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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 Les Adams)
Jimmy/Jimmie Aubrey

James Aubrey

1887 or 1888 - 1983

On the left - Jimmy Aubrey circa 1939 - 1940 when he was in Bob Steele westerns for Bernard B. Ray and Harry Webb's short lived Metropolitan Pictures Corporation.


Aubrey and his last name of "Whitehead"?


(Courtesy of Les Adams)

A mystery here! Above is from the pressbook to MESQUITE BUCKAROO (Metropolitan, 1939). "Gordon Roberts" is the sixth name down on the cast list and he's really Carleton S. Young. Eighth on the list is "James Whitehead" who just happens to be Jimmy Aubrey.

Young and Aubrey also had this same name change in RIDERS OF THE SAGE (Metropolitan, 1939).

Was there a purpose behind these name switches ... or was it an error?

We do know that Aubrey used the last name of Whitehead in a few other films in which he did editing and screenplay writing.

Was "Whitehead" his real last name? Perhaps "Whitehead" was the maiden name of Aubrey's mother or wife? Or there was a friend or associate or performer named "Whitehead" back in England? Will probably never know the real scoop behind the "Whitehead" alias used by Aubrey.
Born in England in 1887, Jimmy Aubrey was a member of the Fred Karno traveling variety troupe. Other alumni of the Karno group were Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel.

Circa 1908, Aubrey moved to the United States. His earliest films were the "Heinie and Louie" Starlight Comedies for the Mittendahl Studios in New Jersey which were released through Pathe exchanges. Aubrey was "Heinie" and Walter Kendig portrayed "Louie".

Circa 1919, Aubrey began his "Big V" comedies for Vitagraph, often paired up with Oliver "Babe" Hardy (before his Laurel and Hardy days). There's links below to some other websites which show Aubrey in stills and lobby cards from those Vitagraph comedies. Pay particular attention to his vertical moustache.

Aubrey's movie career consisted of about 450 films, spread over a 40 year period that ran from about 1915 to the mid 1950s.

After his Vitagraph series ended around 1923, Aubrey did some more silents including a couple with the new comedy team of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. When sound arrived, he was able to adapt to the new medium as well as his new (lesser) status. And he became a familiar face in dozens of B westerns of the 1930s and 1940s. Les Adams has Aubrey identified in about 250 sound films and that number includes 133 westerns and 5 chapterplays. In those, he was mostly unbilled/uncredited and his varied roles included lawman, bartender, drunk/barfly, posse member, and henchman. Occasionally he even portrayed the sidekick to our white hatted hero. And when he spoke, the dialog came out flavored with a Cockney English accent.

Despite his lengthy career, Aubrey only worked in two films at Republic Pictures and both were non-westerns (thus, he didn't do any with Gene, Roy, Rocky, Sunset, the Three Mesquiteers, and lots of others). He never appeared in a Mascot serial for Nat Levine. He did no Hopalong Cassidy features ... nor any westerns starring John Wayne or Ken Maynard or Hoot Gibson or Tom Mix or Wild Bill Elliott or Jimmy Wakely or Whip Wilson or Eddie Dean or Lash LaRue. He did one with Buck Jones, but that was a Rough Riders at Monogram. He was in one of the mid 1930s Johnny Mack Brown oaters produced by A. W. Hackel.

So where did Jimmy get his paychecks? There are a few people and production companies tied to over two-thirds of his 133 westerns. The common threads are:

Here's some tidbits:

Les Adams summarizes Aubrey's employment situation: "Once someone hired Aubrey, they couldn't get rid of him."

There were a few films in which Jimmy had multiple roles and a good example is MYSTERY RANCH (Reliable, 1934), one of Tyler's best at Reliable because it's offbeat and different from the B western norm. Tom is a dime novel author and journeys to Roberta Gale's ranch to learn about the "real west". Gale decides to stage various events to test or impress Tom. Aubrey is a ranch hand. But he also changes clothes (and moustaches) and does three other roles: he's the overacting loudmouth being strung up in a fake hanging; it's him vs. Lew Meehan in a make believe - and exaggerated gunfight; and Jimmy overacts again in the crazy opening sequence which is a silent film with narration/dubbing added. In summary, Aubrey plays four parts ... and was unbilled/uncredited.

In addition to sidekicking with Randall at Monogram and Steele at Metropolitan, there were a few other hero helper jobs. Examples: Jimmy was a RCMP in COURAGE OF THE NORTH (Empire/Stage and Screen, 1935) which starred John Preston as "Morton of the Mounted"; he's Ted Wells' assistant "Ptomaine Pete" in the terrible PHANTOM COWBOY (Aywon, 1935); and in an even worse oater, Jimmy plays "Polecat Pete" in the dreadful THE BORDER MENACE (Aywon, 1934) which starred Bill Cody.

In his later years, Aubrey resided at the Motion Picture Home in Woodland Hills, California.

You may want to go to the In Search Of ... page on the Old Corral and then to the California Death Records database. There you will find a record for: James Aubrey, born 10/23/1888, mother's maiden name of Walker, and he passed away in the Los Angeles area on 9/2/1983. The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) has Aubrey's birthdate as 23 October, 1887.

I'm sure that Aubrey has some fans. Others tolerate - or despise - his over-the-top antics and mugging, and wonder why a guy with an English accent is doing cowboy films. Regardless of your pro or con feelings, Jimmy Aubrey was one of the more familiar faces in the old B western.

  Although some of the data may be incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Jimmy Aubrey: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0041410/



Above are two screen captures of Jimmy Aubrey from THE PHANTOM COWBOY (Aywon, 1935), one of several grade Z train wrecks directed by Robert J. Horner. One-time silent screen hero Ted Wells is the star and Aubrey is his overacting sidekick named "Ptomaine Pete". Wells has a dual role and also plays the "phantom cowboy". This thing has rotten dialog, a stationary camera, and lots more negatives. But the worse is when Wells and Aubrey decide to take a cool swim in the local creek ... and strip down to their skivvies. The phantom steals their clothes, gunbelts and horses, and Ted and Jimmy spend about 10 minutes doing scenes in their underwear.



The bulk of Aubrey's westerns were with/for:
Star/Hero or Producer/Director Production Company Quantity
Sam Newfield directed westerns prior to his stay at PRC (with Rex Bell, Tim McCoy, Fred Scott) Various 12
Ultra low budget oaters for producer/director/story writer Robert J. Horner (3 with Perrin, 2 with Ted Wells, 2 with Bill Cody) Cosmos/West Coast
and
Aywon
7
Bud 'n' Ben shorts (with Humes, Wales, Dennis Moore, 2 w/Perrin) Reliable 5
Tom Tyler Reliable 13
Jack Perrin Reliable 3
Bob Custer Reliable 2
Dennis Moore Metropolitan 2
Bob Steele Metropolitan 5
Jack Randall Monogram 5
Buster Crabbe as Billy the Kid/Billy Carson (directed by Sam Newfield) PRC 26
George Houston Lone Riders (directed by Sam Newfield) PRC 2
Bob Livingston Lone Riders (5 of 6 directed by Sam Newfield) PRC 6
Texas Rangers PRC 11
Bob Steele PRC 2
Range Busters Monogram 4
Total   105
Note: the above quantities are WESTERNS ONLY. Aubrey did some non-westerns for these same folks and production companies and those are not included. Couple of examples: Aubrey was in the Sam Newfield directed THE BLACK RAVEN (1943) and DEAD MEN WALK (PRC, 1943), both with George Zucco, and he was in THE CONTENDER (PRC, 1944), a boxing flick with Buster Crabbe which Newfield also helmed.



On the trail of Jimmy Aubrey

Rick Albright was able to locate various information on Aubrey. Additional comments are shown in ( ):



Aubrey's silent film career

The Nitrate Film Interest Group has some nitrate film frames of Aubrey in some unidentified silents:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nfig/sets/72157632806389324
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nfig/sets/72157626572846991

Rob Stone is the Moving Image Curator at the Library of Congress and has blogs about the solo film careers of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy as well as an article on the 1915 death of Walter Kendig in a motorcycle accident (Kendig was "Louie" in the "Heinie and Louie" comedy shorts). He has several Vitagraph lobby cards showing Jimmy Aubrey and Hardy together circa 1919 - 1920:
http://laurelorhardy.blogspot.com/2009/12/babe-lobby-cards.html
http://laurelorhardy.blogspot.com/2009/12/some-stan-and-babe-odds-and-ends.html
http://aljoyfanclub.blogspot.com/2009/12/end-of-and-louie.html

There's some biographical info on Aubrey and his "Big V" Vitagraph comedies in the notes written by Steve Massa and Ben Model for the film series "Cruel and Unusual Comedy: Social Commentary in the American Slapstick Film" presented at the Museum of Modern Art in May 2009 and October 2010. Scroll down the webpage until you see the "Big V" image: http://www.cruelandunusualcomedy.com/2009/05/june-1-at-4pm-machine-age.html




(Courtesy of the Robert Webb Family)

Above, a pause in the action on the Bob Steele western MESQUITE BUCKAROO (Metropolitan, 1939). Above are:
1. James Aubrey
2. producer/director Harry S. Webb
3. Eddie Saeta
4. Bob Steele
5. producer/director Bernard B. Ray
6. Rose Gordon, wife of Harry S. Webb
7. Gordon Webb (first son of Harry and Rose)
8. Sammy Gordon.
Les Adams was able to identify the heroine (center) as Carolyn Curtis and Bruce Dane is the big cowboy at the right.




(Courtesy of Minard Coons)



Above from left to right are George Chesebro, Ray 'Crash' Corrigan, Budd Buster (top hat), Jimmy Aubrey, Archie Ricks and Herman Hack in a saloon scene from the Range Busters BOOT HILL BANDITS (Monogram, 1942). The partial face behind Corrigan's left shoulder is Richard Cramer doing barkeep duty.

Aubrey played the local drunk and a crop/blowup is shown on the left.



(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

Above is barkeep Jimmy Aubrey chatting with Max Terhune and dummy Elmer in a still from the Range Busters HAUNTED RANCH (Monogram, 1943). When Jimmy wore that large handlebar moustache, I'm reminded of "Yosemite Sam" in the Looney Tunes cartoons.



(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above is the title lobby card from THE RENEGADE (PRC, 1943) and shows Buster Crabbe on the right sneaking up on Jimmy Aubrey (blue shirt) and screen veteran Jack Montgomery. Sam Newfield directed all 36 of Crabbe's Billy the Kid/Billy Carson films and Aubrey appeared in 26.

Jack Montgomery

Jimmy Aubrey




(Courtesy of John White)

Above from left to right are Curley Dresden, Jess Cavin, Carl Mathews, Jimmy Aubrey and Dan White in a scene from the Buster Crabbe VALLEY OF VENGEANCE (PRC, 1944). Aubrey, Cavin and White are settlers, while Dresden and Mathews play gang members employed by Lynton Brent and Jack Ingram. All five in this photo were unbilled in this film.



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