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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.

Jack Rockwell - real name: John Rockwell Trowbridge
(From Old Corral collection)
Jack Rockwell

Real name:
John Rockwell Trowbridge

1890 - 1947

Special thanks to John Rockwell McFarland whose uncles were Jack Rockwell and Charles Trowbridge.
Elaine Radloff is searching for info on the Trowbridge family. Jack Rockwell's wife was Helen Dewey and her real name may have been Bulah Bostwick. If you have info on Helen Dewey / Bulah Bostwick, shoot the Old Corral webmaster an e-mail, and I'll put you in touch with Elaine.

Jack Rockwell was approaching 40 years of age when he arrived in Hollywood in the late 1920s. His steely eyes and surly, snarling, cantankerous demeanor must have impressed the B western and serial directors for they used him in scores of films, generally portraying either a baddie, lawman, or ranch owner.

I know he wore various outfits in his screen portrayals ... but the Rockwell "range costume" that is burned into my brain has him wearing that black hat, light colored shirt, tie and vest as shown in the still above. I'm also sure that Rockwell made at least one film appearance where he smiled or laughed ... but I don't recall it.

His first western appearances were at Tiffany and KBS WorldWide with Ken Maynard in the early 1930s. By the 1940s, most of Rockwell's menacing screen persona was lost due to his advancing age.

Les Adams has Rockwell in about 250 sound era films, which includes about 215 westerns and two dozen serials.  Among those 250 films are 55 for Republic Pictures during the period from 1935 - 1946, and most of those are B westerns.

Rockwell and supporting actor Charles S. Trowbridge (1882 - 1967) were brothers, and both were born in Mexico. Charles Trowbridge didn't do many westerns, but was a prolific performer in both A and B films, often portraying a lawyer, judge, military officer, scientist ... and he had a great voice as well as a memorable enunciation with his words. I remember him as the Navy Admiral on Bataan who was the commanding officer of John Wayne and Robert Montgomery in John Ford's World War II PT Boat saga, THEY WERE EXPENDABLE (MGM, 1945). He was also the archaeologist killed by Tom Tyler (as Kharis) in THE MUMMY'S HAND (Universal, 1940) which starred Dick Foran and Wallace Ford. And he portrayed the governor who wound up as a victim of the MYSTERIOUS DR. SATAN (Republic serial, 1940).

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above is Jack Rockwell's brother Charles S. Trowbridge as 'Major William Elliott' and being menaced by "The Black Hangman" in the serial, THE ADVENTURES OF THE FLYING CADETS (1943).

Dale Crawford, Jim Sorensen and Richard Alan Silverman discovered more about Rockwell. He was born October 6, 1890 and passed away on November 10, 1947 at the Glendale (California) Sanitarium and Hospital from 'hypostatic pneumonia'. The Rockwell home was on West Windsor Road in Glendale, California. Rockwell's wife, Helen B. Trowbridge, was still living at that Glendale address when she passed away in 1976. They are together in vaultage at the Grandview Memorial Park, Glendale, California. The death certificate shows his name as John Rockwell Trowbridge; his birthplace as Vera Cruz, Mexico; his Mother and Father were Charles Trowbridge of Decatur, Illinois, and Katie Stephens of Pachicca, Mexico; the death certificate also notes that he was a World War I veteran.

I did not find an obituary or death notice in ProQuest obituaries, Newspaper Archive, or And no mention of Rockwell or Trowbridge in the November - December, 1947 issues of Variety.

Rockwell is one of my favorite B western players.

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Jack Rockwell and his brother, Charles Trowbridge:
          Jack Rockwell:
          His brother Charles Trowbridge (1882-1967):

The Family Search website (free), (subscription), California Death Index, and death certificate provide more on Jack Rockwell:

  • Vera Cruz, Mexico birth registration for John Rockwell Trowbridge, born October 9, 1890 - he's birth number 514 on that registration page :
  • 1910 census - living in San Francisco, California are 54 year old Kate Trowbridge (born Mexico; widowed) and her three sons - 28 year old Charles S. R. (born Mexico; occupation "Actor - Stock"), 21 year old William H. (born Mexico; occupation "Lineman - Electric"), and 19 year old John R. (born Mexico; no occupation):
  • February 27, 1913 Los Angeles marriage license of John Rockwell Trowbridge and Gale Preston Henry. First marriage for both. Occupation of both is "Theatrical":
  • World War I draft registration dated June 5, 1917 - 26 year old John Rockwell Trowbridge was born October 6, 1890 in Vera Cruz, Mexico "(of American parents)". He lived at 746 S. Main, Los Angeles. He was single and occupation was (unemployed) "Actor":
  • Rockwell's World War I military records - John R. Trowbridge (born Vera Cruz, Mexico) was inducted at "#17, Los Angeles, California" on April 27, 1918. He lived at the Angeles Hotel, El Paso, Texas. His military unit was "166 Dep Brig to disch."; his military "Grades, with date of appointment" was "Corp June 22/18" and he was Honorably discharged on January 30, 1919:
  • 1920 census - 1920 census - 29 year old Jack R. Trowbridge (born Mexico) was renting at unit 47, 211 E. Broadway, Glendale, California. He was divorced and occupation was "Fire man - Fire Dept":
  • 1930 census - John R. Trowbridge is a lodger living with Nettie S. Dewey and daughter Helen B. Dewey in Glendale, California. He was divorced and occupation was "Motion Picture Actor". (Helen was Jack's second wife.):
  • 1940 census - 49 year old John R. Trowbridge (born Mexico) and 39 year old wife Helen B. (born Michigan) were renting at 461 Windsor Road, Glendale, California, and they lived there in 1935. Jack completed school through the sixth grade. His occupation was "Character Actor - Motion Pictures", and in 1939, he worked 40 weeks and earned $2200.00:
  • had the 1942 World War II draft registration for John Rockwell Trowbridge. Birth date and location were October 6, 1890 in Vera Cruz, Mexico. Home address was 461 W. Windsor, Glendale, California, and his contact was brother Charles Trowbridge, Beverly Hills, Califonia. Jack's employer was "Paul Wilkins - Booking Agent", Hollywood:
  • Death certificate - 57 year old John Rockwell Trowbridge passed away on November 10, 1947 at the Glendale (California) Sanitarium and Hospital. He had been a patient there for eleven days and cause of death was "hypostatic pneumonia" due to "enforced bed rest". He was born October 6, 1890 in Vera Cruz, Mexico to Charles Trowbridge (born Illinois) and Katie Stephens (born Mexico). His occupation was "Actor - Motion Pictures", and he was a World War I veteran. Wife Helen Trowbridge was the death certificate informant, and they lived at 461 West Windsor Road, Glendale, California. Funeral director was Kiefer and Everick Mortuary, Glendale, and cremation at Grand View Crematory.
  • California Death Index mirrors the death certificate - John Rockwell Trowbridge was born October 6, 1890 in Mexico, mother's maiden name of Stephens, and he passed away November 10, 1947 in the Los Angeles area:
  • California Death Index also has a record for Helen B. Trowbridge, born July 20, 1901 in Michigan, and she passed away January 29, 1976 in the Los Angeles area:

Find A Grave website notes that Rockwell - and wife Helen B. (1900 - 1976) - are interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California:

And his brother Charles S. Trowbridge (1882 - 1967) is interred at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles, California:

(Courtesy of John Rockwell McFarland)

Above are Jack Rockwell's silver spurs. Note the initials JR in gold.

(From Old Corral collection)

Left to right are Syd Saylor, Verna Hillie, Wally Wales/Hal Taliaferro, Ken Maynard, Jack Cheatham, Al Bridge, and Jack Rockwell in the chapterplay, MYSTERY MOUNTAIN (Mascot, 1934). This is somewhat typical of scene stills which are staged for the photographer. Thus, a photo is often different than what appears in the actual film. And that's the case with this photo. This occurs at the beginning of Chapter 6 and Al Bridge is killed with a dart from the Rattler. While Wales/Taliaferro and Cheatham are in this still, they are not in the actual film scene.

(From Old Corral collection)

Above from L-to-R are Jack Rockwell, H. B. Warner, Ken Maynard, Evalyn Knapp, and Kenneth Thomson. The face between Maynard and Warner is William (Bill) McCall. Lobby card from IN OLD SANTA FE (Mascot, 1934). Rockwell appeared in about thirty of Ken Maynard's westerns.

(From Old Corral collection)

From L-to-R are Wally Wales/Hal Taliaferro, Joan Gale, Tom Mix and Jack Rockwell in a scene from the lengthiest serial ever made, THE MIRACLE RIDER (Mascot, 1935). Chapter 1, "The Vanishing Indian", was on five reels and ran for about 43 minutes. The total running time of the fifteen episodes was about 306 minutes. DICK TRACY was Republic's longest chapterplay, clocking in at a tad under 290 minutes.

(From Old Corral collection)

Above - Reb Russell has the drop on baddie Jack Rockwell in a lobby card from LIGHTNING TRIGGERS (Kent, 1935), believed to be the last film in Reb's short-lived film career.

(From Old Corral collection)

Above from left to right are Jack Rockwell, Karl Hackett, John Merton, Tim McCoy, Joe Girard, and Lafe McKee in a lobby card from LIGHTNIN' BILL CARSON (Puritan, 1936).

(From Old Corral collection)

In the above lobby card from ROGUE OF THE RANGE (A. W. Hackel/Supreme, 1936), a two-gunned Johnny Mack Brown points an accusing finger at Jack Rockwell.  Thx to Les Adams for help in identifying several of the players - from L-to-R are Tex Palmer, Rockwell, Blackie Whiteford (in purple shirt), Art (Arturo) Felix, unidentified player (behind Brown), Brown, and George Ball.

(Courtesy of 'Slim' Whitaker's daughter, Leota Whitaker Gandrau)

L-to-R are unidentified guy, Jack Rockwell, Tom London, Charles 'Slim' Whitaker, and locomotive 522 in SILENT BARRIERS (Gaumont British Prod, 1937). Filmed in Canada, Richard Arlen was the star and the story is about building the Canadian Pacific railroad.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above is the title lobby card from Charles Starrett's BULLETS FOR RUSTLERS (Columbia, 1940). L-to-R behind the rock are Bob Nolan, Lorna Gray (Adrian Booth), and Jack Rockwell.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above is a still along with some crops/blowups from the Bill Elliott THE MAN FROM THUNDER RIVER (Republic, 1943). From left to right are Elliott, Roy Brent, Jack Rockwell, Anne Jeffreys, Georgia Cooper, John James, and Al Taylor.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are Douglas Fowley, Lynne Carver, stuntman Ted Mapes (with hat), Steve Clark, Terry Frost (with hat), Johnny Mack Brown, Lynton Brent (partial face), a very old Jack Rockwell (wearing the suit), Tom Quinn and Raymond Hatton in a scene from JMB's DRIFTING ALONG (Monogram, 1946). This was one of Rockwell's last film appearances.

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