index have information on Alma Bennett:

  Although some of the data may be incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Alma Bennett (1904-1958): http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0071582/

Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website notes that Alma Bennett is interred at Chapel Of The Pines, Los Angeles, California: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=11723652

The Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Mack Sennett collection has several stills of Alma Bennett:
Alma and Billy Bevans in THE GOLF NUT (Mack Sennett, 1927): http://digitalcollections.oscars.org/cdm/ref/collection/p15759coll26/id/10
Alma and Vernon Dent in a still from the Andy Clyde comedy MIDNIGHT DADDIES (Mack Sennett, 1929): http://digitalcollections.oscars.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15759coll26/id/27/rec/2




(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are Black Jack Ward, John Alexander, Blackie Whiteford and youngster Bobby Nelson in THE GHOST RIDER (Argosy/Superior, 1935) which starred Rex Lease.



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above - Julian Rivero is the Spanish-garbed gent on the far left. William Desmond and Earl Dwire are in the darkened doorway. Blackie Whiteford is restraining hero Tom Tyler, and burly Dick Alexander has the butt of his six-shooter aimed at Tom's head. The heroine is Jean Carmen, who would later change her screen name to Julia Thayer and become the rider of the titled horse in Republic's cliffhanger, THE PAINTED STALLION (Republic, 1937). Prone on the step is Hank Bell, minus his usual moustache. From Tyler's BORN TO BATTLE (Reliable, 1935).



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above is a crop from a lobby card from ROGUE OF THE RANGE (A. W. Hackel/Supreme, 1936) starring Johnny Mack Brown. From L-to-R are Tex 'Squint' Palmer, Jack Rockwell, and Blackie Whiteford. The lobby card is shown below.


(From Old Corral image collection)

In the above lobby card from ROGUE OF THE RANGE (A. W. Hackel/Supreme, 1936), a two-gunned Johnny Mack Brown points an accusing finger at Jack Rockwell. Thx to Les Adams for help in identifying several of the players - from L-to-R are Tex Palmer, Jack Rockwell, Blackie Whiteford (in purple shirt), Art (Arturo) Felix, unidentified player (behind Brown), Brown and George Ball.



(Image courtesy of Carol Murray and her "Jack Hendricks Photo Album")

From left to right are Edward Nugent, Jack Hendricks, George Cleveland and Blackie Whiteford in RIO GRANDE ROMANCE (Victory, 1936).



(Courtesy of Ed Tabor)

Above from L-to-R are Roy Bucko, Al Bridge, Marion Weldon, Art Mix (George Kesterson) and Blackie Whiteford in a scene from DODGE CITY TRAIL (Columbia, 1936), which starred Charles Starrett.



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