|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.|
Real name may be: Fred 'Buster' Hayes
1906 or 1908 - 1962
(From Old Corral collection)
(From the HAUNTED RANCH production still shown below.)
Looking back on B westerns and serials - and Hollywood films in general - it was common to typecast performers based on their race, ethnicity, etc. This was a time of Hollywood stereotypes - for example, "all Indians were vicious, rampaging savages" and the "U. S. Cavalry were good guys and always saved the day".
One of the more familiar performers of this period was black actor Fred Toones. For most of his 30+ year film career, Toones used the screen name of "Snowflake", and his roles were generally that of a servant, porter, cook, etc. He appeared in various A and B grade films, including some westerns and cliffhangers, and most of his roles were unbilled/uncredited.
Les Adams has Fred identified in about 180 sound films, and of that total, 54 are westerns and 7 are serials.
If you pay close attention, you may spot Toones in a couple Nat Levine produced cliffhangers, THE GALLOPING GHOST (Mascot, 1931) and THE HURRICANE EXPRESS (Mascot, 1932). In the mid 1930s, youngster Frankie Darro did a series for producer Maurice Conn (Conn Productions and Ambassador Pictures) and Frankie's adult helpers were Leroy Mason (billed as Roy Mason) followed by Kane Richmond. Ten films were released during 1935-1937 and Fred appeared in about half the entries. You can also spot him in some Charlie Chase shorts for producer Hal Roach. And Fred portrayed a janitor in the Laurel and Hardy WAY OUT WEST (Hal Roach/MGM, 1937).
During the period 1936-1947, Toones worked in about 40 films at Republic Pictures, most of which were uncredited walk-on or bit parts. Examples: Fred was a train porter in Gene Autry's OH, SUSANNA! (Republic, 1936) and a cook in the Roy Rogers Trucolor adventure BELLS OF SAN ANGELO (Republic, 1947).
Fred's Republic film appearances in more detail: he did five with the Three Mesquiteers, two with Roy Rogers, two with John Wayne, one with Sunset Carson, nine with Don Barry, and eleven with Gene Autry. He got billing credit for his roles in a couple of great Republic serials, HAWK OF THE WILDERNESS (Republic, 1938) and DAREDEVILS OF THE RED CIRCLE (Republic, 1939).
Director William Witney's autobiography mentions that Toones ran the shoeshine stand at Republic studios.
Fred did a few westerns for other production companies - for example, in the Hopalong Cassidy adventure FOOL'S GOLD (United Artists, 1946), he plays a handy man / gardener - and got billing credit and had a fair amount of dialog.
Fred also shows up in A grade films - examples: he was "Rufus", the butler and cook to District Attorney Fred MacMurray in REMEMBER THE NIGHT (Paramount, 1940) which co-starred Barbara Stanwyck. And he's a bartender in the Preston Sturges directed THE PALM BEACH STORY (Paramount, 1942), which starred Claudette Colbert and Joel McCrea.
Though his roles were often demeaning, Fred Toones was one of the prolific supporting players in B westerns and cliffhangers. As such, he deserves a biography on the Old Corral.
He died from a heart ailment on February 13, 1962 at the Los Angeles County General Hospital.
Fred 'Snowflake' Toones is Fred 'Buster' Hayes???
There is a February 12, 1942 article on Snowflake in The Robesonian newspaper, Lumberton, North Carolina. The article is lengthy and author Ray Pittman interviewed Snowflake. Pittman was also City Editor for the paper.
"There's one thing that bothers Buster ... wants to know what became of his folks, and especially his mother, Bernice Hayes, who hasn't been seen in these parts since after the birth of young Snowflake." (This is totally different than what Fred reported on his two marriage licenses - his father was Mark Toones and his mother's first name was Francis.)
A faded, partially unreadable version of this article is on the Google Newspaper archive. This link will get you to the front page of the February 12, 1942 issue of The Robesonian newspaper. You'll need to scroll to page 3 for the article: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=ypzvKOdbExQC&dat=19420212&printsec=frontpage&hl=en
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Fred Toones: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0867560/
The Family Search website (free), Ancestry.com (subscrription), California Death Index, Social Security Death Index (SSDI), and death certificate have more on Fred 'Snowflake' Toones ... including two marriages ... and his birth year appears to be either 1906 or 1908:
Find A Grave website has a record for Fred 'Snowflake' Toones who passed away on February 13, 1962 and is interred at Lincoln Memorial Park, Carson, Los Angeles County, California: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/83372676/toones
(Above pressbook ad courtesy of Les Adams)
|SOCIAL ERROR was released in 1935, and was one of several films that young Dave Sharpe did for producer William Berke.|
Note Sharpe's billing as the more formal David Sharpe.
Fred Toones is credited as "Snowflake", and no mention of Fred or Toones as his first and last names.
Checking production encyclopedias and casting directories, Fred used the singular name of "Snowflake" for much of his career. Below is the telephone listing for "Snowflake" from a 1937 trade publication.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above is the pressbook cover for Jack Perrin's HAIR-TRIGGER CASEY (Berke-Perrin Prod./Atlantic, 1936). The faces on the right side, from top to bottom, are Ed Cassidy, Betty Mack and Fred 'Snowflake' Toones. While Fred gets his photo on that pressbook cover, his name is not listed.
This film was one of a quartet churned out by Perrin and William Berke under their Berke-Perrin 'Blue Ribbon' logo. This series was Perrin's last hurrah as a leading man. Six were planned but only four were completed and released. Fred appeared in three of the four - the above mentioned HAIR-TRIGGER CASEY along with WILDCAT SAUNDERS (Berke-Perrin Prod./Atlantic, 1936) and DESERT JUSTICE (Berke-Perrin Prod./Atlantic, 1936).
(Courtesy of Belinda Kirkhuff)
Above is a still from the Don Barry THE TULSA KID (Republic, 1940). From left to right are Matty Roubert, Fred 'Snowflake' Toones, Luana Walters, Ethan Laidlaw, George Douglas, Noah Beery Sr., John Beach and Jack Kirk.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above from L-to-R are Milton Kibbee, Don Barry, and Fred Toones in Barry's TWO-GUN SHERIFF (Republic, 1941). Milt Kibbee's brother was Hollywood actor Guy Kibbee.
(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
Above from L-to-R are Rex Lease, Fred Toones, Julie Duncan, John 'Dusty' King, and Max Terhune in a scene from HAUNTED RANCH (Monogram, 1943).
(From Old Corral collection)
Above from L-to-R are John 'Dusty' King, Fred Toones, Charlie King, Rex Lease, Bud Osborne, Glenn Strange and Max Terhune in a lobby card from HAUNTED RANCH (Monogram, 1943), one of the Range Busters' adventures. The scene in this lobby card is just prior to the closing brawl ... then Fred Toones discovers the "Little Brown Jug" tune that must be played on the organ ... and playing the song opens a secret wall passage with the missing gold from the Denver Mint.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
|Left is a blurb from the pressbook for the Range Busters' LAND OF HUNTED MEN (Monogram, 1943), and mentions that John King and Dave Sharpe had departed for World War II duty ... and Dennis Moore had joined the series and Ray Corrigan was returning.|
Note the ending sentence: "and the colored comedian, Snowflake."
Fred appeared in two Range Busters - HAUNTED RANCH (Monogram, 1943) and LAND OF HUNTED MEN (Monogram, 1943).