|The 'brains' and 'action' heavies who had meaty roles and lots of dialog ... and the players who were fathers, ranch owners, lawman, mayors, judges, lawyers, storekeepers, newspaper editors, wardens, etc.|
Above - Edmund Cobb circa 1935 and wearing his normal dour, "sourpuss" face.
Edmund Fessenden Cobb was born June 23, 1892 in Albuquerque, New Mexico Territory.
His cinema career began around 1910 with some roles in Biograph and Lubin movies shot in New Mexico. Circa 1915, he was in Hollywood doing bit parts and supporting roles in various silent films. In the 1920s, he even starred for Arrow Pictures, Universal and others in some silent westerns, a few serials, and a series of two-reel "Forest Ranger" adventures.
To most of us, Edmund Cobb was not hero material but is best remembered in scores of westerns and serials beginning in the early 1930s. While he occasionally played the boss/brains heavy, he was most often a henchman or second-in-command ... and sometimes a lawman, townsman, rancher, stage/wagon driver, etc. His movie and TV career spanned over fifty years, from circa 1910 though the mid 1960s. He often had lots of dialog and screen time and was billed. In some films, he was only on screen for a moment in an uncredited role.
He starred in two bottom-of-the-barrel sound westerns. He had the lead in the ultra low budget oater RACKETEER ROUND-UP (Aywon, 1934) which was probably helmed by Robert J. Horner (using the name Robert Hoyt). About a year later, the film was re-released as GUNNERS AND GUNS (Beaumont, 1935). Cobb also attempted a hero role in the dreadful Victor Adamson/Art Mix Production, THE RAWHIDE TERROR (Security, 1934).
Looking back at his sound western filmography, it's interesting to examine where and with whom he worked: he appeared in nearly four dozen Charles Starretts at Columbia Pictures; there were fifteen Bill Elliott oaters at Columbia and Republic; nearly two dozen with Johnny Mack Brown at Universal and Monogram; ten with Tim McCoy; ten with Ken Maynard; a half dozen with Buck Jones; five with Tom Mix at Universal; a quartet of the Dick Foran westerns for Warners; and at Republic Pictures with Roy Rogers (in 5), Gene Autry (in 3), Sunset Carson (in 7), and Allan Lane (in 9). And Cobb was in lots of cliffhangers that starred cowboy heroes. Examples: he did four with Tom Tyler; two with Buck Jones; and one each with Maynard, Elliott, Johnny Mack Brown, Allan Lane, Bob Custer, Tom Keene (Richard Powers) and Tom Mix.
Conversely, you won't find Edmund Cobb in any Hopalong Cassidys, nor series westerns with George O'Brien, Lash LaRue, Eddie Dean, the Rough Riders or Texas Rangers. He only worked in one of Monogram's Range Busters, one Whip Wilson at Monogram, and one with Tim Holt at RKO. He was in a single John Wayne Warners westerns but none of the Wayne Lone Star/Monograms. And I was surprised that Ed never worked with Buster Crabbe in any cliffhangers or the Crabbe and Fuzzy St. John Billy the Kid/Billy Carson series for Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC).
Following are a few examples of memorable Ed Cobb performances in B westerns and serials:
He also did lots of other film work, and can be seen in minor roles in the CHARLIE CHAN, FALCON and MA & PA KETTLE film series and a few of the Three Stooges comedy shorts at Columbia Pictures. He even had a bit in Orson Welles' CITIZEN KANE. You'll also be able to spot Cobb in some early TV westerns such as WILD BILL HICKOK, THE LONE RANGER, RANGE RIDER, more.
Les Adams has him in 460+ sound films - of that total, 246 are westerns and 61 are cliffhangers. He appeared in about 100 films at Republic Pictures from 1936-1956, and most were serials and oaters. His work in silents - as a bit/supporting player or star - is a work in progress since many of the films are lost.
In later years, he suffered from heart problems and passed away on August 15, 1974 at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital, Woodland Hills, California. His second wife Vivian was also at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital and passed about three weeks prior to Ed.
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Edmund Cobb: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0167760/
Boyd Magers' Western Clippings website has a profile on Edmund Cobb: http://www.westernclippings.com/heavies/edcobb_charactersheavies.shtml
Daniel Neyer's "The Files of Jerry Blake" serial website has lots of details on Edmund Cobb in cliffhangers: http://filesofjerryblake.com/serial-character-actors-2/edmund-cobb/
Cobb did a few Columbia shorts with the Three Stooges: http://www.threestooges.net/cast/actor/319/
The Albuquerque Museum Photo Archives has a circa 1914 photo of Edmund Cobb and Slim Freeman in costume for Rio Grande Motion Picture Company film, Albuquerque, New Mexico: http://econtent.unm.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/abqmuseum/id/994/rec/20
Grapevine Video has four of Cobb's silent starring films: http://grapevinevideo.com/edmund_cobb_films.html
On the trail of Edmund Cobb
The Family Search website (free), Ancestry.com (subscription), California Death Index, Social Security Death Index (SSDI), and the death certificate provide more on Edmund Cobb and family:
More on Edmund Cobb and Cobb family genealogy
Special thanks to Mary for the information and the photo left of Edmund Cobb as a youngster. The following is a consolidation of several e-mails from Mary:
Edmund Fessenden Cobb was born June 23, 1892, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to William Henry Cobb and his wife, Edwinna (Eddie) Ross. Edmund F. Cobb's grandfather, Edmund Gibson Ross, served as Governor of the Territory of New Mexico (1885-1889) and was the Senator from Kansas who many contend cast the pivotal vote for acquittal in the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson in May, 1868.
The photo archive collection at the Museum of New Mexico, Palace of the Governors, has some photographs of Edmund F. Cobb (some possibly from the Cobb Studio, his parents' photography studio in Albuquerque), including one of him taken in December 1911 in cowboy attire and another in a Civil War uniform.
Edmund Cobb's siblings, Susan Ross Cobb, Daphne M. Cobb, and Wilfred B. Cobb remained in Albuquerque, but several Ross cousins resided in California. May Ross, first cousin of Edmund F. Cobb's mother, was married to Meredith Pinxton Snyder (1859-1937), the first Mayor of Los Angeles to be elected to the office four times, his first term beginning in 1896 and his last term ending in 1921.
Edmund Fessenden Cobb's first wife was Helen M. Hayes, daughter of Charles T. Hayes and Martha B. Marshall. Helen was born June 1893, in Tennessee, and died of tuberculosis about 1932 when her daughter, Eddie, was about 17 years old. Edmund and Helen had married about 1914 and had one daughter, Eddie Marie Cobb, who was born in Illinois in 1915. Edmund and Helen appeared in at least two movies together, A RODEO MIXUP and RIDERS OF THE RANGE. Edmund and Helen were enumerated in Denver, Colorado, on the 1920 census and gave their occupations respectively as, "Actor" and "Actress" in "Motion Pictures", but Edmund's and Helen's daughter, Eddie Marie Cobb, was living with Helen's parents in Third Civil District, North Chattanooga, Hamilton County, Tennessee, in 1920. (Helen was enumerated in Third Civil District, Hamilton County, Tennessee, with her parents and siblings on the 1900 census, so the family apparently stayed in that area.)
Edmund and Helen divorced around 1925-1927 when their daughter, Eddie, was about 10 or 12 years old, and they both remarried. Helen M. (Hayes) Cobb married as her second husband, a Mr. Jackson, and Edmund Fessenden Cobb married as his second wife, Vivian Marie Winter, daughter of Marshall Banker Winter and Henrietta Hollenbeck.
Vivian, Edmund F. Cobb's second wife, was born in Wisconsin, January 16, 1894, and died at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital, July 26, 1974. Edmund F. Cobb died there as well, barely three weeks later on August 15, 1974.
Edmund Cobb - doing hero and character roles in silents
Ed Cobb's last hurrah as a hero,
in two poor quality sound westerns
Cobb doing villain and character/support
roles in sound B westerns and serials