|A long time ago, ye Old Corral webmaster received an e-mail from a professor at UC Berkeley ... who just happened to be friends with a man named Dave Tansey ... and Dave's father and several uncles did western movies. Dave Tansey (photo left) and I first connected in 1999, and I did a biography on Dave's Uncle Sherry Tansey and most of the photos were supplied by Dave. Sometime later, a package arrived with a bunch of photos from the "Tansey Family Album", some of which you'll see in this section. Dave and his wife Rosie have seven children and twenty grandchildren. Special thanks to Dave for sharing memories and photos of his family.|
The early history on the Tansey family is difficult to document.
Mother Emma (nee Purcell) Tansey was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1870. Brothers Robert, Sherry and John were born in Brooklyn and New York City.
John Tansey (born 1901) was a child star with the Biograph stage company in New York prior to the family's move to California. In Tinseltown, and billed as 'Johnny Tansey', he did some silents.
We also know that as a youngster, Robert 'Bobby' Tansey (born 1897) is listed in some early films such as KENTUCKY FOES (Reliance, 1913).
Sheridan (Sherry) Tansey (born 1904) was also doing silents as a kid and teen (appearing as 'Sheridan Tansey'), and when we did the henchman webpage on Sherry, Hans Wollstein checked his silent film source material and found a bunch of credits for 'Sheridan Tansey': CONQUERED HEARTS (Rialto del Luxe Films, 1916); A LUCKY GOLD PIECE (Imperial, 1916); THE RUNAWAY (Empire All Star, 1917): THE FOOLISH VIRGIN (Selznick, 1917); THE LITTLE DUCHESS (World/Peerless, 1917); THE POWER AND THE GLORY (World, 1918); THE TWO BRIDES (Paramount, 1919); OVER THE HILL TO THE POOR HOUSE (Fox, 1920) and UNCLE SAM OF THE FREEDOM RIDGE (Levey Service Co., 1920). Silent western appearances included THE FIGHTING BOOB (FBO, 1926) starring Bob Custer, CODE OF THE COW COUNTRY (Action Pictures/Pathe, 1927) with Buddy Roosevelt, and THE OBLIGIN' BUCKAROO (Action Pictures/Pathe, 1927) starring Buffalo Bill, Jr.
Hans also was able to provide a bit more info on John Tansey:
"Described by one Broadway critic as 'the sweetest, dearest, brightest and most genuine child', John Tansey appeared in films as early as 1908. From a well-known theatrical family (mother Emma Tansey née Purcell, and brothers Sheridan and Robert Emmett Tansey were also in films), young John joined Adele de Garde and Gladys Eagan as the reigning child stars of the old Biograph company at East 14th in New York City. Due to Biograph's tradition of never billing actors, the kids' real names remained unknown to moviegoers, who nevertheless applauded their every appearance. Leaving Biograph around 1910, Tansey later ventured west, where he starred in several films, including the 1917 pirate melodrama BARNABY LEE, but young adulthood more or less ruined his career. In 1930, Tansey co-wrote and co-directed (with brother Robert Emmett Tansey) the Jack Perrin Western ROMANCE OF THE WEST and he was listed as producer on RIDERS ON THE RIO (1931), a very low-budget Lane Chandler oater."
Dave Tansey fondly recalls his childhood when he was allowed to visit the set of westerns with 'Crash' Corrigan, Ken Maynard, Hoot Gibson, Bob Steele and Max Terhune (as his Uncle Bob Tansey was involved in some of the Range Busters and many of the Trail Blazers films). Dave adds some family background and tidbits which I've excerpted from various e-mails:
"My father John was the child star of the family, with performances at the White House I was told. His mother Em had a suite at the Waldorf or some such hotel for them when he starred on Broadway in the play, "The Blue Bird" (which as a movie was played by Shirley Temple). I remember Bob's wife Kitty on the phone with the race horse bookies betting, what as a kid I thought was a huge amount, probably in the low hundreds or even less. The horse races were big to Bob and he finally owned a horse that he ran at Caliente. I remember going to Santa Anita with Sherry, Bob and John in a little coupe with the three of them in the one seat and I was tucked up behind them in front of the rear window. It was a famous race for that time - the 1940 Santa Anita $100,000 Handicap which was won by Seabisquit over Kayak II. They must have bet on another horse, as we had just enough for lunch and headed home. You know that's my one and only horse race."
"Bob bought me my first horse (I was 12). Uncle Sherry was my favorite uncle. He would come by the house, scoop me up, and take me for a four hour adventure - great for a little kid. When I was on location he included me in everything he did (except the filming of course) - riding, roping, make believe stunts. It was wonderful."
(Courtesy of Dave Tansey)
Above are Bob Tansey and Faith Tansey (John's wife), and the family album has this photo marked as THE FLIRT (1926).
(Courtesy of Dave Tansey)
Above from L-to-R are Louise, John and Robert Tansey ... and that may be Faith Tansey (John's wife) in the wheelchair. Unidentified film.
(Courtesy of Dave Tansey)
Les Adams adds some comments about the above photo:
The girl with John Tansey and the kid is Karla Cowan. If so, this is a rare still from an Imperial 1932 western called THE GALLOPING KID, and the kid is 'Little' Buck Dale. It is listed as a 1932 film from Imperial, but I'm beginning to suspect it was actually filmed circa 1929-1930, possibly in this order: the (possibly unreleased) CODE OF THE PLAINS with Jack Jones and Karla Cowan, Jack Kirk and Bob Card and, I suspect, all three Tansey brothers had roles; THE GALLOPING KID with Al Lane (Robert Tansey), Little Buck Dale and Karla Cowan, John Tansey, Fred Parker, Horace B. Carpenter, Larry Warner, George Bates and C. E. 'Cap' Anderson; RIDERS OF THE RIO with Lane Chandler, Karla Cowan, Sheldon Lewis, Sherry Tansey, Bob Card, Ben Corbett and John Tansey; and ROMANCE OF THE WEST with Jack Perrin, Edna Marion, Ben Corbett, Tom London, Edwin August, Henry Roquemore, Fern Emmett, Dick Hatton and Sherry Tansey. I could be off in filming order on the middle two, but am guessing Karla Cowan made three in a row. Plus, there is the story about Lane Chandler never being paid for the Tansey film. I think Robert and John got connected with William Pizor of Imperial --- who was a slow-pay if at all, and the first three films went into limbo. The Jack Jones film was silent and had no market, but Pizor slipped THE GALLOPING KID out in 1932, and did the same with RIDERS OF THE RIO in 1935. Karla Cowan also surfaces again in the Wally Wales Imperial shorts with the Tanseys and Pizor.
(Courtesy of Richard Harrison)
Above - pressbook material from THE GALLOPING KID ... including the misspelling of Robert Emmett Tansey's name as "Written and Directed by Robert Emmnet".