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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.

Tom London

Real name:
Leonard Thomas Clapham

1888 or 1889 - 1963

(Courtesy of Jack Tillmany)

(From Old Corral image collection)

(Courtesy of Bill Sasser)

Tall, thin Tom London was one of the most familiar faces to B western audiences. Born in Kentucky, his movie career began in the early days of the silent film working with the Selig company. He easily migrated to talking pictures, where he portrayed sheriffs, ranch owners, henchmen and the occasional brains heavy in westerns from the 1930s through the 1950s. In non-westerns, he often wore a Police uniform ... or a suit that covered his detective badge.

One of the most prolific of the Hollywood character/supporting players, Les Adams has London identified in about 500 sound films --- that number includes work in at least 52 serials and 320 westerns. Among these are about 160 films at Republic Pictures during the period from 1935 - 1951. Much of London's Republic work occurred from July, 1943 through July, 1947, when he was under a term player contract(s). That contract gave London some security and a regular paycheck, but allowed Republic to utilize him in lots of films.

London was typical of the western and serial performers who migrated to television roles when the B western and cliffhanger work faded in the post World War II period. On TV, you can spot him in episodes of THE RANGE RIDER, ANNIE OAKLEY, GENE AUTRY, more.

I have a lot of favorite Tom London roles. But the London performance that I always recall is in the Gene Autry RIDERS IN THE SKY (Columbia, 1949). In that, Tom plays the grizzled (and nice) "Old Man Roberts" who dies at the end ... and becomes one of the mystic riders galloping on white horses while Gene sings "Ghost Riders In The Sky". Another good Tom London portrayal is in the Jimmy Wakely BRAND OF FEAR (Monogram, 1949), where he plays an old lawman with a secret past. Decades earlier, he was an outlaw and also the father of schoolmarm Gail Davis (who thinks her father died long ago).

Obituaries mention that London passed away on December 5, 1963 at his North Hollywood home which he shared with his sister, Anita Pearcy.

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has information on Tom London:

Jim Tipton's Find A Grave site has info on London's final resting place at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California:

The Family Search website (free), California Death Records database, Social Security Death Index (SSDI), and the death certificate provide more on Tom London. Appears he was married twice. There is a question on his birth - he reports 1888 on his World War I draft registration and 1889 on his World War II draft registration:

  • 1910 census has 22 year old Leonard T. Clapham living in Louisville Ward 12, Jefferson County, Kentucky with his parents, Henry R. and Mary J. Clapham, and two younger sisters, Natalia M. Clapham and Anita J. Clapham:
  • June 5, 1917 World War I draft registration: 28 year old Leonard Thomas Clapham was born August 24, 1888 in Louisville, Kentucky. Home address is 217 N. Beaudry, Los Angeles, California; he is married; prior military service of 8 months with California Coast Artillery; reports he is "Deaf in one ear"; occupation/employer is "Film Actor-Universal Film Co.":
  • 1920 census has 32 year old Leonard T. Clapham residing in Los Angeles with his parents, Henry R. and Mary J. Clapham:
  • 1930 census has 38 year old Leonard Clapham and 36 year old wife Edith S. living in Los Angeles:
  • Sawtelle Veterans Home and Hospital record from 1931. Looks like Clapham was hospitalized for 50 days for lumbago. Wife Edith is listed on the record. His military service was 17th California Coast Artillery from September 22, 1916 to his discharge on August 29, 1917:
  • April 22, 1934 Los Angeles County marriage license of 42 year old Leonard Thomas Clapham (born Kentucky) to 34 year old Frances McClellan (born Minnesota). His occupation is "Actor - Motion Picture" and parents were Harry [sic] R. Clapham and Mary Josephine Hulsman (both born Kentucky). He was divorced and this was his second marriage. It was Frances' first marriage, and her occupation is "U.S. Govt. Clerk":
  • 1940 census has 52 year old Leonard Clapham as head of the household and residing in Los Angeles with his sister Anita Pearcy and her husband Edmond T. Pearcy:
    1940 census takers worksheet has Leonard Clapham, sister Anita Pearcy and her husband living at 4368 Camellia in Los Angeles. He is divorced; occupation is "actor motion pictures", and in 1939, he worked 36 weeks and earned $3182.00:
  • 1942 World War II draft registration for Leonard Thomas Clapham, born August 24, 1889 in Louisville, Kentucky. Sister Anita is his contact, and they still reside at 4368 Camellia in Los Angeles. He lists his occupation as "frequently unemployed":
  • 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 London, born 8/24/1889 in Kentucky, Mother's maiden name of Huesman, and he passed away on 12/5/1963. There is a corresponding record in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI), but his name is shown as Leonard Clapham, not Tom London.
  • Death certificate: Leonard T. Clapham, AKA Tom London, passed away December 5, 1963 at his home at 4368 Camellia Avenue, North Hollywood, Los Angeles County, California. He was born August 24, 1889 in Kentucky; parents were Harry R. Clapham (born Kentucky) and Mary J. Huesman (born Kentucky). Occupation was "Actor-Free Lance-Movies and Television"; he was a World War I veteran; he was widowed; was cremated at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Crematory; death certificate informant was Anita J. Pearcy (his sister). For some reason, the cause of death and some other medical sections on the death certificate are blank; the signature of the doctor includes a title that looks like Deputy Coroner.

(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

Above are Tom London and pretty Republic Pictures heroine Peggy Stewart.

(From Old Corral image collection)

Above from left to right are Buddy Roosevelt (with moustache), Benny Corbett, Tom London (on horseback), Jay Wilsey (Buffalo Bill Jr.) and Bob Roper in a scene from WESTWARD BOUND (Webb-Douglas Productions/Syndicate, 1931). Wilsey was the star of this early sound film which was directed by Harry S. Webb, the later owner (with B. B. Ray) of Reliable Pictures.

(Courtesy of Dorothy Hack)

Above from L-to-R are Stanley Blystone, Tom London, Herman Hack, old codger Jack Duffy and Gaylord (Steve) Pendleton in a scene from TRAIL'S END (Beaumont, 1935), which starred Conway Tearle.

(From Old Corral image collection)

Above from L-to-R are Joe De La Cruz, Jayne Regan, Jack Perrin, Slim Whitaker and Tom London in a lobby card from THE CACTUS KID (Reliable, 1935).

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are Jack Perrin, Tom London, Roger Williams and Oscar Gahan in a lobby card from WILDCAT SAUNDERS (Atlantic, 1936).

(From Old Corral image collection)

From L-to-R are Tom London, Max Terhune, John Wayne, and Ray "Crash" Corrigan in SANTA FE STAMPEDE (Republic, 1938), one of the Three Mesquiteers films.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are Tommy Coats, Bob Clark, Tom London, Herman Willingham, Herman Nowlin/Nolan, and Clyde Kinney in GHOST VALLEY RAIDERS (Republic, 1940), which starred Don Barry.

(From Old Corral image collection)

Above from left to right are Tom London, Frank LaRue and Tex Ritter in a lobby card from ROLL, WAGONS, ROLL (Monogram, 1940).

(From Old Corral image collection)

Above is an interesting lobby card from RIDING THE SUNSET TRAIL (Monogram, 1941), and from L-to-R are: Betty Miles, Tom Keene, Kenne Duncan, Sherry Tansey (James Sheridan Tansey), Earl Douglas, and Tom London. Earl Douglas' real name was Lou Yaconelli, the brother of sidekick Frank Yaconelli. If you look close, you might make out the moustached Arkansas Slim Andrews to the right of Keene's face. Can you spot the error on this lobby card - look at all the gunbelts and the holsters as they are on the left side. Apparently, the photo used in preparation of this card was reversed.

(Image courtesy of Carol Murray and her "Jack Hendricks Photo Album")

Lawmen Jack Hendricks (on the left) and Tom London (right) have the drop on Ray 'Crash' Corrigan in a scene from Range Busters #8, FUGITIVE VALLEY (Monogram, 1941).

(From Old Corral image collection)

From L-to-R are Robert 'Bobby' Blake as Little Beaver, Roy Barcroft, Jack Kirk, Tom London and Bill Elliott in a lobby card from CHEYENNE WILDCAT (Republic, 1944), one of the Red Ryder adventures.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are Herman Hack, Henry Wills, Cliff Parkinson and Tom London in THE SAN ANTONIO KID (Republic, 1944), one of the Red Ryder series starring Bill Elliott.

(From Old Corral image collection)

Above is Tom London, without his false teeth, as the sidekick to Republic's Sunset Carson in the mid 1940s.

(From Old Corral image collection)

Above is a lobby card from DAYS OF BUFFALO BILL (Republic, 1946) with Tom London (sans teeth) as Sunset Carson's helper. The body on the floor is Rex Lease, one-time cowboy hero and frequent bit player/supporting actor.

(Image courtesy of Ted Osborn)

Above is the gang facing Sunset Carson in a lobby card from ALIAS BILLY THE KID (Republic, 1946). Left to right are Tom London, Peggy Stewart, Russ Whiteman and the bearded Tex Terry.

(From Old Corral image collection)

From left to right are Tom London, Allan Lane with Peggy Stewart in his arms, whiskered Emmett Lynn, Pierce Lyden, and in the front is Bobby Blake as Little Beaver. Lobby card from RUSTLERS OF DEVIL'S CANYON (Republic, 1947), one of the Red Ryder adventures.

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