(Image courtesy of Jack Tillmany)
Above - a very young Buck Connors. Assuming the autograph / signature is Buck's, he signed his last name as "Connors".
(From Old Corral collection)
Above - Buck as "Fuzz", the old timer sidekick to Bob Steele in NO MAN'S RANGE (Supreme, 1935). He was about 55 years old when he did this western ... but he sure looks older.
Real name: George Washington Conner
Nicknames: "Buck", "Buckshot"
1880 - 1947
Last updated: June 11, 2018
Buck Connors / Connor / Conners / Conner played whiskered old timers, parsons, settlers, townsman ... but my recollections of him are several sidekick / helper roles to Bob Steele in the mid 1930s as well as narrating the beginning of each episode of the Tim McCoy serial THE INDIANS ARE COMING (Universal, 1930). As a B western performer, he only worked in about three dozen oaters. What fascinated me was his life outside of Hollywood ... and that his original gravesite was located behind a building in Quartzsite, Arizona.
Wyatt Earp biographer Lee A. Silva mentions that Buck served in both Army and Navy ... was in the Mexican Revolution ... was a Texas Ranger for a couple years ... was a member of the Pawnee Bill Wild West Show and Buffalo Bill Wild West Show ... was a close friend of Buffalo Bill Cody ... was a founding member of the Screen Actors Guild ... other accolades. More confusion can be found in Buck's brief biography in the 1914 edition of Who's Who in the Film World - in that, he was born in San Saba, Texas and was secretary to Buffalo Bill for four years.
George Washington Conner was born November 22, 1880 in Streator, Illinois, which is located about 80 miles southwest of Chicago. His parents were William Lipkey Conner (1843 - 1936) and Leah Bowen Conner (1842 - 1936).
He served with the West Virginia Infantry during the Spanish American War of 1898 and pension records indicate his enlistment ran from June 26, 1898 through April 10, 1899. Then came a hitch in the Navy from November 21, 1899 through November 20, 1903 and duty in the Philippine Insurrection. On November 15, 1904 in Wheeling, West Virginia, Buck re-enlisted in the Army, served in the Signal Corps, and some reports have him as records custodian of the Army War College which was created circa 1904. Corporal Conner was discharged November 14, 1907 in Washington, D. C.
Following military duty, Buck spent several years with the "Two Bills Show", which was the combined Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Pawnee Bill's Far East shows. Biographies on Buck mention his friendship with Buffalo Bill Cody but I found nothing in the trades or newspapers confirming that relationship. Instead, Buck was the secretary and assistant to Major Gordon W. Lillie, the real name of showman "Pawnee Bill":
His movie career spanned nearly thirty years and a hundred films. Most of his appearances were bit / supporting roles, and as such, Buck was generally uncredited / unbilled. He also directed a few silents.
His busiest acting period was in silent films and his main employer was Universal Pictures. Hollywood trade publications from the 1910s - 1920s have mentions of Buck and below is a mix of trade articles and summaries of his silent era days:
In talkies, Buck appears in mostly westerns and serials and you can spot him with Charles Starrett (in 7 films), Buck Jones (4 films), Bob Steele (3 films), Johnny Mack Brown (3 films), Randolph Scott (2 films), Hoot Gibson (2 films), Dick Foran (2 films), and a few others. Most of his parts were minor, unbilled roles in which he portrayed a old codger, townsman, wagon driver, juror, etc. His last movie jobs were in 1941.
As mentioned earlier, Buck married Luella W. Cross in Trenton, New Jersey in 1910 when he was working with the Two Bills Show. That pairing ended in a divorce.
Wife number two was Hazel Violet Powell (1898 - 1985), and they tied the knot in 1922 in Los Angeles. That union produced two sons, George Washington Conner, Jr. (1928 - 1932; born in Los Angeles) and Powell Bowen Conner (1933 - 1999; born in Quartzsite, Arizona).
In the 1930s and 1940s, the Conner family resided in Quartzsite, Arizona and Yuma, Arizona. But they sometimes maintained a home in the Los Angeles area due to Buck's movie work.
In Quartzsite, they provided the land for the Conner Field airstrip and the family also donated several acres to the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona and a church was built on those grounds. The Quartzsite airstrip is covered by Janice Stevens in her book Stories of Service, Volume 2: Valley Veterans Remember World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Cold War (Craven Street Books, 2011). In summary, Conner Field was used to train World War II Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs). Once training was completed, the women pilots were assigned to the ferry command, and delivered new planes to overseas locations.
Buck was an Episcopal chaplain or minister - or, at least someone with deep religious beliefs. He was the chaplain of the 1930s "Riding Actors Association of Hollywood", an early attempt at unionizing riders, stuntmen, etc. who desired safer working conditions as well as higher wages. He also did chaplain duties with the "Chuck Wagon Trailers" a group of western film heroes, character and support players who assembled a few times a year for a BBQ and to remember the ol' days.
66 year old George Washington Conner was in Yuma, Arizona and passed away from heart problems on February 4, 1947 at the Yuma General Hospital. He and son George Jr. were interred on Conner property located behind a business in Quartzsite, Arizona, but their remains were exhumed in 2008 and moved to the Pioneer section of the Hi Jolly Cemetery.
The story doesn't end with his passing. Buck had collected various items, including letters and paintings from noted painter Charles Russell as well as a shotgun used by Doc Holiday at the O. K. Corral battle. All his memorabilia was stored in an adobe building in Quartzsite. Over the years, the mementoes disappeared and the building was destroyed in a storm.
At about 5' 4" tall and 120 pounds, Buck was small in stature. He loved the military and lived life to the fullest. An interesting man.
Although some of the data may be incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Buck Connors: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0175413/
On the trail of George Washington 'Buck' Conner
Family Search, Fold3 Military records, Ancestry.com, Newspaper Archive, Hollywood trade publications, Arizona Department of Health Services, and the West Virginia Culture website provide more on Buck Conner and family.
Let's begin with military records. Appears he served in the Spanish-American War (which was in 1898) and the Philippine Insurrection, which ran from February, 1899, to July, 1902:
Newspapers and tradezines reported on the 1913 presentation of a Bronze medal to Buck for his Navy service in the Philipines circa 1900. Unsure what that medal is. Definitely not the Bronze Star which didn't become an official heroism medal until World War II.
Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website has photos of the grave markers for Buck and son George Jr. Both are interred at Hi Jolly Cemetery, Quartzsite, La Paz County, Arizona:
There is a photo of the marker for Buck along with an obituary on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tom-margie/4382721825/
Buck's father William and sister Jessie (and her husband) also wound up living in Quartzsite, Arizona:
Confusion, misinformation ... more research needed.
1. Some biographies have Buck working on the 101 Ranch Show. That didn't happen as there's another George Connor associated with the 101 show. The March 19, 1910 Billboard had an employee roster of various circuses and shows:
Geo. W. Conners (that's Buck) is listed as Secretary and Superintendent of Ring Stock under Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Pawnee Bill's Far East, Combined show.
2. Was Buck involved in the 1933 formation of the Screen Actors Guild? I checked the SAG/AFTRA website as well as Film Daily Yearbooks from 1933 - 1940 for his name as an officer, director or advisory board member. Nothing listed for a Buck Connor, George W. Conner, et al.
3. Did Buck fight / participate in the Mexican Revolution? Best guess is that the Mexican Revolution reference came from Buck and his St. Louis Motion Picture Company film crew visiting and filming General Ortega and his revolutionists near Guadaloupe, Chihuahua, Mexico in 1913.
4. Biographies on Buck mention that he served as a Texas Ranger for several years (which to me, implies at least two or more years). Based on the dates and timelines from trades and newspapers, there isn't a block of two or more years when he could have squeezed in service with the Texas Rangers. My best guess is that he developed a relationship with one or more Rangers and they provided background for his short stories.
There are several Buck Conner biographies online:
Writer Buck Conner / Connor / Connors
Left to right are William S. Hart, Buck Connors and Thomas H. Ince. Connors was writing stories for Hart's movies and was about 37 years old. Photo from the July, 1917 Picture Play magazine, available at the Internet Archive. Excerpt from the April 21, 1917 issue of Moving Picture World: "BUCK CONNORS, who is supposed to know all about Texas Rangers, will supply considerable material for forthcoming William S. Hart pictures on the Triangle Kay-Bee program. Thomas H. Ince has bought outright ten of his best stories, and has secured an option on the future output of this author."
"B. M. Bower" was the pen name of Bertha Muzzy Sinclair (1871 - 1940) and she wrote novels, short stories and screenplays about the old west. Circa 1915, she and Buck connected and the Book Review section in the April 30, 1916 New York Times mentioned their connection: "B. M. Bower, whose 'The Phantom Herd', published a few weeks ago, is the last in a long line of Western novels, is writing a series of Texas Ranger stories in collaboration with Buck Conner."
There's a few of their short stories available at the Internet Archive:
Buck Conner / Connor / Connors doin' 1930s B westerns
(Image courtesy of Carol Murray and her "Jack Hendricks Photo Album")
Still from HEADIN' FOR TROUBLE (Big 4, 1931) and star Bob Custer is on the left with the drop on everyone. Jack Hendricks is on the far right behind whiskered old-timer Buck Connors. In the background from left to right are unidentified player, Barney Beasley, and another unidentified player (with beard). Sitting at the table are Duke Lee (left) and John Ince (right).
(Pressbook cover courtesy of Les Adams)
Above is the cover of the pressbook for THE LAW RIDES (Supreme, 1936), one of many Steele films for producer A. W. Hackel which was directed by Bob's father, Robert North Bradbury. The gal is Harley Wood (Harlene Wood/Jill Martin), and the old-timer with the white beard is Buck Connors (as "Whitey").
(From Old Corral collection)
Perpetual baddie Charlie King has the grips on whiskered codger Buck Connors while Barney Furey has a sixgun on Bob Steele in a lobby card from THE LAW RIDES (Supreme, 1936).
(From Old Corral collection)
Note the different spelling on Buck's last name in the above title card and pressbook cover below from NO MAN'S RANGE (Supreme, 1935).
(Pressbook cover courtesy of Les Adams)
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above is the title lobby card from Bob Steele's NO MAN'S RANGE (Supreme, 1935), and a crop / blowup showing Buck Connors and Steele.