Back to prior page            Go to next page

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 Donn & Nancy Moyer)
Karl Hackett

Real name:
Carl Ellsworth Germain

1893 - 1948

Sometimes known as:
William Karl Germain
William Karl Hackett

Special thanks to Thomas McGeeney for sharing information and photos on his grandfather, P. S. McGeeney, Sr. and Karl Hackett.

September, 2016: Tom McGeeney - appears your old e-mail addresses are no longer valid. Please send an e-mail to ye Old Corral webmaster.

Karl Hackett was born in Carthage, Missouri. Many biographies on Hackett list his real name as William Karl Germain and that he arrived in Hollywood circa 1935 - when he was around 43 years of age - and for the next dozen or so years, he became typecast as a villain, most often wearing a suit and portraying the brains heavy ... or the crooked lawyer or judge, a gambler, the saloon owner, etc. In the 1940s, when he'd gotten older and grayer, he'd turn up on the good side of the law as a maligned rancher or father of the heroine or a peace officer.

Les Adams has Hackett identified in about in about 150 films, most of which were westerns as well as a couple handfuls of cliffhangers. Included in that number are about three dozen films for Republic Pictures during the period from 1936-1947, and most are oaters. His early work at Republic was in mid 1930s Bob Steele adventures which were produced by A. W. Hackel (Supreme Pictures). Republic bought and released these during their first couple years of existence.

I always think of Hackett as one of the gutless baddies, who would always squeal or turn tail when the hero applied pressure. Hackett also seemed to have two approaches in delivering lines: if forceful, his voice had a villainous ring; but with normal dialog, he was monotone. Les Adams describes him as "bland". He certainly didn't ooze malevolence and have the screen presence of Roy Barcroft, Harry Woods, Fred Kohler, Sr. or LeRoy Mason. On a positive note, lots of B western fans remember Karl Hackett ... and they even remember his name. So he made an impression.

My favorite Hackett performance: in the Maynard-Gibson-Steele Trail Blazers adventure DEATH VALLEY RANGERS (Monogram, 1943), Weldon Heyburn and gang (Charlie King, George Chesebro, Al Ferguson, Lee Roberts) are robbing stagecoaches of their gold bullion. Hackett plays the alcoholic "Doc Thorne", a nervous and slightly off-kilter geologist/chemist, who has invented a formula to melt the stolen gold back into what looks like newly mined ore coming out of Heyburn's mine. Hackett also likes to play with nitroglycerin.

In their Best Of The Badmen book, Boyd Magers, Bob Nareau and Bobby Copeland report that Hackett did some work in Chicago stock and, at the time of his death in 1948, he was divorced from Ruby Germain. Hackett passed away on October 24, 1948 at the Veterans Administration National Military Hospital in Los Angeles County where he'd been a patient for about five months. Cause of death was bronchopneumonia aggravated by cirrhosis of the liver.

Karl Hackett as we remember him - in various B-westerns from 1935-1947

(Courtesy of Jack Tillmany)

Karl Hackett - circa 1937 and around age 44.

(From Old Corral image collection)

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

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are Lee Powell, John Elliott and Karl Hackett in the Frontier Marshals' trio adventure ROLLING DOWN THE GREAT DIVIDE (PRC, 1942). Hackett would have been 48-49 years old when he did this film.

Hackett wasn't a newcomer to films in the mid 1930s. His cinema career began around 1919, probably soon after being discharged from World War I duty in the US Army. He may have done film work a few years earlier.

Jack Tillmany was able to locate the military/draft registration for Hackett/Germain: he's listed as 23 years old (based on an 1893 birth year, that would equal 1916 as the year he registered). Birth location of Carthage, Missouri, his birth date, etc. are in synch with the info below. His wife's name is not listed. He registered in Missouri and his home address is listed as "Carthage, Mo.", profession is "actor", employed by "Ed Williams", and where employed is "anywhere".

On subsequent webpages, you'll see a young William Karl Hackett/William K. Hackett in press materials and scene stills from several silent era oaters, and the probable filming dates/release dates were 1919-1922. There are also several photos of Hackett and his wife circa 1920-1921.

And you'll also find info dated 1918 and 1928-1929 about Hackett doing vaudeville and stage plays - including a play on Broadway. And he even had a touring stock company called the "Hackett Players".

At the Internet Movie Database, the AFI database, and the Internet Broadway Database, there are references to a William Hackett/William A. Hackett doing silent films circa 1918-1925 as well as plays in the early 1900s as well as mid 1920s. That Hackett person doing 1904-1906 stage plays can't be our Karl Hackett/Carl Germain as that time frame is just too early.

Lastly, we fast forward to 1935 when Karl began a fairly prolific period of screen performances, mostly in westerns and serials.

It would be nice to have more info on Hackett's work and life prior to 1935. Was he married more than once? Did his marriage(s) produce any offspring (apparently not - see newspaper obituary below)? New information helps to fill in some of those gaps. Perhaps we'll get lucky and an Old Corral visitor or a Hackett/Germain relative will provide additional details.

(Courtesy of Thomas McGeeney)

Tom McGeeney was able to locate the above 1948 newspaper obituary on Germain/Hackett. Surviving family members included his wife Ruby, a brother George, a half-brother Harold, and half-sister Mrs. Mike Minelli. Note that there is no mention of any children from Karl and Ruby. Germain/Hackett passed away on October 24, 1948. Wadsworth General Hospital is a Veterans Administration facility located in Los Angeles.

(Courtesy of Dale Crawford & Jim Sorensen)

Thanks to Jim and Dale for taking the photo of Karl Hackett's grave marker at the Los Angeles National Cemetery (military / veterans cemetery).

Hackett/Germain Info and Links

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

To confuse us even more:

The Internet Movie Database has a half dozen or so films listed from 1918-1925 for William Hackett/William A. Hackett:

There's some 1903-1906 and 1924-1925 stage credits for "William A. Hackett" at the Internet Broadway Database:

We are unsure of the time period in which Hackett served in the US Army. Go to the Veterans Administration gravesite locator at:
In the search box, enter "Germain" in the last name field and run the search. You should find a record for:

CPL US ARMY, WORLD WAR I (rank is Corporal)
DATE OF BIRTH: 9/5/1893
DATE OF DEATH: 10/24/1948

Based on the grave marker photo above, Hackett/Germain was in the 313th Engineers, 88th Division, US Army in World War I. That unit was formed in August-September, 1917, and the draftees came from Minnesota, Iowa, the Dakotas, Illinois, Missouri and Nebraska. That unit did serve in France during the last few months of World War I. One of the websites below mentions that the Division began moving overseas from Camp Dodge, Iowa on July 25, 1918, and the Armistice that ended the war was November 11, 1918. There's more info on the 88th Division at:

Social Security applications:

Tom McGeeney requested a copy of the Social Security applications for Karl Hackett and his wife, and copies were received from the Social Security Administration in August, 2006. Info follows:

The application for Karl lists his name as Wm Karl Hackett and was dated January 30, 1937. Birth date and location are September 5, 1893 in Carthage, Missouri; parents are listed as Wm Germain Hackett and Anna Lee Scott; home address was 5607 Virginia Ave., Hollywood, California. His employer is "Free Lance Picture Actor". (Listing his father as Wm Germain Hackett appears to be a bit of "fudging" by Karl - info indicates his father's name was William G. Germain.)

The application for Ruby Moore Germain was dated April 1, 1938. She was born 1/1/1898 in Dallas, Texas; parents were Charles Alexander Moore and Katharine Brennan (Moore); home address was 871 N. Oxford Ave, Los Angeles, California. Ruby listed her employer as Alfred C. Watts, 1128 N. Flores, and she began work on January 9, 1938.

Census and draft registration is available at the Family Search website:

Death certificate, California Death Index, and tradepaper mentions of his passing:

Death certificate: Carl Ellsworth Germain, AKA William Karl Hackett, passed away on October 24, 1948 at the National Military Home and Hospital, Veterans Administration Center, Los Angeles. He had been a patient for nearly five months and cause of death was terminal acute bronchopneumonia and cirrhosis of the liver. He was born September 5, 1893 in Carthage, Missouri; parents were William G. Germain and Anna Scott; home address was 127 North Manhattan Place, Los Angeles; his wife was Ruby Germain, and they were divorced; he was a World War I veteran; death certificate informant was "Records of VA Center". Funeral director was the Veterans Administration Center and burial at the VA Cemetery, Los Angeles.

California Death Index mirrors the death certificate - there are two records for Karl - one is for William Karl Hackett and the other is for Carl Ellsworth Germain. Both have the same Social Security number, birth date, date of death, etc.: he was born September 5, 1893 in Missouri, passed away on October 24, 1948 in the Los Angeles area, Mother's maiden name of Scott, and Father's last name of Germain.

California Death Index record for Ruby B. Germain: born in Texas on 1/1/1896 (Social Security application shows 1898), and she passed away on 6/27/1974 in the Los Angeles area.

November 3, 1948 issue of Variety carried a death announcement: "Karl Hackett, 55, film actor, died Oct. 24 (1948) in the Soldiers' Hospital, Sawtelle, Cal., where he had been a patient ..."

Jim Tipton's Find A Grave does not have a photo of the grave marker. There you will find two separate records, one listed for Hackett and the other for Germain. Both records show interment at the Los Angeles National Cemetery (military cemetery), Los Angeles, California:

With info that Hackett came from Carthage, Missouri, I jotted off an e-mail to the Powers Museum in Carthage, Missouri asking if they had any info on our subject. I did not receive a response. The Powers Museum website is at:
Carthage, Missouri also has a Hall of Carthage Heroes website:

Back to prior page            Go to next page