|MYSTERY MOUNTAIN "Mystery Man"|
It ain't Smiley Burnette
It's John Preston "Jack" Cheatham
Mascot owner and producer Nat Levine used Gene Autry and Smiley Burnette in several films prior to Gene getting the starring role in the serial THE PHANTOM EMPIRE (Mascot, 1935). In addition to the western feature IN OLD SANTE FE (Mascot, 1934), you can also spot Gene and Smiley in the Ken Maynard cliffhanger MYSTERY MOUNTAIN (Mascot, 1934).
There's an actor in the MYSTERY MOUNTAIN cliffhanger that is "drivin' me crazy". Sometimes I (and others) think it's an unsmiling Smiley Burnette. Other times, definitely not Smiley. Take a gander at the below screen captures and images from that serial. If you have MYSTERY MOUNTAIN on VHS or DVD, watch Chapters 5, 6 and 7 as this actor appears fairly often ... and he also has a couple lines of dialog (though that may have been dubbed in later using a different voice because of a boo-boo or a recording problem). He also appears in several of the earlier chapters.
His role is one of the Corwin teamsters, and other members of that group include familiar faces Al Bridge, Jack Rockwell, Jim Corey, Jack Evans, William Gould, Lee Shumway and Wally Wales.
I've run my DVD of MYSTERY MOUNTAIN about a dozen times and remain confused over this guy. Wish someone would create a new digital master of MYSTERY MOUNTAIN, so DVD screen captures would come out clearer and sharper.
May, 2008: confirmed that our mystery man is John Preston "Jack" Cheatham (1894-1971). What threw me (and probably some others) off on identifying Cheatham was that he wore a cowboy uniform in MYSTERY MOUNTAIN. He generally wore a suit, or a police uniform, etc. And in the screen captures below - and in particular, the cabin/cave scenes with Verna Hillie - Cheatham is wearing a baggy shirt and large hat that tends to make him appear bigger/larger.
From Chapter 5
Above - a screen capture from Chapter 5 showing our unidentified guy on the right. Jack Rockwell is on the far left, then a player I don't recall, then Verna Hillie and Hal Taliaferro/Wally Wales. Our mystery man is not a head taller than Rockwell - the ground is higher on his side. See the scene still at the bottom of this webpage.
From Chapter 6
Above are Smiley Burnette and Gene Autry in a screen capture from Chapter 6. Burnette has a somewhat rounded face with noticeable cheeks and a round chin with a dimple.
From Chapter 6
Above are screen captures from the cave explosion in Chapter 6. Before saying "It's gotta be Smiley", take a look at the above images. Our guy does have a line of dialog here as he and Verna Hillie enter the cabin ... and he doesn't sound like Smiley. (Again - the dialog may have been dubbed in later using someone elses voice because of a boo-boo or a recording problem.)
From Chapter 7
Above is our unidentified in a screen capture from Chapter 7. Our guy does speak another line of dialog here - doesn't sound like Smiley, but it also may have been a dubbed voice delivering the line.
Burnette has a somewhat rounded face with noticeable cheeks and a rounded chin with a dimple. That unidentified's face is more V shaped. And their noses are different.
(From Old Corral image collection)
Above from L-to-R are Syd Saylor, Verna Hillie, Hal Taliaferro (Wally Wales), Ken Maynard, our unsmiling "mystery man", Al Bridge and Jack Rockwell. Bridge is in his typical position - getting a stern warning from the hero. This is somewhat typical of scene stills - since they're staged for the photographer, a photo is often different than what appears in the film. That's the case with this photo. This is from Chapter 6 and a short time later, Al Bridge is killed with a dart from the Rattler. Our mystery man is in the still, but he's not present in the scene in the film.
Everybody is on level ground in this image - our mystery man is shorter than Taliaferro/Wales and taller than Rockwell.
Check out the noses and the chins ...
Top is a blowup of the unidentified guy from the image above ... and below is a later shot of Smiley Burnette showing the rounded chin with a dimple. Check the differences in the noses and chins.
Fabian Cepeda sent an e-mail suggesting our mystery man might be John Preston "Jack" Cheatham (1894-1971). Cheatham didn't work in many westerns. Instead of western roles, he was often a uniformed policeman, a guard, a plain clothes detective, etc. And he worked in several of the Nat Levine Mascot cliffhangers. I took a look at the DVD from the public domain serial BURN 'EM UP BARNES (Mascot, 1934) as Cheatham is a police officer in Chapters 6 and 7 helping Frankie Darro escape from the clutches of baddie Stanley Blystone. The above screen captures are from those episodes. I overlaid the face at the top of this webpage onto those screen captures.
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has information on Jack Cheatham: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0154759/