|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.|
(Courtesy of Jack Tillmany)
Born in Tennessee, Horace Murphy did his early acting in showboats and tent shows, and wound up owning a couple of movie theaters in California. I have newspaper advertisements and articles from 1918-1930 with Horace as the owner, star, director and producer of his "Murphy's Comedians" traveling show. The ad crop on the right is from a 1929 performance in California.
His cinema career began around 1935 when he was in his mid fifties. He appeared primarily in B westerns and generally portrayed a long-winded and pompous judge, lawman, townsman, storekeeper, et al.
He also did some sidekick duties with Tex Ritter in his late 1930s Grand National films (portraying several blustery saddle pals, one named 'Stubby' and another named 'Ananias').
Les Adams has Murphy identified in about 120 sound films - that number includes 95 westerns and 2 serials. His film credits at Republic Pictures numbers about 40 during the period from 1936-1946, and all are westerns. However, about half of these are the A. W. Hackel/Supreme oaters starring Bob Steele and Johnny Mack Brown which were released under the Republic logo soon after the formation of Republic Pictures. Murphy's last screen appearance was around 1946.
Murphy had a rather unique voice and did radio work. You'll hear him as sidekick 'Buckskin Blodgett' in many of the Red Ryder radio shows (I have episodes from 1942-1948 with Murphy as 'Buckskin'). He also portrayed sidekick 'Clackety' on the Roy Rogers radio program - not sure how long he was on Roy's show but I do have one 1951 episode which feature Murphy. And on occasion, Murphy turned up on the Gene Autry Melody Ranch radio program. The Rogers, Red Ryder and Melody Ranch programs originated in California.
Speculation: note that Murphy's film work ended around 1946. Many of the radio shows that I have (with Horace) date from the mid 1940s into the 1950s. The Radio Gold Index (link below) also shows Murphy in programs during that same post-1946 time period. Perhaps Murphy found that radio work was safer, or easier, or more consistent, or better paying than films ... and so he gave up one medium and specialized in the other.
93 year old Horace Murphy passed away at nursing home in North Hollywood, California on January 20, 1975.
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Horace Murphy: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0614303/
J. David Goldin's RadioGoldIndex website has a listing of 1944-1953 programs in which Horace Murphy appeared (such as Lux Radio Theater, Granby's Green Acres, Red Ryder, Roy Rogers, more). When you get to the site, click "Start Here", then select "Search By Artist", then select M, then scroll down for Horace Murphy radio credits: http://radiogoldindex.com/
The Circus Historical Society covered Murphy's passing in their Circus Report issue number 6 dated February 10, 1975: "HORACE MURPHY (93) of the Murphy's Comedians, a dramatic tent show on the west coast, died at a nursing home in North Hollywood (Cal.) on Jan. 20th (1975). His wife, Peggy, survives."
You can download that Circus Report (in pdf format) from: http://www.classic.circushistory.org/Publications/CircusReport10Feb1975.pdf
The Family Search website, California Death Index, Social Security Death Index (SSDI), newspapers and other sources provide more about Horace Murphy:
Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website has a picture of the grave marker for Horace Murphy at Forest Lawn Memorial Park - Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles, California: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=85919641
The official Gene Autry website has a circa 1940 photo of Gene with Horace Murphy from the Melody Ranch radio program: http://www.geneautry.com/news/2007/pc_biography.html
Scuttlebutt is true about the "Murphy's Comedians" fielding a baseball team. Here's a 1916 article about the "Murphy's Comedians" besting Izzy's Bakersfield Tigers 6-2 in a game in Bakersfield, California. Looks like Horace Murphy played center field (with three at bats, struck out twice, no hits, no runs): http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=RZY_AAAAIBAJ&sjid=9lUMAAAAIBAJ&pg=4020,5057206&dq=murphy%27s-comedians&hl=en
(From Old Corral image collection)
Above from left to right are heroine Lois January, Horace Murphy, and Johnny Mack Brown in a still from ROGUE OF THE RANGE (A. W. Hackel/Supreme, 1936).
(Courtesy of Tom Bupp)
Seated from left to right are youngster Tommy Bupp, Marjorie Reynolds and Tex Ritter, and in the background are Tex's sidekicks, the moustached Snub Pollard and Horace Murphy. From TEX RIDES WITH THE BOY SCOUTS (Grand National, 1937), and this scene occurs at the finale.
(From Old Corral image collection)
Before his days with Arkansas 'Slim' Andrews at Monogram, Tex Ritter's most frequent screen pal was Horace Murphy (above, right) who portrayed characters named 'Stubby' or 'Ananias'. On the left is silent clown Snub Pollard, who was also a helper to Tex, and went by the moniker of 'Pee Wee'. This is from ROLLIN' PLAINS (Grand National, 1938).
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above - Charlie King (as 'Henchman Badger') and Tex Ritter go at it in the saloon brawl from UTAH TRAIL (Grand National, 1938). In the upper right are Ritter's helpers, Horace Murphy (tall hat) and Snub Pollard (handlebar moustache). Sandwiched between Murphy and Pollard is George Morrell, and wearing the dark suit jacket and hat in the photo center is Fred Parker. On the left is Denver Dixon/Victor Adamson (white hat) and Herman Hack (dark hat).
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above, from L-to-R are Snub Pollard, Tex Ritter, and Horace Murphy in a still from FRONTIER TOWN (Grand National, 1938).