|Unkempt, rough and tough looking members of the gang, or lynch mob, or vigilantes, or posse riders, or cow herders. They had minimal or no dialog, not much screen time, and were generally not listed in the film credits. Some would show up as a face in the crowd, portraying townspeople, barflys, deputies, wagon drivers, ranch hands, etc. We tend to recognize some of their faces, but have no clue as to their real names.|
(Courtesy of Jack Tillmany)
Henry Olaf Hansen
Harry Tenbrook's film career spanned about fifty years, from about 1911-1960, and amounted to nearly 400 silent and sound films.
He was born Henry Olaf Hansen on October 9, 1887 in Christiania or Oslo, Norway. According to his citizenship papers, his family migrated to the United States in 1892. He was about twenty years old when he began his movie career.
Jack Tillmany provides some history on Tenbrook and the early days of movie-making:
When Tenbrook entered films, many companies did not yet give their players screen credit, and so the handful of 1911-1912 titles on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) are just a representation of his work, but at least give us some information.
They were all directed by Milton H. Fahrney for David Horsley's Nestor Film Company, first headquartered in Bayonne, New Jersey. Nestor's first production was THE JUSTICE OF SOLOMON, released in December 1909, so it's possible Tenbrook's association with them may have gone back that far, but their players were not yet identified, so we may never know.
In October 1911, Nestor became the first motion picture company to locate in Hollywood, when it rented a building at Sunset and Gower. We know Tenbrook worked for Nestor in New Jersey, since his first two documented titles were released in August, 1911. He then journeyed West to Hollywood with Horsley and the rest of the company, where he continued filming for Nestor. In 1913, Horsley returned to Bayonne, but Tenbrook stayed in Hollywood. In June 1912, Carl Laemmle banded together a number of the smaller, independent companies - including Nestor - and Universal Pictures was born. Initially, it was a distributing arm, with each individual production company retaining its own identity, but at the same time, taking advantage of the "in unity there is strength" principle to get the advantage of maximum distribution. Players often drifted from one company to another, and Tenbrook also did some work at other Universal based companies including Frank Montgomery's unit at Bison and Phillips Smalley and Lois Weber's unit at Rex. In KID REGAN'S HANDS (Rex, 1914), he plays boxer "Sailor Brown", leading man Herbert Rawlinson's ring opponent, just as he did a decade later opposite Billy Sullivan in SWING BAD THE SAILOR (Universal, 1924), one of the shorts in the "Leather Pushers" series.
So, from the very beginning, his roots at Universal were well established, and by 1915 Tenbrook was appearing in some of their own productions, such as THE BLACK BOX (Universal, 1915), a fifteen episode chapter play. Circa 1916, he was also filling the shoes of an assistant director.
In the Motion Picture News Studio Directory for 1916, 1917 and 1918, Tenbrook is listed as an assistant director at Universal. In the 1921 Studio Directory, he's moved to the actor category.
He gets an occasional mention in other trade publications. Universal Weekly has Tenbrook in 1922 Hoot Gibson oaters and Photoplay magazines from 1924 and 1925 list him in the casts of several films at Universal. And there's a blurb in the January 19, 1924 Universal Weekly about Tenbrook being an old-time middleweight boxer working in the "Leather Pushers" series of shorts. A crop from that article is shown on the right. Circa 1928-1931, Tenbrook is picking up acting jobs at FBO, Universal, First National, Fox, RKO, more.
During the sound era, Tenbrook free lanced anywhere and everywhere, doing a mixture of A and B grade films, serials and shorts. Most often, he was unbilled/uncredited as a henchman, barfly, townsman, bartender, driver, etc. Les Adams has Harry in about 165 sound films, and that includes 50 westerns, 22 serials, and a dozen shorts.
The 1930s and early 1940s were his most prolific B western and serial period, and you can spot him in a lot of Universal productions, many of which were helmed by Ray Taylor and/or Ford Beebe. Tenbrook's Universals included four with Tom Mix, two serials and eight westerns with Johnny Mack Brown, a pair of Buck Jones cliffhangers, and a few other chapterplays starring Tom Tyler, Dick Foran and Noah Beery Jr. He didn't work exclusively at Universal - Harry was in three of George O'Brien's oaters at Fox and RKO, three of the Three Mesquiteers yarns at Republic Pictures, a half dozen Columbia serials for director James W. Horne, and a couple Monograms with Johnny Mack Brown.
Following are a few examples of Harry Tenbrook doing westerns and serials:
Tenbrook's most remembered role is that of U. S. Navy cook Second Class "Squarehead" Larsen in THEY WERE EXPENDABLE (MGM, 1945), director John Ford's epic about torpedo boats in the Phillipines during the early days of World War II. Tenbrook was one of Ford's Stock Company of players, and Ford employed him in 28 films over a forty year period that ran from 1918-1958. His first for Ford was the Harry Carey oater THIEVES' GOLD (Universal, 1918) and his last was the Spencer Tracy political drama, THE LAST HURRAH (Columbia, 1958). In between those dates were minor roles in STAGECOACH, FORT APACHE, MISTER ROBERTS, THE QUIET MAN, many more.
Henry Olaf Hansen/Harry Tenbrook passed away at the Motion Picture Hospital in Woodland Hills, California on September 14, 1960. He was busy right up to the end - his last three films, INHERIT THE WIND (United Artists, 1960), NORTH TO ALASKA (20th Century Fox, 1960), and CIMARRON (MGM, 1960), were all released posthumously.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above from left to right are Walter Miller, Buck Jones, Charlie King, Frank McGlynn Sr. and Harry Tenbrook in the serial THE ROARING WEST (Universal, 1935).
(From Old Corral collection)
Above is the trio of no-goods from the Three Mesquiteers' HIT THE SADDLE (Republic, 1937). Left to right are Yakima Canutt, Harry Tenbrook, and director / writer / actor / jack-of-all-trades J. P. McGowan.
Although some of the data may be incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Harry Tenbrook: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0854888/
The IMDb also has a listing of Tenbrook's long association with director John Ford which amounts to 28 films over a forty year period: http://www.imdb.com/search/title?at=0&roles=nm0000406,nm0854888&sort=release_date_us&title_type=feature,tv_episode,video,tv_movie,tv_special,mini_series,documentary,game,short,unknown
Fourteen of Tenbrook's appearances occurred in John Wayne films during the years 1928-1960. Ten of those were helmed by John Ford. However, there are a four non-John Fords with Wayne (such as NORTH TO ALASKA (20th Century Fox, 1960)): http://www.imdb.com/search/title?at=0&roles=nm0000078,nm0854888&sort=release_date_us&title_type=feature,tv_episode,video,tv_movie,tv_special,mini_series,documentary,game,short,unknown
The Family Search website (free), Ancestry (subscription), newspaper reports, death certificate, and the California Death Index have information on Henry Olaf Hansen / Harry Tenbrook. Appears that he was married twice - his first wife was Josephine and second was named Madelaine:
There wasn't much on Tenbrook at the Boxing Records website. There was a Harry Tenbrook in a no contest bout in 1910. I also checked under the names Harry Hansen and Henry Hansen. The search page is at: https://boxrec.com/en
Find A Grave website confirms that Tenbrook is interred at Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park, North Hollywood, California: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/76793465/harry-tenbrook