|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.|
Above - closeup/crop of Ernie from THE GUN RANGER lobby card shown below.
Ernie Adams was the oldest of two sons of Laura Girard and Leon Dumarais. His birth name was Ernest Stephens Dumarais and he was born June 18, 1885 in San Francisco. Father Leon's occupation was "bartender / saloon keeper". Brother Louis Laurent Dumarais was born in San Francisco in 1888.
Parents Laura and Leon split up in the early 1890s and both re-married. Laura tied the knot with Lambert/Bert Beatty and Leon's second wife was named Marie. At the time of the 1900 census, Ernest and his brother were living in San Francisco with mother Laura and her second husband, Lambert/Bert Beatty (and Laura has had three daughters with Beatty).
Ernie's acting career began in traveling shows and the vaudeville circuit. He was married twice. His first was in 1912 to Mamie Silver. Wife number two was Berdonna Weinberg (1890-1961). Unsure of the date of their nuptials, but she was Ernie's wife when he registered for the World War I draft in 1918. Her stage name was Berdonna Gilbert, and she and Ernie had a vaudeville comedy musical act, billing themselves as "Adams and Gilbert". Berdonna's theatrical career ended circa 1920 when daughter Shirley was born.
Newspapers, trade publications, and other sources provide a timeline of Ernie and Berdonna's vaudeville days and Ernie's transition to movies:
The Century Comedies mentioned above were two-reelers from Julius and Abe Stern, the brothers-in-law of Universal Pictures boss Carl Laemmle. The Stern's Century Film Company lasted from about 1919-1926 and their comedy shorts were released by Universal. Century stars included Baby Peggy (Diana Serra Cary) and Pal the Dog.
Vaudeville - 1913 in Phoenix, Arizona.
Vaudeville - 1914 in Iowa.
His Hollywood career ran from about 1919 through his death in 1947 and consisted of about 450 silent and sound films and much of his screen work was unbilled / uncredited. Les Adams has him with about 385 sound film appearances, and included in that quantity are 125 westerns and 34 serials. His film work at Republic Pictures is about 40 features and serials scattered over the years 1936-1947.
As noted, cowboy films and cliffhangers amounted to about a third of Ernie's total film appearances. In those, he often played a gang member as well as specializing in "stool pidgeon", "squealer" and "weasel" roles. When I saw him in an oater or chapterplay, I knew he was a shifty no-good that you couldn't trust. One of his better "weasel" portrayals was the (very) nervous helper to crooked Cy Kendall who is plotting to steal a goldmine in one of Tim Holt's best, THE FARGO KID (RKO, 1940).
During the 1930s and 1940s, he did a dozen+ oaters with Bob Steele and another dozen+ with Charles Starrett. He did a bunch with Johnny Mack Brown. There was a dozen+ at Monogram with Tex Ritter, Jack Randall and the Trail Blazers. And he did a few with Tim McCoy, Ken Maynard, Tim Holt, Bob Baker, Bill Elliott, Bob Allen, the Three Mesquiteers, and the Hopalong Cassidy series with William Boyd. Taking an opposite approach, what western heroes didn't Ernie work with? He wasn't in films with Lash LaRue ... or Sunset Carson ... or at PRC with the Texas Rangers and Buster Crabbe ... or at Monogram with Jimmy Wakely and Whip Wilson ... nor did he appear with singing cowboy Fred Scott.
The bulk of his work consisted of uncredited, minor / bit parts in various A and B grade movies. And you can spot Ernie as a reporter, bartender, taxi driver, waiter, convict ... and a face in a saloon crowd or on a town street.
Following are some highlights and remembrances of Ernie in serials, westerns and other films:
Suffering from heart problems, he died on November 26, 1947 at the West Olympic Sanitarium, Los Angeles. From the December 3, 1947 issue of Film Daily: "Adams Rites on Coast. Hollywood - Funeral services were held for Ernest Adams, 62, veteran musical comedy star and screen character actor. He was best known for his work as Miller Huggins in 'Pride of the Yankees.' "
Check out Ernie's film statistic chart below. He was working right up to his passing.
Words and phrases to describe Ernie include nervous, fidgety, shifty, constantly moving, and boundless energy. And he had a plethora of facial expressions ranging from quizzical to scared to death to "I've got an idea!". At about five foot, six inches in height, he was small in size but made an impression on movie audiences. He was always fun to watch, especially when stealing the scene from the hero or brains heavy.
Ernie's Movie stats.Below is a chart of Ernie Adams's movie work from 1919-1948 in westerns, serials, shorts, and other films. I've used the RELEASE dates (not filming dates) from the Internet Movie Database (IMDb).
Total films in this chart = 459 and about one third are westerns and serials.
(From Old Corral collection)
In BEYOND THE ROCKIES (RKO, 1932), Tom Keene battles rustlers and is assisted by three helpers. The quartet of heroes are, from left to right, Ernie Adams, Julian Rivero, Tom Keene, and Hank Bell (and they called themselves "the roamin' rovers"). They even serenade us with some tunes around a campfire and at the ranch.
(From Old Corral collection)
Above is a blue duotone 1950 re-release title card for THE GUN RANGER (A. W. Hackel/Republic, 1937) starring Bob Steele. Pretty Eleanor Stewart is the heroine, and on the right is Ernie Adams.
(From Old Corral collection)
Above from left to right are Ted Adams, Ernie Adams, and Bob Steele in ARIZONA GUNFIGHTER (Republic, 1937), one of the A. W. Hackel/Supreme oaters released by Republic Pictures. This was one of Ted Adams' better roles, playing a reformed gunman.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above from left to right are Earl Dwire (face hidden), Hal Price (with beard), Lois Wilde, Jack Randall, a bearded Chick Hannan and Ernie Adams in a crop from a lobby card from DANGER VALLEY (Monogram, 1937), Randall's third starring western. Handling both the producer and director chores was Bob Steele's father, Robert North Bradbury. Hal Price was Jack's sidekick in this one.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above - hero Jack Randall takes out prolific baddie John Merton. Herman Brix (later, Bruce Bennett) is in the left center facing Lane Chandler. And young Dickie Jones is being corralled by Ernie Adams. From Randall's LAND OF FIGHTING MEN (Monogram, 1938).
(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
THE PHANTOM STAGE (Universal, 1939) is about stolen gold shipments and was singing cowboy Bob Baker's twelfth western film and his last starring role before moving to Universal's Johnny Mack Brown series. Above - Baker discovers that pint-sized Ernie Adams hides in a special trunk and pilfers the gold shipments while the stage is enroute.
Does this "person hiding in a trunk on a stage to steal stuff" sound familiar? It was used in Bob Steele's GALLOPING ROMEO (Monogram, 1933) and Ernie Adams was in that. Ed Brady and Ernie are the no goods forcing heroine Doris Hill to hide in the trunk and snitch the money.
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Ernie Adams: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0010958/
Daniel Neyer's "The Files of Jerry Blake" serial website has more on Ernie Adams in cliffhangers: https://filesofjerryblake.com/serial-character-actors-2/ernie-adams/
The Internet Broadway Database has Ernie in one New York play in 1918: https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/ernie-adams-29339
There's a cast photo of Betty Hutton, Kit Guard, Ernie Adams, William Farnum, and other familiar faces from THE PERILS OF PAULINE (Paramount, 1947) at: https://cometoverhollywood.com/2017/05/22/musical-monday-the-perils-of-pauline-1947/perils5/
The Three Stooges Net website has Ernie in a couple Three Stooges shorts at Columbia Pictures: http://www.threestooges.net/cast/actor/177/
On the trail of Ernie Adams.
The Family Search website (free), Ancestry.com (subscription), Newspaper Archive, trade papers, Google Newspaper archive, California Death Index, and the death certificate provide additional information on Ernie Adams / Ernest Stephens Dumarais and family.
Ernie's early years in San Francisco ... his parents split up ... both parents re-marry.
Ernie's father, Leon Dumarais (about 1856-1915):
Ernie's mother, Laura Girard (1865-1961):
Ernie's wives, Mamie Silver and Berdonna Weinberg.
Wife #1 was Mamie Silver:
Wife #2 was Berdonna Weinberg (1890-1961). Her stage name was Berdonna Gilbert and she and Ernie were vaudeville's "Adams and Gilbert":
Vaudeville ... working for Chicago talent agent/booker Boyle Woolfolk ... on to Hollywood and movies.
Ernie's real name
Neither Ancestry.com nor Family Search have a birth certificate or birth index record on Ernie. But we do have his World War I and World War II draft registrations, and his name and signature on both registrations is "Ernest Stephens Dumarais".
(Courtesy of Dale Crawford & Jim Sorensen)
|Photo of the grave marker at Valhalla Cemetery for Ernest S. Adams NEE Dumarais.|