|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, barflies, deputies, wagon drivers, ranch hands, etc. We tend to recognize some of their faces, but have no clue as to their real names.|
John Penman Whiteford
1889 - 1962
(Courtesy of Jack Tillmany)
John Penman 'Blackie' Whiteford was born in Rochester, New York in 1889 and his Hollywood career began in the 1920s. In the sound era, he worked in at least 245 films, and that number includes 160 westerns, 12 serials and 42 shorts. He was often cast in the Columbia Three Stooges two-reel comedies.
Rarely having any dialog, Whiteford was relegated to uncredited roles as a henchman, barfly, townsman, posse rider, etc. and my recollections of him are primarily in 1930s westerns from Columbia and the Poverty Row independents. He only received a few paychecks from Republic Pictures - amongst his many films were only a half dozen for Republic and those were spread over the years 1937-1953.
He also did some stunt work. Names of stunt men employed in Errol Flynn's CAPTAIN BLOOD (Warner Bros., 1935) were highlighted in an "Overheard In Hollywood" column in late 1935 newspapers. Excerpt from the article: "Among them are Artie Ortego, Gene Alsace, Kansas Moehring, Jack Silver, Harry Dean, Si Slocum, Tom Steele, Blackie Whiteford and Jerry Pine."
Blackie seemed to always have that (funny) scowl on his lips. And he also had a physical/medical problem with his left eye.
We can confirm one marriage for Blackie. Silent screen actress Alma Bennett was married to actor, agent and casting director Harry Spingler from 1929 through his death in 1953. She and Whiteford married in December, 1954. Alma passed away in 1958.
Blackie Whiteford had gastric ulcer surgery at the Motion Picture Country Home and Hospital, Woodland Hills, California and passed away there on March 21, 1962.
Blackie Whiteford face closeups - circa 1936
|In these photo crops/blowups, notice the scar on Whiteford's left upper lip which is probably the cause of his lip curl/scowl. In a newspaper article (link below), he purportedly got the scar in a tiff with Tom Sharkey, a bare knuckle heavyweight.|
In the left image, you can see his normal range costume with vest and pushed up hat. Another consistency was that he utilized the chin/jaw strap on his hat, always pulling it tight.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
|Blackie Whiteford on the left and George 'Arizona Slim' Hazel on the right in FIGHTING BILL FARGO (1941), one of the Johnny Mack Brown oaters for Universal.|
At the time this was filmed, Hazel and Whiteford were both in their early fifties.
Although some of the data may be incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Blackie Whiteford: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0925651/
The Three Stooges Net website includes a listing of the various cast members in the Stooges' shorts. Whiteford worked in about three dozen of the Stooge shorts during the years 1934-1956: http://www.threestooges.net/cast/actor/241
On the trail of Blackie Whiteford
The Family Search website (free), ProQuest obituaries, death certificate, and California Death Index have information on Whiteford. Note the confusing ages listed for Blackie:
Is this our Blackie Whiteford, actor? Family Search has the United States Registers of Enlistments in the U.S. Army, 1798-1914. John P. Whiteford enlisted on August 6, 1908 at Fort Slocum, New York. He is 25 years and 3 months of age; he's 5' 9 1/2" in height; born in Rochester, New York; and occupation is barber. (If he was 25 years and 3 months old, his birth year would have been 1883. He could have fibbed on his age when he enlisted.)
Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website notes that Whiteford is interred at Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park, North Hollywood, Los Angeles County, California: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/7967126
Although some of the data may be incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on the George B. Hickman and Estelle Hickman that are mentioned in the above census info:
There's an overly optimistic (and confusing) biography of Whiteford in the November 19, 1950 issue of the St. Petersburg (Florida) Times newspaper at the Google newspaper archive. The article mentions that Whiteford worked in 2000 films ... started in films around 1903 ... got the lip scar in a brawl with a bare knuckle heavyweight Tom Sharkey ... Estelle Wills was on the New York stage ... and is Blackie's wife: https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=4f9OAAAAIBAJ&sjid=dE4DAAAAIBAJ&pg=5183,1692812&dq=blackie-whiteford&hl=en
The Internet Broadway database has a 1905 New York stage play credit for Estelle X. Wills: http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=415766
Blackie's wife, silent screen actress Alma Bennett (1904-1958)
|On the left is Alma Bennett in a photo from the Picture Show Annual for 1930 available at the Internet Archive.|
Alma Long (1904-1958) was born in Seattle, Washington.
She was a Mack Sennett Bathing Beauty, a leading lady to Tom Mix, appeared in Harry Langdon and Ben Turpin comedies, and she also did some higher grade films including a featured role in THE LOST WORLD (First National, 1925). Her movie career ran from about 1919-1930.
Tradezines have Alma Bennett marrying Harry Spingler in August, 1929. He was an actor, agent and casting director. They were together through Spingler's death from cancer on April 22, 1953 at the Motion Picture Home and Hospital, Woodland Hills, California.
On December 23, 1954, about a year and a half after Spingler's death, Alma married Blackie Whiteford.
Alma Whiteford passed away on September 16, 1958.
The Family Search website (free), ProQuest obituaries, and California Death Index have information on Alma Bennett:
Although some of the data may be incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Alma Bennett (1904-1958): https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0071582/
Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website notes that Alma Bennett is interred at Chapel Of The Pines, Los Angeles, California: https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=11723652
The Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Mack Sennett collection has several stills of Alma Bennett:
Alma and Billy Bevans in THE GOLF NUT (Mack Sennett, 1927): http://digitalcollections.oscars.org/cdm/ref/collection/p15759coll26/id/10
Alma and Vernon Dent in a still from the Andy Clyde comedy MIDNIGHT DADDIES (Mack Sennett, 1929): http://digitalcollections.oscars.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15759coll26/id/27/rec/2
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above from L-to-R are Black Jack Ward, John Alexander, Blackie Whiteford and youngster Bobby Nelson in THE GHOST RIDER (Argosy/Superior, 1935) which starred Rex Lease.
(From Old Corral collection)
Above - Julian Rivero is the Spanish-garbed gent on the far left. William Desmond and Earl Dwire are in the darkened doorway. Blackie Whiteford is restraining hero Tom Tyler, and burly Dick Alexander has the butt of his six-shooter aimed at Tom's head. The heroine is Jean Carmen, who would later change her screen name to Julia Thayer and become the rider of the titled horse in Republic's cliffhanger, THE PAINTED STALLION (Republic, 1937). Prone on the step is Hank Bell, minus his usual moustache. From Tyler's BORN TO BATTLE (Reliable, 1935).
(From Old Corral collection)
Above is a crop from a lobby card from ROGUE OF THE RANGE (A. W. Hackel/Supreme, 1936) starring Johnny Mack Brown. From L-to-R are Tex 'Squint' Palmer, Jack Rockwell, and Blackie Whiteford. The lobby card is shown below.
(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, Jack Rockwell, Blackie Whiteford (in purple shirt), Art (Arturo) Felix, unidentified player (behind Brown), Brown and George Ball.
(Image courtesy of Carol Murray and her "Jack Hendricks Photo Album")
From left to right are Edward Nugent, Jack Hendricks, George Cleveland and Blackie Whiteford in RIO GRANDE ROMANCE (Victory, 1936).
(Courtesy of Ed Tabor)
Above from L-to-R are Roy Bucko, Al Bridge, Marion Weldon, Art Mix (George Kesterson) and Blackie Whiteford in a scene from DODGE CITY TRAIL (Columbia, 1936), which starred Charles Starrett.