(Courtesy of Jack Tillmany)
Above is a photo ad promoting Frank Lackteen's prowess as a "heavy" - from the 1926 Film Daily Yearbook (available at the Internet Archive).
Above - tradepaper ad with Frank Lackteen menacing Allene Ray in the cliffhanger HAWK OF THE HILLS (Pathe, 1927). Lackteen played the 'Hawk', the leader of a band of renegade Indians. Spencer Gordon Bennet directed all of the Walter Miller / Allene Ray Pathe silent serials.
Frank Samuel Lackteen
Real name: Mohammed Hassan Lackteen
1895 or 1897 - 1968
Mohammed Hassan Lackteen was born in Syria and migrated to the United States circa 1905. He seemed to be confused whether his birth year was 1895 or 1897.
He became Frank Samuel Lackteen and his movie career began around 1916, initially in films shot on the east coast prior to the migration of the film business to Hollywood.
A newspaper article from July, 1927 had background information on his early life and silent movie days. Excerpts:
"Just exactly a dollar and a half a day was Frank Lackteen's first salary as a motion picture actor. This now famous character actor made his debut under the direction of Frank Crane. It was some years ago, in Montreal, Canada, where Frank was spending a vacation in between finishing his education and preparing to follow his brothers in the woolen business."
"Hearing that a motion picture company was going to make pictures near by, and wanting to see how it was done, Lackteen became one of the watching crowd. Crane saw the young man and immediately recognized Lackteen as a distinct type. Crane offered him $1.50 a day to work in the picture ... and Lackteen accepted."
"He took to picture acting like a duckling to water, and the woolen business never saw Frank."
"... he was engaged by John Emerson, through Eric von Stroheim, who was then Emerson's assistant director, to play a small and important part in support of Mary Pickford in 'Less Than the Dust.' "
(That Pickford film is LESS THAN THE DUST (Mary Pickford Company/Artcraft, 1916), and it was filmed in New York. And in the 1910 census, Frank's occupation is "Cutter - Cotton Mill".)
In the early 1920s, Frank appeared in Ruth Roland cliffhangers. And he was a frequent menace to Walter Miller and Allene Ray in silent Pathe serials (such as Frank's portrayal of 'The Hawk' in HAWK OF THE HILLS (Pathe, 1927)). Frank and Walter Miller must have become close as Miller was a witness at Frank's 1932 marriage to Muriel Elizabeth Dove. Helming those Miller / Ray serials was Spencer Gordon Bennet and it appears that he appreciated Lackteen's unique screen persona. Over a forty year period, Bennet utilized Lackteen in about two dozen features and serials.
Lackteen became typecast as an Indian, half-breed, native, witch doctor, servant, Oriental, Arab, Mexican ... and most were unsavory characters.
He was thin ... his face was rough and chiseled with pock marks and scarring ... there was a beaked nose ... and he had a thick accent and an easily recognizable voice. All of this added to his malevolence, and seeing his face on the screen signalled to the audience that this guy was untrustworthy, nasty and a definite threat to the hero and heroine.
Typecasting continued in the sound era. And while he did westerns, I recall him more for his frequent cliffhanger appearances - among his best was portraying witch doctor 'Shamba' vs. Frances Gifford and Tom Neal in JUNGLE GIRL (Republic, 1941).
During the 1930s, he often worked at Universal in their chapterplays. Meatier performances were:
- Frank plays outlaw 'Buckskin Joe' in HEROES OF THE WEST (Universal, 1932).
- he's chief henchman 'Fang' in THE PERILS OF PAULINE (Universal, 1933).
- he's renegade Indian 'Wolf Fang' in CLANCY OF THE MOUNTED (Universal, 1933).
- he's 'Tahata', boss of one of the gangs vying for a formula for flexible steel in RADIO PATROL (Universal, 1937).
- and he's gang leader 'Quong Lee' in RED BARRY (Universal, 1938).
Interestingly, Lackteen did no serials for Nat Levine and Mascot.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Lackteen shows up in mostly minor character and bit parts in films, Three Stooges shorts, and a few television programs. His typecast "look" got him work, mostly uncredited, in many A grade films. If you watch closely, you may spot him in FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS (Paramount, 1943); THE SONG OF BERNADETTE (20th C Fox, 1943); and with Errol Flynn in THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE (Warners, 1936), THE SEA HAWK (Warners, 1940) and KIM (MGM, 1950).
Returning to his cliffhanger roots, he portrayed an Indian chief in Hollywood's last serial, BLAZING THE OVERLAND TRAIL (Columbia, 1956) which was directed by Spencer Gordon Bennett.
Frank Lackteen's film career spanned about fifty years, from roughly 1916 - 1965. His final movie jobs were bits in a pair of low budget nostalgia westerns, THE BOUNTY KILLER (Embassy Pictures, 1965) and REQUIEM FOR A GUNFIGHTER (Embassy Pictures, 1965). These were produced by Alex Gordon, who became a friend and business associate to Gene Autry. The casts included dozens of B western heroes, villains and assorted players including Rod Cameron, Johnny Mack Brown, Bob Steele, Edmund Cobb, Dick Alexander ... and Frank Lackteen. Alex Gordon got veteran Spencer Gordon Bennet to direct both, and these turned out to be the final films helmed by Bennet.
Les Adams has Lackteen in about 135 sound era productions, and that number includes 46 westerns and 24 chapterplays. Les adds:
"Lackteen was a cold-blooded reptile with no sense of humor ever displayed, whose first appearance left no doubt who he was and what he intended. It was hard to figure a man called 'Vulture' or 'Blood' with anything but the worse intentions, even in RED BARRY, playing both sides against the middle with oily glibness."
There were two marriages for Frank. Sarah was wife number one and is mentioned in his 1928 citizenship paperwork. The August 26, 1927 Film Daily tradepaper noted that "His wife carries an illustrious maiden name, indeed - Sarah Bernhardt, No, not Paris, but Akron, O." That pairing was short - lived as Frank was divorced at the time of the 1930 census. In 1932, he married 23 year old Muriel Elizabeth Dove, and they were together through his death in 1968. Their daughter Muriel was born in 1936.
Frank Lackteen passed away from respiratory failure on July 8, 1968 at the Motion Picture and Television Home and Hospital, Woodland Hills, California.
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Frank Lackteen: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0480156/
Lackteen worked with director Spencer Gordon Bennet in over twenty features and serials during the years 1925 - 1965: http://www.imdb.com/search/title?at=0&roles=nm0480156,nm0071560&sort=release_date_us
Journalist Omar Mouallem writes about Lackteen and Muslim actors in Hollywood in " 'Billionaires, Bombers, and Bellydancers': How the First Arab American Movie Star Foretold a Century of Muslim Misrepresentation": https://www.theringer.com/movies/2019/5/22/18634743/aladdin-middle-eastern-muslim-representation-hollywood
Daniel Neyer's "The Files of Jerry Blake" serial website has more on Frank Lackteen and his many appearances in silent and sound cliffhangers: http://filesofjerryblake.com/serial-character-actors-2/frank-lackteen/
The Three Stooges Net website includes a listing of cast members in the Stooges' shorts. Lackteen appeared in several: http://www.threestooges.net/cast/actor/156/
Getty Images has a production still of Lackteen as 'Shamba the witch doctor' in the Republic chapterplay, JUNGLE GIRL (Republic, 1941): https://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/news-photo/tom-neal-frank-lackteen-as-shamba-the-witch-doctor-frances-news-photo/3398684
DailyMotion has a one hour feature length version of Lackteen and Walter Miller in the silent serial HAWK OF THE HILLS (Pathe, 1927). The opening scenes have a closeup of Lackteen: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x20kg71
YouTube has the trailer for Lackteen, Grant Withers and others in RADIO PATROL (Universal, 1937): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1w-U2MgPlU
The Family Search website (free), Ancestry.com (subscription), Fold3 Military records, California Death Index, and the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) have info on Lackteen and family.
According to citizenship / naturalization records, Frank's real/birth name was Mohammed Hassan Lackteen and I've highlighted that in the information below in this color.
- 1910 census - renting in Springfield, Massachusetts are 22 year old Thomas Lakteen [sic] (born Turkey; single; occupation "Barber - Own Shop"), and he is head of household. Living with him are his 52 year old father Hassan Lakteen [sic] (born Turkey), 20 year old brother Frank Lakteen [sic] (born Turkey; single; occupation "Cutter - Cotton Mill") and 25 year old brother Michael Lakteen [sic] (born Turkey; single; occupation "Rubber - Celluloid Shop"). On the census takers worksheet, the birth place of all four is "Tur. as Syrian": https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M2J1-4Z4
- 1917-1918 World War I draft registrations for Frank and brothers Tom and Michael. They and father Sam are living in Michigan:
Frank Lakteen is single and living in Highland Park, Michigan and works for the Dodge Motor Company in Hamtramck, Michigan: https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K6XC-BH2
Tom Abdula Lakteen is living in Highland Park, Michigan, is a barber, and married to Elizabeth Lakteen: https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K6XC-BHG
Michael Lakteen is single and living in Highland Park, Michigan, works for the Dodge Bros. in Detroit, Michigan. Living with him is father Sam Lakteen: https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K6XC-BHL
- Frank's father, 74 year old Sam Lackteen, passed away on January 29, 1927 in Los Angeles. Death certificate informant was son Michael Lackteen: https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QLYG-5DW8
- Ancestry has Frank Lackteen's paperwork to become a U. S. Citizen which was filed January 11, 1928 with the Southern District, Central Division, Los Angeles, California District Court. He was born in Beyrouth, Syria on August 29, 1895; left Marseilles, France by ship and arrived at the port of New York on/about June 24, 1905. He was married and wife Sarah (no maiden name listed) was born in Akron, Ohio. Frank's occupation is "Picture Actor".
- 1930 census - living in Los Angeles are 34 year old Frank Lastteen [sic] (born Syria) and his 44 year old brother Mike Lastteen [sic] (born Syria): https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XCJR-T36
1930 census takers worksheet - Frank and brother Mike are among many renters at 1605 Sunset, Los Angeles. Frank is divorced; occupation is "Actor - Stage"; and he was not a military veteran. Occupation of brother Mike is "Barber": https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GR4C-WTD?mode=g&i=38&wc=QZF9-F5C%3A648807101%2C648807102%2C651117801%2C1589282427%3Fcc%3D1810731&cc=1810731
- June 5, 1932 Los Angeles county marriage license of 36 year old Frank Lackteen (born Syria) to 23 year old Muriel Elizabeth Dove (born New Jersey). Frank lives at 1645 Alexandria Avenue, Hollywood; his occupation is "Actor"; parents were Samuel Lackteen (born Persia) and Miriam Akroosh (born Syria); and he identifies this as his first marriage. Witnessing the ceremony (and signing the marriage license) was Walter C. Miller (actor Walter Miller from the silent Pathe serials in which Lackteen appeared):
- California Birth Index has a record on daughter Muriel Elizabethdov [sic] Lackteen - she was born June 25, 1936 in the Los Angeles area and her mother's maiden name was Dove: https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VGG4-73V
- Ancestry had a register of baptisms from the Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Los Angeles - Muriel Elizabeth Dove Lackteen was born June 25, 1936, baptized March 28, 1937, and her parents were Frank Sam'l and Muriel Dove Lackteen.
- Ancestry has the December 4, 1939 Petition for Naturalization for Mohammed Hassan Lackteen; born August 29, 1897 in Kubalias, Syria; occupation is "Character Actor"; and he married Muriel Dove Lackteen (born New Jersey) on June 5, 1932. The petition also includes a name change request from Mohammed Hassan Lackteen to Frank Samuel Lackteen.
- December 4, 1939 Naturalization index card references the name change request from Mohammed Hassan Lackteen to Frank Samuel Lackteen: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939N-X4HL-6?i=3908&wc=M6YF-9WG%3A666518201%3Fcc%3D1849628&cc=1849628
- 1940 census - 42 year old Frank Lackteen (born Syria), 29 year old wife Muriel (born New Jersey) and 3 year old daughter Muriel (born California) reside in Los Angeles: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/K9HC-334
1940 census takers worksheet: The Lackteen family is renting at 1724 N. Berendo Street, Los Angeles. Frank's occupation is "actor motion pictures", and in 1939, he worked 12 weeks and earned $2000.00: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1971-27796-5777-78?cc=2000219&wc=MMYH-XB4:n1073682518
- December 12, 1941 Naturalization approval record for 44 year old Frank Samuel Lackteen, formerly Mohammed Hassan Lackteen; he is living at 1724 N. Berendo Street, Los Angeles: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939N-X1B1-G?mode=g&i=3291&wc=M6YF-438%3A666526801%3Fcc%3D1849628&cc=1849628
- Could not find his World War II draft registration on Family Search, but it was available on Fold3 Military records: Frank Samuel Lackteen was born August 29, 1897 in Damascus, Syria. He lives at 1724 North Berendo, Los Angeles, California and his contact and employer was Olenick and Gold Agency, 8627 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles.
- Ancestry had Los Angeles City Directories for years 1937-1942 - Frank S. Lackteen (occupation actor) and wife Muriel live at 1724 N. Berendo, Los Angeles.
- The California Death Index has a record for Frank S. Lackteen, born August 29, 1895, and he passed away on July 8, 1968. The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) has his birth date as August 29, 1897 and last residence was Woodland Hills, California (the Motion Picture and Television Home and Hospital):
Frank's wife Muriel, daughter Muriel and brother Mike/Michael:
- California Death Index and the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) have records on Frank's wife - Muriel Dove Lackteen was born June 17, 1908 or June 17, 1912, and she passed away on February 11, 1978 in the Los Angeles area:
- California Death Index for daughter Muriel Dove Lackteen - she was born June 25, 1936 in Los Angeles and passed away March 1, 1987 in the Los Angeles area: https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VP84-NJD
- Frank's brother Michael - there is a World War II draft registration, Naturalization records, California Death Index and Social Security Death Index for Michael H. Lackteen, born July 23, 1884 in Bayrouth, Syria, and he passed away on June 26, 1947 in the Los Angeles area. The death certificate on Michael notes that his occupation was "barber" (which matches the 1930 census when Michael and Frank were living together in Los Angeles).
I found no obituaries or funeral notices for any of the Lackteen family members mentioned above in ProQuest obituaries or the Newspaper Archive.
Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website has a picture of the grave marker for Frank S. Lackteen at Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park, North Hollywood: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/6604860
Find A Grave has Frank's wife, Muriel Elizabeth Dove Lackteen (1908 - 1978) interred at Valhalla: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/134624913