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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.



(Courtesy of May Bopp, Bob Burns' daughter)
Bob McElroy

Full name:
Robert Frank McElroy

1890 - 1976

Some time back, several of us thought this older gent might be Robert O'Byrne. But he isn't. Jack Tillmany found a photo of O'Byrne in a 1945 casting directory and he's much younger.

Current speculation is that he's Bob McElroy, and he and wife Hazel were restaurant owners/operators.

Born 1890 in Kentucky, McElroy was a senior citizen when he started film work in the 1940s. He found a home at Monogram doing uncredited roles as a henchman, townsman, barfly, etc. in westerns with Johnny Mack Brown, Jimmy Wakely, Whip Wilson and the Cisco Kid adventures with Gilbert Roland. He also shows up in a few Buster Crabbe and Eddie Dean oaters at Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC) as well as a couple Wild Bill Elliotts for Monogram/Allied Artists. Examples:

  • he's the man with the floppy hat and bar of soap in the Gilbert Roland BEAUTY AND THE BANDIT (Monogram, 1946).
  • he's one of the poker playing barflies in Eddie Dean's DRIFTING RIVER (PRC, 1946).
  • he's the jail guard in the Gilbert Roland KING OF THE BANDITS (Monogram, 1947).
  • he has credited roles in a pair of Johnny Mack Brown Monograms, PRAIRIE LAW (Monogram, 1947) and GUN TALK (Monogram, 1947). (I have some screen captures of McElroy (portraying henchies) in those.)

As the B western faded away, McElroy did uncredited work in television shows CISCO KID, WILD BILL HICKOK, GENE AUTRY, a few others.

Robert F. McElroy lived to a ripe old age, passing away January 29, 1976 in the San Diego, California area.



(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

Above - McElroy in a crop from a still from the Johnny Mack Brown WESTERN RENEGADES (Monogram, 1949).

Right - McElroy in a crop from a lobby card from Johnny Mack Brown's VALLEY OF FEAR (Monogram, 1947). All roped up on the left is Tris Coffin. And wearing the green shirt is Ted Adams.
 

(Courtesy of Les Adams)



(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are Johnny Mack Brown, John Merton and McElroy in a crop from a lobby card from MAN FROM SONORA (Monogram, 1951).


Family Search (free), Ancestry.com (subscription), and the California Death Index have more on Bob McElroy / Robert F. McElroy. The common threads in the information below are:
     his Vanceburg, Kentucky birth location
     his October 3, 1890 birth date
     home address of 3961 Pennsylvania Avenue
And I've highlighted those in this color.

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on:
     Bob McElroy: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0568418
     Robert F. McElroy (1880-1976): http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0568449



Vinegar Roan

Real name:
Harris L. Whittenberg

1895 - 1946

Middle name variations:
Laffette
Laffete
Lafayette

On his World War II draft registration, he registers as Harris Laffete Whittenberg.




Another of the western movie riders and background performers was Harris Laffete Whittenberg, AKA 'Vinegar Roan', and he was born on February 6, 1895 in Pontotoc, Mason County, Texas.

Census and other tidbits show him as a rider in the World's Fair Show, a rodeo performer and a movie cowboy and stunt man.

The Newspaper Archive (subscription) and trade papers had a few articles on 'Vinegar Roan' doing rodeos:

  • The June 15, 1929 issue of Billboard has Vinegar Roan with the short-lived Buck Jones Wild West Show.
  • he's a contestant in the wild brahma bull riding and steer bulldogging events with the Fog Horn Clancy Rodeo at the Texas-Oklahoma fair grounds in Wichita Falls, Texas in 1932.
  • he's a judge as well as a calf roping contestant at the 1932 Labor Day Frontier Days rodeo in Oxnard, California.

Republic Pictures expert Jack Mathis has a section on stunt and specialty performers in his Republic Confidential, Volume 1, The Studio (Jack Mathis Advertising, 1999). Vinegar Roan is among the scores of names on page 219. The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has Vinegar Roan doing mostly uncredited acting jobs - primarily as a henchman or rider - in about twenty films during the years 1924-1944. We don't have a good number on his stunting or riding extra work.

Examples of Vinegar Roan in B westerns and serials:

  • he's a henchman in the Three Mesquiteers adventure GUNSMOKE RANCH (Republic, 1937).
  • in the serial THE VIGILANTES ARE COMING (Republic, 1936), he's a rider with the good guy vigilantes.

There were two marriages - his first was to Mattie Harris in 1915. And in 1929, he married Cressy Jane Fowler (nee Shelton) and they were together through his passing in 1946.

Harris L. Whittenberg died in Sedona, Arizona on December 8, 1946 from heart problems. According to the death certificate, he had lived in Sedona for about a year. He passed away at the Sedona Lodge, and newspapers indicate it was a facility used by movie companies. Excerpt from a newspaper article from 1946: "... establishment of Sedona lodge by the Anderson Boarding & Supply company as a permanent camp to house and feed movie companies." At the time of Whittenberg's death, producer Hal Wallis was in Sedona (and other locations) filming DESERT FURY (Hal Wallis Productions/Paramount, 1947) which starred John Hodiak, Lizabeth Scott, Burt Lancaster, and Wendell Corey. Conjecture - perhaps Harry was in Sedona with that Hal Wallis film ... or perhaps he was working for the Sedona Lodge company.

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Vinegar Roan: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0730107

Arizona's Little Hollywood: Sedona and Northern Arizona's Forgotten Film History 1923-1973 by Joe McNeill is a wonderful, super researched book that documents the movies and filming done in Arizona. Joe's online blog has info on the Sedona Lodge location which was used in many films including John Wayne'S ANGEL AND THE BADMAN (Republic, 1947): http://arizonaslittlehollywood.blogspot.com/2010/10/touched-by-angel.html

The Family Search website (free), Ancestry.com (subscription), death certificate, and newspapers have information on Harris Laffete Whittenberg / Harry L. Whittenberg, AKA 'Vinegar Roan':

  • 1900 census summary and census takers worksheet - living in Kaufman County, Texas are 38 year old Wesley B. Whittenberg (born Tennessee; occupation "Farmer"), his 34 year old with Emily S. (born Illinois), 12 year old daughter Maude (born Texas), 10 year old son Robert E. (born Texas), 5 year old son Harris L. (born Texas), and newborn daughter Lennie (born Texas). Wesley and Emily have had six children, four of which are still living: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M3PQ-53F
  • 1910 census summary and census takers worksheet - living in Tarrant County, Texas are 50 year old W. J. Whittenberg (born Tennessee; occupation "Carpenter"), his 44 year old wife Emily (born Illinois), 15 year old son Harry (born Texas), 22 year old daughter Maud (born Texas), 10 year old daughter Lori (born Texas) and 6 year old nephew Howard Hebel: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M2Q4-PFY
  • Ancestry.com had a "Convict Record of the Texas State Penitentiaries", and on the list is 16 year old Harry Whittenberg, about 5' 6" tall and 137 pounds, occupation "Laborer", and he lives in Fort Worth, Texas. He plead guilty on April 11, 1911 of "Theft of Horse", and served a two-year jail sentence that ran from April 13, 1911 - April 6, 1913.
  • Ancestry had a 1914 Fort Worth, Texas City Directory - Harris L. Whittenberg is living at 2725 Loving Avenue North in Fort Worth, Texas with his father Wesley. Harris and Wesley are "Carpenters".
  • July 22, 1915 Ellis County, Oklahoma marriage license for 21 year old Harris Lafayette Whittenberg and 18 year old Mattie Harris. Both are residents of Texas: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VR3F-SZ2
  • World War I draft registration dated May 29, 1917 in Fort Worth, Texas - 22 year old Harry L. Whittenberg was born February 6, 1895 in Ponatoc [sic], Texas. He is married and occupation / employer is "Rider - World's Fair Show - all over U. S.": https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GYYR-72T?i=2462&wc=9F4B-829%3A928338201%2C928768801%3Fcc%3D1968530&cc=1968530
  • Missouri newspapers had a couple articles on the December 23, 1929 marriage of "Harry L. Whittenberg, 35, Wenoka, Okla., and Cressy J. Fowler, 37, of Los Angeles, Cal." and the headline of an article read " 'Vinegar Rone' [sic] Weds Strafford, Mo., Girl"
  • 1930 census summary and census takers worksheet - 36 year old Harry L. Whittenberg (born Texas) and 38 year old wife Cressy J. Fowler (born Missouri) are renting at 6070 Normandie Avenue, Los Angeles. His occupation is "Actor - Motion Pictures", and he is not a World War I veteran: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XCZ5-1J9
  • Ancestry had 1932 and 1934 Los Angeles County Voter Registrations - Harry L. and Cressy Whittenberg live at 6070 Normandie Avenue, Los Angeles.
  • 1940 census summary and census takers worksheet - 45 year old Harris L. Whittenberg (born Texas), his 48 year old wife Cressy (born Missouri), and 54 year old brother-in-law Everett Shelton (born Missouri) live in Los Angeles. The Whittenbergs own their home at 2719 Fruitdale, Los Angeles. In 1939, Harris worked 12 months and earned $720.00; his occupation was "Actor - Motion Pictures": https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K9CD-9M9
  • 1942 World War II draft registration - Harris Laffete Whittenberg was born February 6, 1895 in Mason County, Texas. He lives at 2719 Fruitdale Street, Los Angeles, California, and his employer is "All Studios": https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939V-7V96-JY?i=2813&wc=SPSM-BZS%3A195971501%3Fcc%3D1861144&cc=1861144
  • Arizona death certificate for 52 year old Harris L. Whittenberg (Vinegar Roan). His occupation was "Movie Actor (Cow Boy) - Picture Industry"; parents were unknown; his wife was Cressy Jane Whittenberg. He passed away at the Sedona Lodge in Sedona, Coconino County, Arizona on December 8, 1946 from cardiac failure and coronary arteriosclerosis. His remains were transported to Los Angeles for burial: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FLJW-TJK

Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website notes that Harris L. 'Vinegar Roan' Whittenberg is interred in an unmarked grave at Roosevelt Memorial Park, Gardena, Los Angeles County, California: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=74271404

Find A Grave also has information on Cressy Jane Shelton Whittenberg (1891-1948) who is interred at Roosevelt Memorial Park, Gardena, Los Angeles County, California. She is "Buried next to her first husband, Arthur Fowler, and their daughter, Vivian. Her 2nd husband, Harris Whittenberg, is buried in an unmarked grave on the other side of her.": http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=60247706



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