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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.


Tom Smith

189? - 1976?

appeared in at least 102 westerns and 1 serial and his film and television career ran from about 1924 - 1975.

Right - Tom Smith wearing his usual high topped hat ... and with several moustache variations including his usual handlebar 'stache.


1935


1947


Tom Smith was a familiar background player in B westerns doing "face in the crowd" roles as a townsman, barfly, etc. or the occasional henchman. Smith is easy to spot with that high top hat and big handlebar mustache.

Old Corral contributor Phil Arnold is a fan of the TV western and has Smith identified in many television programs including episodes from THE VIRGINIAN in 1970 and BARBARY COAST from 1975. In those TV shows, he was still wearing that high top hat, has a bushy mustache which was very grey ... and his grey hair was long, similar to that of Buffalo Bill Cody.

In January, 2013, I chatted with Dorothy Hack Babcock (Herman Hack's daughter) and asked her if she/her dad knew Tom Smith. She did remember him, but only knew him as Tom Smith. And she didn't recall if he was married.

Am still not sure of his real identity, birth location, birth date, death date, etc. The main issues in tracking him down are:

1) there are many, many Tom/Thomas Smiths in the census and other records. For example, the California Death Records database has over a dozen Tom/Thomas Smiths that were born in either Oklahoma or Texas in the 1880s-1890s. Complicating the search is that his middle name may be Tom/Thomas.

2) there are several other actors with similar names (e.g. vaudeville/stage/movie actor Tom Smith and Thomas Smith, an actor born in England). More on both of these performers is below.

Without a middle initial, middle name, or other details, it's nearly impossible to confirm the identity details on our Tom Smith, B western performer.



On the trail of Tom Smith
Updated: September 12, 2014

1. The Internet Movie Database has him as Thomas Tyler Smith, born 1892 in Oklahoma and passed February 23, 1976 in the Los Angeles area.
  Although some of the data may be incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has Tom Smith/Thomas Tyler Smith, born 1892 in Oklahoma and passed 2/23/1976 in the Los Angeles area: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0810180

The Family Search website (free) and Ancestry.com (subscription) have information on the Smith family. Some common threads are shown in red:

  • 1900 census: living in Clinton, Van Buren County, Arkansas are 38 year old James K. Smith (born Arkansas), 32 year old wife Mary J. (born Alabama) and six sons, including 9 year old Robert J. (born Arkansas), 6 year old Thomas L. (born Arkansas about 1894) and 14 year old Claborn J. (born Arkansas): https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/M3XD-SPM
  • 1910 census: living in Morse, Okfuskee County, Oklahoma are 47 year old James Smith (born Arkansas), his 42 year old wife Mildred (born Alabama), two sons, two daughters (includes 7 year old Gussie, born Oklahoma), and stepsons 19 year old Robert Tyler Smith (born Arkansas) and 18 year old Thomas Tyler Smith (born Oklahoma about 1892). Another son is 24 year old Clayburn (born Arkansas): https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MLQ2-P25
    Ancestry had the 1910 census takers worksheet: there is a wife change - Mary was the wife in 1900, but now it's Mildred, and the census takers worksheet has both father James and Mildred listed as "M2" meaning this is the second marriage for both.
  • 1930 census: living in Henryetta, Okmulgee County, Oklahoma are 67 year old J. K. Smith (born Arkansas), his 62 year old wife Mildred (born Alabama), their 27 year old daughter Gussie Winn (born Oklahoma) and her two daughters. Gussie is listed as married, but her husband is not present: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XC4M-6JV
  • 1940 census: living in Sapulpa, Creek County, Oklahoma are 37 year old Gussie S. Winn (born Oklahoma; divorced), her two daughters, and her 72 year old widowed mother Mildred M. Smith (born Alabama): https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/VBJT-5Z3


2. There's a Tom Smith/Thomas Peter Smith, actor, born in Texas in 1887.
The Family Search website (free) and Ancestry.com (subscription) have information:

  • 1910 census: 23 year old Thomas Peter Smith (born Texas) is living in Galveston, Texas: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MK1V-7R1
    Ancestry had the very confusing and difficult to read 1910 census takers worksheet: He appears to live alone in some multi unit/apartment type building in Galveston. Smith is listed as "Son", but there are no parents or other relatives. Almost everyone in the building/units are listed as lodger. He is single and occupation is "Actor-Acrobat something-or-other". His father was born in Ireland, mother in Germany.
  • World War I draft registration dated June 5, 1917: 30 year old Thomas Peter Smith is living in San Antonio, Texas and occupation/employer is "Actor", "Morris Bros., Strand Theater, Houston and San Antonio". He is married and was born in Galveston, Texas on November 17, 1887: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-25141-26299-90?cc=1968530
  • 1920 census: 33 year old Tom P. Smith is living in San Antonio, Texas. He was born circa 1887 in Texas: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MCMY-7J3
    Ancestry had the 1920 census takers worksheet: Tom P. Smith is a lodger residing at 222 1/2 Losovo Street, San Antonio, Texas. He is divorced; occupation is "Actor-Vaudeville"; his father was born in Germany, mother in Ireland.
  • 1930 census: Tom Smith is about 44 years old. He is single; born in Texas; and is a lodger living in Los Angeles: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XCJB-RFS
    Ancestry had the census takers worksheet: Smith is a lodger at the home of Linder and Marjorie Stafford, 6057 Eleanor Avenue, Los Angeles. His occupation is "actor-motion pictures", he answers "No" to the are you a veteran question; he reports that both parents were born in Germany.
    Another lodger is living there - 37 year old Floyd Ames, also an "actor-motion pictures", and the Internet Movie database has him in a few 1920s films: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0024701/
  • Ancestry had the 1930 Los Angeles City Directory: SMITH Thos actor r6057 Eleanor av (the r designation indicates that 6057 Eleanor Avenue was his residence).
  • 1940 census: Tom Smith is about 53 years old, born in Texas about 1887, and is living alone in Los Angeles: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/K9CX-HWS
    1940 census takers worksheet: Tom Smith resides at a rooming house at 1135 4/5 Lodi Place in the Los Angeles area, and he lived in Los Angeles in 1935. He is single; has an 8th grade education; occupation is "Actor-motion picture studio", and in 1939, he worked 13 weeks and earned $1100.00: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1961-27797-3397-71?cc=2000219&wc=MMYH-X11:1674601732


3. Tom Smith of Hollywood passed away in 1976.
We do know that our actor Tom Smith was still working circa 1975 in TV programs. ProQuest obituaries and the California Death Records database have information on Oklahoma born Tom Smith that lived in Hollywood and died in 1976.

Is this our Oklahoma born Thomas Smith from box 1. above?

Or ... the death certificate informant or family member thought he was born in Oklahoma and this is Texas born Tom Smith from box 2. above.

  • You may want to go to the In Search Of ... page on the Old Corral and then to the California Death Records database. There you will find a record for: Tom Smith, born 9/10/1892 in Oklahoma, and he passed away on 2/23/1976 in the Los Angeles area.
  • I was able to locate a funeral notice for "SMITH, Tom of Hollywood" in the February 27, 1976 issue of the Los Angeles Times newspaper. No wife or children are listed nor is there any mention of him being an actor. Survivors were his sister Margaret Pierce of Kansas and seven nieces and nephews. Services were scheduled at a mortuary in Glendale, California on Monday, March 1, 1976.
I did do a relationship search at Family Search and Ancestry.com for 1900-1910 census records for a Thomas/Tom Smith, born 1885-1895 in Texas, Arkansas or Oklahoma and with a sister named Margaret. There were a few matches but the results were inconclusive since we have no info on his parents, etc. Also did a search of World War I draft registrations in hopes of finding a Tom/Thomas Smith with an actor occupation. There were lots of Tom/Thomas Smith farmers and laborers. In a wrap, without additional details, we're trying to find the proverbial needle-in-a-haystack.


4. To add to the confusion, there's a Thomas Smith, actor, born in England about 1890.
The Family Search website (free) has information:

  • 1940 census: 50 year old Thomas Smith (born England about 1890) and 47 year old sister Linda (born England) are living in Los Angeles at the home of Charles and Louise Heede. There are also a couple of lodgers: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/K9CD-FP1
    1940 census takers worksheet: Charles and Louise Heede own their home at 2420 North Gower Street, Los Angeles. Living with them are brother-in-law and sister-in-law Thomas Smith and Linda Smith, both born in England and both resided in the Los Angeles area in 1935. Louis, Linda and Thomas are naturalized U.S. citizens. Thomas' occupation is "Actor-Motion Pictures", and in 1939, he worked 4 weeks and earned $750.00: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-27797-2831-94?cc=2000219

    The two male lodgers were also born in England and their occupation is "Actor-Motion Pictures":
    Internet Movie Database on lodger Eric Wilton: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0934349/
    Internet Movie Database on lodger Denis Tankard: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0849528/




(Courtesy of Joel Towler)

Above are Glenn Strange and Joel Towler at the annual Chuck Wagon Trailers barbeque in Hansen Dam Park in Pacoima, California, circa 1964. Buddy Roosevelt was behind the camera. And the man wearing the tan jacket on the left is B-western henchie Tom Smith with his trademark handlebar moustache and that tall, round top hat. I asked Joel Towler for his remembrances of Smith from these Chuck Wagon Trailers meetups:

"I talked with Tom a couple of different times. One thing he did tell me was his heavy mustache got him a lot of work as a bad guy because he looked the part of the real outlaws back in the day. He started in silents and progressed into talkies with most of the western heroes of the early westerns. He liked Buck Jones on a personal level because he was kind to everyone on the set and Buck considered himself as a paid actor and not some overblown movie star. He worked with Ken Maynard, so naturally I quizzed him about Ken's attitude and behavior on the various sets. He liked Ken in that Ken was a rough-and-tumble kind of guy. What he didn't care for was Ken's aloofness to other actors on the sets, and the instantaneous temper when he didn't agree with direction. Tom was very low-key whenever he came to the western reunions. He spent a lot of time talking with some of the stunt people and other lesser players. This isn't of much help, but at least it is a thumbnail sketch of Tom, a very pleasant man."



(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are an unidentified player, Barney Beasley, an un-moustached Tom Smith, and Ken Maynard appears to be 'rassling with Ed Brady in a still from GUN JUSTICE (Universal, 1933). The bartender is Olin Francis.



(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are William Desmond, Tom Smith, Charles Starrett and Lew Morphy in DOWN RIO GRANDE WAY (Columbia, 1942).



(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are Johnny Mack Brown, Tom Smith and Virginia Belmont in PRAIRIE EXPRESS (Monogram, 1947).



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