(Images courtesy of Jack Tillmany)
Gordon Jones above left in the mid 1930s and mid 1950s on the right.
Full name: Gordon Wynnivo Jones
1912 - 1963
|Special thanks to Bob O'Brien for authoring the following profile on Gordon Jones.|
Gordon Jones (born in Alden, Iowa on April 5, 1912) could well be described as a comic/character actor. He is also an important comic sidekick - somewhat over looked - in the history of B westerns.
Mr. Jones broke into films doing bit parts in the early 1930s. He landed a meaty role in the Eddie Cantor picture STRIKE ME PINK (Goldwyn/UA, 1936) which led directly to a contract at RKO from 1936 - 1938 where he was cast in a variety of B pictures, including two as the lead. RKO observed that while Mr. Jones could play light comedy roles from friendly pals to outright slap-stick buffoons, he was not a leading man type such as a James Stewart. However, he was loaned out to Grand National for the lead role in a horse racing comedy THE LONG SHOT (Grand National, 1939) before his contract ended. At the end of his RKO contract, Mr. Jones began free-lancing at both the major and Poverty Row studios such as MGM, Republic, Columbia and others doing a varied list of roles and bit parts. He was cast - against type - as "Britt Reid" in the THE GREEN HORNET (Universal, 1940) cliffhanger at Universal Pictures. This was followed by the lead role of a rookie policeman in I TAKE THIS OATH (PRC, 1940) for low budget producer Sig Neufeld at Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC).
Jones was just starting to hit his stride in John Wayne's film FLYING TIGERS (Republic, 1942) and others, and hit a huge mark in the role of "The Ramblin' Wreck From Georgia Tech" in the comedy MY SISTER EILEEN (Columbia, 1942), before going off to duty in World War II.
After the war, Mr. Jones scored a comic bulls-eye as an outrageous parody of a western villain in the Danny Kaye film THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY (Goldwyn, 1947), followed by the Abbott and Costello western send-up THE WISTFUL WIDOW OF WAGON GAP (Universal, 1947), and then the role of a comedic villain "Happy Keegan" in the Columbia Cinecolor B+ "horse and bull" western THE UNTAMED BREED (Columbia, 1948) starring Sonny Tufts, Gabby Hayes and Edgar Buchanan. He also had featured roles in a number of other films in 1948 and 1949.
After making BELLE OF OLD MEXICO (Republic, 1950) with Robert Rockwell and Estelita Rodriguez (a splashy, Trucolor musical-comedy), Mr. Jones was signed to play Rex Allen's sidekick "I. Q. Barton" in Rex's first picture, ARIZONA COWBOY (Republic, 1950). Republic decided to move Jones into the sidekick spot in six Roy Rogers films for the 1950 - 1951 season. Four were shot in Trucolor and the last two, with lower budgets, in black and white. He played a character named "Splinters McGonigle" and transitioned into Roy's helper in TRIGGER JR. (Pat Brady's role as "Sparrow Biffle" was dropped following this film). Then came five more pairings of Jones with Roy: SUNSET IN THE WEST, NORTH OF THE GREAT DIVIDE, the guest-star filled TRAIL OF ROBIN HOOD, SPOILERS OF THE PLAINS and HEART OF THE ROCKIES. All were well received and popular films. Herbert J. Yates, Republic Studios head, wanted more of Roy's adventures. But before Yates finalized a deal with Roy for three more films, Jones was gone. (Pinky Lee came on as Roy's sidekick in his final three Republic adventures.)
Jones did several for producer Lindsley Parsons at Monogram - he worked with Roddy McDowell in a pair, BLACK MIDNIGHT (Monogram, 1949) and BIG TIMBER (Monogram, 1950), and with Wayne Morris in YELLOW FIN (Monogram, 1951). There were other roles - including his recurring "Mike the Cop" on the Abbott and Costello's TV series, THE RAY MILLAND/MEET MR. McNULTY show on TV and radio, and several feature films including Gene Autry's WAGON TEAM (Columbia, 1952). Mr. Jones last true sidekick role was as cavalry "Pvt. Wilbur Clegg" in SHOOT-OUT AT MEDICINE BEND (Warner Brothers, 1957) which starred Randolph Scott and included early screen work for two future stars, James Garner and Angie Dickinson.
Throughout the remainder of the 1950s and into the 1960s, Jones worked steadily in films and as an A list guest on many episodic TV shows from PERRY MASON to GUNSMOKE and everything in between. His final film role was in John Wayne's western-comedy McLINTOCK! (Batjac/UA, 1963) which was filmed shortly before his death on June 20, 1963.
On the trail of Gordon Jones
Ye Old Corral webmaster did some additional research on Gordon Jones. Information below is from Family Search, tradezines, newspapers, ProQuest obituaries, death certificate and the California Death Index:
(Image courtesy of Dale Crawford & Jim Sorensen)
|Valhalla Memorial Park, North Hollywood, California|
|Some confusion on the interment location for Gordon Jones.|
Jim Tipton's Find-A-Grave website notes that Jones is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Plot: Graceland, Lot #110 G-1, Glendale, California: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=11550
A long time ago, Jim Sorensen and Dale Crawford sent me the above grave marker photo with info that Jones is interred at Valhalla Memorial Park. Jim has passed away and I've been unable to re-connect with Dale. Perhaps an Old Corral visitor will volunteer to check Forest Lawn and Valhalla to confirm Gordon Jones' interment location.
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has information on Gordon Jones: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0428160/
The Internet Broadway Database credits Gordon Jones as "the Wreck" in the early 1940s New York stage production of MY SISTER EILEEN. As noted above, Jones also essayed that same role (as "The Ramblin' Wreck From Georgia Tech") in the film version of MY SISTER EILEEN (Columbia, 1942). The Broadway database is at: http://www.ibdb.com/production.asp?ID=1047
J. David Goldin's RadioGoldIndex website has Gordon Jones in several 1953-1954 Meet Mr. McNutley radio programs. When you get to the site, click "Start Here", then select "Search By Artist", then select J, then scroll down for Gordon Jones radio credits: http://radiogoldindex.com/
Gordon Jones has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: http://www.walkoffame.com/gordon-jones
Many of us remember Jones as "Mike the cop" in the Abbott and Costello TVer. In the late 1950s, he also had a semi-recurring role as "Butch Barton" on THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE AND HARRIET TV show. Following is a link to info on the program. Scroll about 2/3 of the way down this webpage and you'll find a video frame capture showing Jones with Parley Baer and Frank Cady: http://www.incredibletvandmovies.com/nelsons.html
The Des Moines (Iowa) Register newspaper has a writeup on Iowa native Gordon Jones: http://data.desmoinesregister.com/famous-iowans/gordon-jones
(Image courtesy of Les Adams)
Filmed during the period from June 21, 1950 - July 12, 1950, the Trucolor TRAIL OF ROBIN HOOD (Republic, 1950) was Republic production 1835. Released in December, 1950 for the Holiday season, the storyline had some baddies stealing Christmas trees from Jack Holt's tree farm. A bunch of guest stars appeared with Roy. Above in the front row from L-to-R are Roy, Allan 'Rocky' Lane, Monte Hale and Roy's sidekick Gordon Jones. In the back row from L-to-R are Kermit Maynard, Tom Tyler, Ray 'Crash' Corrigan, William Farnum, George Chesebro, Foy Willing and the Riders of the Purple Sage.
TRAIL OF ROBIN HOOD was the last of Roy's Trucolor westerns.
Jones was Roy's helper in a half dozen: TRIGGER, JR. (Republic, 1950, in Trucolor), SUNSET IN THE WEST (Republic, 1950, in Trucolor), NORTH OF THE GREAT DIVIDE (Republic, 1950, in Trucolor), TRAIL OF ROBIN HOOD (Republic, 1950, in Trucolor), SPOILERS OF THE PLAINS (Republic, 1951 in B&W), and HEART OF THE ROCKIES (Republic, 1951 in B&W). After these half-dozen with Gordon Jones, Roy did three more (with Pinky Lee as his helper) and then exited Republic to concentrate on his TV show. Gordon Jones worked sporadically at Republic, appearing in fifteen films during the period from 1938 - 1953.
Below is the title lobby card from SPOILERS OF THE PLAINS (Republic, 1951) with Jones shown in the bottom left. In the center, Roy Rogers is mixing it up with Republic contract player Grant Withers.
(From Old Corral image collection)