|Unkempt, rough and tough looking members of the gang, or lynch mob, or vigilantes, or posse riders, or cow herders. They had minimal or no dialog, not much screen time, and were generally not listed in the film credits. Some would show up as a face in the crowd, portraying townspeople, barflys, deputies, wagon drivers, ranch hands, etc. We tend to recognize some of their faces, but have no clue as to their real names.|
New York born Matthew Roubert was a child star from about 1910-1921, and his father William L. Roubert was involved with "Little Matty Roubert" and his silent screen adventures. Matty's earliest film appearances were at Vitagraph and Biograph. He was one of the kids in JOHN BARLEYCORN (Bosworth, 1914) which was produced by actor Hobart Bosworth's Los Angeles based film company (and Matty's father was the general manager). Matty was one of the "Powers Kids" for Pat Powers' Powers Picture Plays company. And then came his starring role as "The Universal Boy" for Carl Laemmle's IMP (Independent Motion Picture Company). By late 1915, his father was Vice President and general manager of the new Aurora Film Plays Corporation and his son starred in THE WAIF (Aurora, 1915) ... which was directed by the senior Roubert. Circa 1920, Matty was doing two-reel comedies for Reelcraft. And later that year, Matty Roubert Productions, Inc. was formed (with assist from Matty's dad), and they released HERITAGE (1920) ... which naturally, had young Matty in the lead.
Jack Tillmany provides some history on Carl Laemmle, his IMP brand, Powers Pictures Plays, and Universal:
Carl Laemmle created Universal in June, 1912 by merging the distribution rights of several independent companies under the Universal banner; one of them was Pat Powers' Powers Picture Plays (whose company of kids included Roubert). Laemmle's own company, IMP (Independent Motion Picture Company) was another one of the group, and produced the Universal Boy series. At first, each company retained its own identity, but eventually, by the late 1910s - one by one - they all faded away, and Universal gained the sole production credit.
|Left is child star Matty Roubert at age 6-7 when he was starring as "The Universal Boy".|
Below is a crop from a 1914 ad describing one of "The Universal Boy" adventures.
These photos and the ad below came from a 1914 issue of Motography which can be downloaded from the Internet Archive website (link at the bottom of this webpage).
Kid stars grow into teenagers. Teenagers become young adults. Matty discovered that significant film roles were no longer being offered. Reasons may have been his youngish face and a mop of curly hair ... and he was short. Viewing his 1930s film list on the Internet Movie Database, poor Matty was typecast as a newsboy, bellhop, messenger or elevator operator. In his mid twenties, he returned to his former Universal home for an uncredited role as a a Culver Military Academy cadet in TOM BROWN OF CULVER (Universal, 1932).
By the late 1930s, he learned how to ride a hoss and do screen fisticuffs, and transformed himself into a B-western henchman as well as a stunt man who occasionally doubled several of the shorter cowboy heroes. He seemed to find a friend in Don 'Red' Barry, and Matty's first with Barry was THE ADVENTURES OF RED RYDER (Republic, 1940) cliffhanger. This was followed by eleven of Barry's Republic oaters and three of his later Lippert and Screen Guild productions. A January, 1941 newspaper article had Barry and Roubert stopping in Abilene, Texas while touring and promoting RED RYDER. Excerpt from that article: "... Barry and Matty Roubert, another western player, were en route east for personal appearances in Tennessee, Virginia and Pennsylvania."
In addition to Barry, Matty was similar in height to Bob Steele and Lash LaRue ... and probably doubled both. He worked in nine Metropolitan, Republic and PRC westerns with Battlin' Bob and five with Lash. There were other westerns: nine with Eddie Dean, ten Durango Kids with Charles Starrett, three with Autry, and three with Roy Rogers. He even appeared in a few late 1930s Universal oaters and serials with Bob Baker and Johnny Mack Brown.
Les Adams has Roubert identified in 60+ sound films - that number includes 50 westerns and 4 cliffhangers.
Roubert did military duty during World War II, but I've been unable to determine the Military branch or his years of service (his film work during 1942-1944 is light).
His screen career came to an end circa 1950 after several Don Barry oaters for Screen Guild and Lippert. He was about 43 years of age, and I wonder if there was an injury that caused him to exit Hollywood. Or perhaps, no one has yet identified him in 1950s or later films and TV programs.
Then there's a 20+ year gap in which there is little information on Matty Roubert ... except for a 1955 marriage in Los Angeles to Mary L. Bowman ... and he passed away on May 17, 1973 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Matty Roubert was 66 years old.
Although some of the data may be incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on:
Matty Roubert: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0745525/
Matty's father, William Leonard Roubert: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0745527/
Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website notes that Matty passed away on Honolulu, Hawaii and was cremated: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?GRid=8797230&page=gr
The Family Search website (free), Ancestry.com (subscription), California Death Index, and the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) have information on Matty Roubert and family:
If you want to learn more about Little Matty Roubert and his silent starring work circa 1914, there are several lengthy articles and photos in two old Hollywood 'zines available from the Internet Archive website. Suggest you download the pdf version of these to your PC, and then do a search for "Roubert" to locate the articles relating to he and his father:
Motography issues from January-June, 1914: http://archive.org/details/motography11elec
Moving Picture World issues from July-September, 1914: http://archive.org/details/movingpicturewor21newy
It's always interesting to click through newspaper headlines and clippings at the Google newspaper archives. While some of the articles are free, many go to newspaper websites where you have to pay to retrieve the full article. The following links will take you to a couple free articles on Matty Roubert:
(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 Ed Phillips)
Above from L-to-R are Carl Mathews, Kermit Maynard, Matty Roubert and Jack O'Shea in a scene from STARS OVER TEXAS (PRC, 1946) which starred Eddie Dean.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above from L-to-R are Lee Roberts, Black Jack O'Shea and Matty Roubert in a lobby card from the Lash LaRue LAW OF THE LASH (PRC, 1947). This was Lash's first starring role on his own after working in several Eddie Dean westerns. O'Shea is the brains heavy in this one and is credited as Jack O'Shea.