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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.

Hooper Atchley

Full name:
Lemuel Hooper Atchley

1887 - 1943

Hooper Atchley was born in Tennessee and his early years were spent on the stage in traveling repertory companies, theater and Broadway plays.

Newspapers and trade publications have many mentions of Atchley doing stage work circa 1910 - 1925. Examples: he was a member of the Majestic Stock Company of Fort Wayne, Indiana; he was the lead or a main player with the Academy of Music Stock Company of New York; with Baylies-Hicks Stock Company in Fall River, Massachusetts; New Bedford Players of New Bedford, Massachusetts; National Theater Stock Company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Hathaway Players in Brockton, Massachusetts. And he played the lead in one of the touring companies doing 'The Bird of Paradise' for noted theatrical producer Oliver Morosco.

He arrived in Hollywood during the waning days of the silent film and found his niche portraying slick, slippery, conniving no-goods ... sometimes with a weak backbone and needing his gang to back him up. A smallish man with a thin moustache, he was the brains heavy in westerns and cliffhangers. Or ... he'd have a supporting/bit part as a crooked lawyer, crooked land agent, crooked politician, etc.

Serial fans can spot him in THE THREE MUSKETEERS (Mascot, 1933), MYSTERY MOUNTAIN (Mascot, 1934), ACE DRUMMOND (Universal, 1936), THE ADVENTURES OF RED RYDER (Republic, 1940), DICK TRACY VS. CRIME INC. (Republic, 1941), more. During the 1930s, he played opposite cowboy heroes Ken Maynard, Hoot Gibson, Gene Autry, Tom Keene, Tim McCoy, Three Mesquiteers, others.

He committed suicide in 1943 by shooting himself. Some sources mention that he was despondent over medical problems (cancer and/or failing eyesight), but the motive for taking his own life is not mentioned in the trades and newspaper death notices.

His movie career amounted to about 200 films scattered over the years 1929 - early 1940s. And he did credited and uncredited roles in westerns, serials, and various A and B grade features. He appeared in about two dozen films at Republic Pictures during the period 1935 - 1943.

(Courtesy of Ed Tabor)

When Ed Tabor sent me the above from one of the 1932 editions of the Standard Casting Directory, I was surprised at Atchley's list of New York stage play credits.

In 2004, I was contacted by Mitch Collins and Arthur Phillips. Following is some family information and background on Hooper that was assembled from several of their e-mails:

Hooper's mother and Art Phillips' father were brother and sister. Hooper's mother was Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Her father was William Phillips who served in the Union Army during the Civil War and was a Tennessee Republican State Senator in the 44th General Assembly (1885-1887) representing Cocke, Jefferson and Sevier counties. He had owned slaves. He died in 1918. William was the grandfather of James Arthur Atchley who is mentioned as being a sometime member of the Tennessee General Assembly. He must have been Hooper's brother. (There is a 17 year old son named Arthur Atchley listed in the 1900 census.) He was also a Republican. Art's brother Lemuel Phillips was named after Hooper. Art heard of Hooper's death while in the Navy during WWII. He was on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Ommaney Bay which was sunk by a kamikaze on January 4, 1945. According to the family, Hooper had been diagnosed with cancer and this was the probable reason for his suicide. Hooper Atchley's full name, birth and death dates are: Lemuel Hooper Atchley, April 30, 1887 to November 17, 1943.
(Footnote: his grave marker shows a November 17, 1943 death date, but his actual death date is November 16, 1943. See the death certificate information below.)

(Courtesy of Jim McDade)

In November, 2016, I connected with Jim McDade whose grandfather was James Arthur Atchley, Hooper's older brother.

The image above is a full length portrait shot of Hooper in what appears to be a Civil War era uniform, and the photo was taken in 1917 by a photographer named Wilson. Jim found it in the home he grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee and there's water damage at the bottom.

Jim writes that "the family - or at least my mother - always called him "Uncle Doc". I have no idea where the name came from. But she was hospitalized for six months in a body cast in a New York City hospital in 1922. And "Uncle Doc" came to visit her every single day. So he must have been performing on Broadway at that time."

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Atchley:

The Internet Broadway Database lists Atchley in three New York plays during the years 1913-1929:

The Family Search website, trade publications, newspapers, California Death Index, and the death certificate provide more on Hooper Atchley. There are two sets of 1940 census data taken April and June, 1940 - both are for our Hooper Atchley, but the second set has more info and full names.

There was a genealogy webpage which included Hooper, his parents and siblings. It was no longer working when I checked in September, 2022:

(Courtesy of Mitch Collins and Arthur Phillips)

Atchley is interred at Phillips Cemetary near Newport, Tennessee. Note that the marker shows Atchley's passing as November 17, 1943. The death certificate has him passing away on November 16, 1943.

Above - Hooper Atchley and Marion Shilling in a screen capture from Tom Keene's SUNDOWN TRAIL (RKO, 1931).

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are Hooper Atchley, Alice Day and Lafe McKee in a lobby card from GOLD (Majestic, 1932) which starred Jack Hoxie. Hoxie and his white horse 'Scout' are shown on the left. Alice Day is also pictured in the top right circular inset.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above - Johnny Mack Brown is surrounded by a trio of great moustached villains - from L-to-R are Bradley Page, Hooper Atchley and George Meeker in the non-western AGAINST THE LAW (Columbia, 1934).

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