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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.



(Images courtesy of Jack Tillmany)


McKee was performing in Chicago in 1910 with the Marlowe Theater Stock Company as well as his own company.

Other newspaper traces indicate he was with the Jack Hoeffler Show in Indiana and Illinois in 1905-1906; with the Payoen Stock Company in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1908; and the Knickerbocker Stock Company in Dubuque, Iowa in December, 1910.

Lafe McKee

Full name: Lafayette S. McKee

Middle name was probably Stocking (not Stockard)

1872 - 1959


Lafayette S. McKee hailed from Morrison, Illinois and was born in 1872. He was a regular in serials and westerns during the 1930s, but his earliest movie work began around 1912 with the Selig Polyscope Company in Chicago. Prior to that, he toured with stock companies and worked the vaudeville circuit.

From the November 23, 1912 issue of Motography:

"During the past few months the Chicago studio of the Selig Company has made several additions to the membership of its regular stock company. Among the new members thus secured are: ... LaFayette McKee ..."

From the July 26, 1913 issue of Motography:

Headline reads "Selig Players Going to California", and, "There will be quite an emigration ... of the Selig Polyscope Company on July 19. Among those who are scheduled to go to the California establishment are: ... LaFayette McKee ..."

He was with Selig for 5-6 years. Then came more silents released through Pathe, Rayart, more. Many were westerns starring Buffalo Bill Jr., Buddy Roosevelt, Wally Wales, others. He also appeared in some higher budgeted adventures with Tom Mix at Fox and Ken Maynard at First National.

McKee easily handled the migration to talking pictures. With grey hair and a kindly face and eyes, Lafe often portrayed the father of the heroine ... a storekeeper ... the distressed businessman ... an older lawman ... a cavalry officer ... the ranch owner who was on the verge of losing his homestead or cattle to the villains. Sometimes, his screen life was cut short by the villain or his gang - for example, Lafe has an unbilled role as the owner of the Corwin Transportation Company and is killed off in Chapter 1 of the Ken Maynard MYSTERY MOUNTAIN (Mascot, 1934) cliffhanger.

McKee was a favorite of producer Nat Levine and appeared in a dozen Mascot serials. He occasionally stepped out of character and portrayed the baddie. A good example of Lafe's villainous side is his role as "the Voice" in THE VANISHING LEGION (Mascot, 1931), which starred Harry Carey and Rex, King of the Wild Horses. In Chapter 12, "The Hoofs Of Horror", Rex stomps McKee to death.

He also did some A grade films, but was generally not credited or given any dialog. Example: in the Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN (Frank Capra/Columbia, 1936), there are scenes of down-on-their-luck farmers and courtroom activity. You'll see Lafe as one of the many "faces in the crowd" (you might also spot George 'Gabby' Hayes and 'Handlebar' Hank Bell).

One thing I always noticed about McKee was his delivery of dialog - he was very careful (and slow) with his pronunciation of words, a skill that he learned and practiced during his pre-Hollywood years when he did stage plays, vaudeville, and toured with various traveling shows as well as a his own group of players.

Les Adams has Lafe in about 250 sound era films - that includes 185 westerns and 27 serials, and almost all occurred during 1930-1940. Toss in his extensive silent work and his total film appearances equals about 450. The table below provides some insight on Lafe McKee in the 1930s through the end of his movie career in 1941-1944:


Lafe McKee sound film appearances by year of film release.

Includes westerns, serials, other films.

In 1930, Lafe would have been about 58 years old.

In 1944, he would have been about 72 years of age.

In the 1940 census, Lafe reported that in 1939, he worked 6 weeks and earned $500.00. All 7 of his 1939 films were uncredited, minor roles in which he was paid for one or a few days of work.
Year of
Release
McKee Film
Quantity

(Includes westerns, serials, other films.)
1930 14
1931 25
1932 30
1933 29
1934 28
1935 46
1936 26
1937 23
1938 8
1939 7
1940 13
1941 1
1942 1
1943 2
1944 1
Sound film total 254


A closer examination reveals that nearly half of Lafe's 1930s cowboy films were with the following half-dozen heroes:

Hero 1930s Westerns
with McKee
1930s Serials
with McKee
Tom Tyler 20  
Buck Jones 14 3
Ken Maynard 14 1
Bob Steele 11 1
Tim McCoy 11 1
John Wayne 11  
Total 81 6


In addition to the above, McKee worked with many other B western stars at the major production companies as well as the Poverty Row independents. You can spot ol' Lafe in these westerns:

There are a few surprises. Lafe appeared in only one Hopalong Cassidy, as an uncredited jury member in NORTH OF THE RIO GRANDE (Paramount, 1937). He did a few at Republic Pictures. Examples: he had an unbilled role as a rancher in the early Three Mesquiteers RANGE DEFENDERS (Republic, 1937); he was a riverboat captain (uncredited) in THE PAINTED STALLION (Republic, 1937) serial; and he picked up a days pay as a townsman in THE LONE RANGER RIDES AGAIN (Republic, 1939). The biggest surprise was that McKee was absent from Republic oaters starring Gene Autry and Roy Rogers.

He retired from the screen in the mid 1940s, and his 30+ year film career spanned from about 1912-1944. 87 year old Lafe McKee passed away at his Temple City, California home on August 10, 1959.

In their book The Western - From Silents to Cinerama (Orion Press, New York, 1962), authors George N. Fenin and William K. Everson describe Lafe McKee as "The grand old man of many Westerns". I agree - Lafe is one of my favorites.



  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has information on Lafe McKee film appearances: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0571186/

Jim Tipton's Find A Grave site has a picture of the marker for Lafe McKee at Grand View Memorial Park, Glendale, California: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=5802

Boyd Magers' Western Clippings website has a profile on Lafe McKee: http://www.westernclippings.com/heavies/lafemckee_charactersheavies.shtml

The Internet Archive has several public domain movies with McKee that you can view or download: https://archive.org/search.php?query=%22lafe%20mckee%22%20AND%20collection%3Amoviesandfilms

The Family Search website (free), Ancestry.com (subscription), ProQuest obituaries, the California Death Records database, Social Security Death Index (SSDI), and the death certificate provide further information on Lafe McKee and family. Note the various spellings of Lafe's wife Lelah. Also note that Lafe and wife were double recorded in the 1900 census - in early June, 1910, they were in Piqua, Ohio and Morrison, Illinois, two towns that are separated by about 400 miles:




(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above is a lobby card from the Buffalo Bill Jr. silent, THE SADDLE CYCLONE (Action Pictures/Weiss Brothers-Artclass, 1925). From left to right are Buffalo Bill Jr. (Jay Wilsey), an unidentified player, and Lafe McKee on the right (with dark hair and a dark moustache). McKee was about 53 years of age when he did this film.



(Image courtesy of Jay Wilsey's granddaughter and
daughter, Tamera Mankini and Frances Eldene Wolski)

Above is a still from the Buffalo Bill Jr. silent THE RIDIN' ROWDY (Action Pictures/Pathe, 1926). From left to right are Harry Todd, Lafe McKee and Buffalo Bill Jr. (Jay Wilsey).



Above is a screen capture of Bob Steele's buddy Perry Murdock and Lafe McKee from Steele's first sound film, NEAR THE RAINBOW'S END (Tiffany, 1930).



(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are Hooper Atchley, Alice Day and Lafe McKee in a lobby card from GOLD (Majestic, 1932) which starred Jack Hoxie. Hoxie and his white horse 'Scout' are shown on the left. Alice Day is also pictured in the top right circular inset. Lafe plays Alice Day's father in this.



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above - Cavalry officer Tim McCoy gets busted from the service in this scene from END OF THE TRAIL (Columbia, 1932). Likable Lafe McKee is on the left, and doing the 'busting' is Wheeler Oakman, the real baddie in the story. The man between Oakman and McCoy is Henry Hall. The other player is unidentified. This was one of many "cavalry officer" roles for McKee.



(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are Franklyn Farnum, Lafe McKee, Bill Cody, Ada Ince and Bill Cody, Jr. in FRONTIER DAYS (Spectrum, 1934). McKee was Ada Ince's dad in this one.



(Image courtesy of Jay Wilsey's granddaughter and
daughter, Tamera Mankini and Frances Eldene Wolski)

Above is a still from the Buffalo Bill Jr. oater RAWHIDE ROMANCE (Superior, 1934). From left to right are Si Jenks, Lafe McKee, Buffalo Bill Jr. (Jay Wilsey), Bart Carre, and in the right foreground is Clyde McClary (balding man without hat). The heroine in ROMANCE was Wilsey's real life wife Genée Boutell and McKee played her father.



(Image courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from left to right are Lafe McKee, George Chesebro, Jack Perrin, Charles 'Slim' Whitaker, Benny Corbett (on Whitaker's back), and in the background at the desk is Charles K. French. Scene from RIDIN' GENTS (Reliable, 1934), one of the Bud 'n' Ben shorts starring Perrin and Corbett. Lafe portrayed the local sheriff in GENTS.



(Image courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from left to right are Alice Dahl, Tom Tyler, Lafe McKee, Dick Alexander and Slim Whitaker in COYOTE TRAILS (Reliable, 1935). Another Dad role for McKee - this time, he's the father of Alice Dahl.



(Courtesy of Ed Phillips)

Above from L-to-R are William Gould, Wally Wales/Hal Taliaferro (back to camera), Bob Kortman (on horse), Hoot Gibson (on Jack Perrin's horse Starlight), George Hayes, and Lafe McKee in a still from Gibson's SWIFTY (Diversion, 1935).



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above from L-to-R are Jack Rockwell, Karl Hackett, John Merton, Tim McCoy, Joe Girard and Lafe McKee in a lobby card from LIGHTNIN' BILL CARSON (Puritan, 1936).



(From Old Corral image collection)

From L-to-R in this lobby card are Eleanor Stewart, kindly ol' Lafe McKee (as Eleanor Stewart's father) and Bob Allen putting the grips on Wally Wales/Hal Taliaferro. Herman Hack is the the player between Allen and Taliaferro/Wales. THE RANGERS STEP IN (Columbia, 1937) was Bob Allen's finale as a series western hero.



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