(Image courtesy of Jack Tillmany) (Image courtesy of Jack Tillmany)
1874 - 1953
|Special thanks to Bill Russell for authoring this profile on Carl Stockdale.|
Most fans would recognize Carl Stockdale as a key supporting player in many westerns but probably could not identify him by name. Nevertheless, he is credited with well over 300 films, most of them westerns, beginning as far back as the Broncho Billy shorts in which he played in dozens of them between 1913-14.
While his career ranged over a period of thirty-plus years, unfortunately he is more identified as a principal in the famous (or infamous) un-resolved death in 1922 of noted Hollywood director William Desmond Taylor. Stockdale was a close friend of actress Mary Miles Minter's mother, Charlotte Shelby, who was under suspicion but not charged with the crime. Stockdale claimed he was with her the night of Taylor's murder. Although it is believed he lied, his testimony was unshakable.
But aside from that particular notoriety, Stockdale was a great actor and was extremely active and proficient, though he never reached the top echelon of stardom. The slender, tall Minnesota born performer (on February 17, 1874) actually acquired his skills after spending some fifteen years on the vaudeville circuit, entering films around 1912. Following a series of appearances in the Broncho Billy shorts, Stockdale got his first real solid role in the 1917 Douglas Fairbanks' THE AMERICANO, a South American opus. Stockdale played the prime minister of a fictitious Latin country. During this period, he also appeared in several Northwest and western features with an unknown performer named Jack Gardner (LAND OF THE LONG SHADOWS, MEN OF THE DESERT, and THE RANGE BOSS). Gardner may be best remembered as essaying the role of lawman Bat Masterson in the 1923 Paramount film, WILD BILL HICKOK, starring William Hart in the title role. Stockdale also had prominent roles in several of silent star William Russell's westerns for the American Film Company, including WHEN A MAN RIDES ALONE (1919) and WHERE THE WEST BEGINS (1919).
By the end of the silent decade, Stockdale supported such popular cowboy stars as Ken Maynard and Buck Jones. As sound emerged on the scene, one of Stockdale's first efforts was a role in Johnny Mack Brown's BILLY THE KID (1930). With his fine, stage-trained voice, directors liked Stockdale, especially in roles that required him to play a judge or lawman. After that, Stockdale would be kept busy for the next dozen years.
My first impression of Carl Stockdale came in two 1937 Bob Baker westerns, COURAGE OF THE WEST, and THE SINGING OUTLAW. In the latter, Stockdale has a good role as "Sheriff Haight", spending most of the film chasing would be outlaw Baker. Stockdale also had roles (some of them just bit parts) in numerous epic motion pictures such as the 1937 LOST HORIZON, starring Ronald Colman and Jane Wyatt; or MARIE ANTOINETTE, the 1938 Norma Shearer classic; and as an uncredited senator in James Stewart's award-winning MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (1939).
Stockdale's career came to an end in 1942 with bit parts in THE FALCON'S BROTHER, THE DARING YOUNG MAN and TENNESSEE JOHNSON.
Frank Stockdale (1870-1950), Carl's older brother by four years, played in a few films during the silent era including several of the Broncho Billys with his brother.
Carl Stockdale died of a heart attack on March 15, 1953, at the age of 79, at the Motion Picture Home and Hospital, Woodland Hills, California. One of the films in which he appeared in an undetermined role, the 1927 Cecil B. DeMille epic, KING OF KINGS, recently aired on Turner Classic Movies (TCM).