|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)
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.
Les Adams summarizes Aubrey's employment situation above: "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:|
|Sam Newfield directed westerns prior to his stay at PRC (with Rex Bell, Tim McCoy, Fred Scott)||Various||12|
|Bud 'n' Ben shorts (with Humes, Wales, Dennis Moore, 2 w/Perrin)||Reliable||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|
|Note: the 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.|
Rick Albright was able to locate various information on Aubrey. Additional comments are shown in ( ):
The Silent Ladies and Gents website has a 1920 photo of Aubrey when he was at Vitagraph - note the unusual vertical moustache that he wore: http://silentladies.com/BAubrey.html
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:
The Silent Comedians website forum has some newspaper articles and advertisements showing Aubrey: http://www.silentcomedians.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=4406&sid=0e3b2c4e036f0af44294e840b9378015
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).
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.
(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.