To Henchie Homepage            Go to next page

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.


Above are crops from 1914 theater ads for two of the Mona Darkfeather and Art Ortega two-reel shorts.

The above is from the July 7, 1917 New York Clipper theatrical trade publication. The June, 1917 marriage of Ortego to cowgirl and equestrienne Billie Mack was held during a performance of the Pawnee Bill Wild West Show at Coney Island, New York. There was more about the nuptuals in the July 24, 1917 issue of The Moving Picture World magazine - Pawnee Bill gave the bride away. 'Billie Mack' was a stage name and her real name was Myrtle Gibbs. Appears the pairing was short-lived as Artie listed himself as single in the 1920 census.
About Art/Artie Ortega becoming Art/Artie Ortego:

In her Hollywood Posse book, Diana Serra Cary always refers to Artie as Ortega. Gary Wilcut was not aware of any family discussions on the name change to Ortego.

Art was Ortego on his World War I draft registration and that continued into later census records, voter registrations, and World War II draft registration.

Another mystery that we can't solve.

Artie Ortega / Artie Ortego

Other name variations:
Art Ardigan, Art Ortega, Art Ortego

Full name: Arthur Andrew Ortega

1890?- 1960

His birth name was Arthur Andrew Ortega, but to B western lovers, he was Artie/Art Ortego.

His film work begins around 1912. During those early years - and most often billed as Art Ortega - he appeared in dozens of silent two-reel "Indian Features" which were released by Bison, Universal, and Kalem. Princess Mona Darkfeather was the star and the shorts were produced by her husband, Frank E. Montgomery. When Montgomery shifted the productions to Kalem, Artie went along.

From the October 4, 1913 issue of Motography: "Art Ortega, that capital impersonator of Indian parts, goes with Frank Montgomery to the Kalem. Ortega has always been a part of Montgomery's company and his step seems a natural one."

The Darkfeather/Ortega series ended around late 1914, and for the next fifteen or so years, Artie did occasional films including a few serials as well as oaters with Bill Cody, Jack Hoxie, Fred Church, Bob Custer, others. To fill in time between sporadic movie roles, he toured with the Pawnee Bill Wild West Show or other circus or carnival show. He was at Coney Island, New York in the Summer of 1917 for his marriage to cowgirl Billie Mack during a Pawnee Bill Wild West Show performance.

His Hollywood work load increased when talkies arrived, and he became a familiar face in the B western. He specialized in portraying Native Americans - or picked up a payday as a henchman, posse rider, townsman, barfly, or stage driver. And most of his film appearances were uncredited/unbilled.

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."

Artie was covered in a January, 1936 "Screen Life in Hollywood" column: "Artie Ortego is, perhaps, the first man to play three parts in one film in 20 years. His trio of appearances in 'Treachery Rides the Trail' was quite accidental. Being a horseman, Ortego played a cowboy in one sequence. When the director needed an expert archer, later, Ortego was the only one immediately available. A few scenes later, he was pressed into service again, as a buffalo hunter. Make-up and costumes changed Ortego's appearance so much each time that he never will be recognized." (The correct film title is Dick Foran's TREACHERY RIDES THE RANGE (Warners, 1936).)

He was one of many B western performers who migrated to television work in the 1950s, and can be spotted in episodes of BUFFALO BILL JR., KIT CARSON, THE CISCO KID, more.

Les Adams has him in 200+ sound films and that number includes 187 westerns and 14 serials. He most often appeared in oaters (and western themed serials) with Johnny Mack Brown (34 films), Tim McCoy (20), and John Wayne (15, including STAGECOACH). In the 1940s, he was at PRC (in the Buster Crabbe series) and frequently employed at Monogram (with Johnny Mack Brown, Jimmy Wakely, Whip Wilson, the Trail Blazers, Cisco Kid films). During these later years, he also did seven Randolph Scott westerns.

Diana Serra Cary (child star "Baby Peggy") wrote about her father and others in the book The Hollywood Posse: The Story of a Gallant Band of Horsemen Who Made Movie History (Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1975). Diana includes much emphasis and history on her parents, the western film, and a bunch of real cowpokes who did movies. Artie was one of her father's closest friends. In the early days of Disneyland circa 1955, there were plans for a stagecoach ride as well as a trail ride on pack mules. Diana's father, Jack Montgomery, was in charge of the pack mules. The stagecoaches were miniatures, roughly 5/8ths the size of a regular stage, and they were top heavy. Ortego was one of the stage drivers, and Diana's book outlines the accident and career ending injury suffered by Artie.

From page 257 of The Hollywood Posse: "... as he was coming in to pick up passengers, the noisy onlookers terrifed his team, and they bolted. In an effort to keep the runaways from charging through the crowd and injurying hundreds of bystanders, Artie risked trying to turn them sharply out onto the track. The unwieldly little coach ... would not maneuver properly and heeled over on top of its driver." "Artie was on crutches for months and remained crippled for the rest of his life."

There were at least two marriages: in 1917, he married Pawnee Bill Wild West show cowgirl 'Billie Mack' (real name: Myrtle Gibbs). His second was to Della Saenz and daughter Elaine was born in 1920 (more on Della and Elaine in the family photo further down this webpage).

Artie Ortego passed away from a stroke on July 24, 1960 at St. Joseph's Hospital, Burbank, California. He is interred at San Fernando Mission Cemetery, Mission Hills, California.

Some biographies on Ortego mention that he was married to Mona Darkfeather. 1915 and 1919 newspaper articles, 1913-1914 blurbs in Motography, and 1917 and 1918 Studio Directories confirm that her husband was producer/director Frank Montgomery.

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

Artie Ortego:

Princess Mona Darkfeather (real name: Josephine M. Workman; 1883 - 1977):

In the Internet Movie Database "people working together" search function, there are over 40 shorts listed with Ortego and Mona Darkfeather during 1912 - 1914:,nm0650961

There's several movie stills of Ortego on Flickr, but no mention of the film titles:

The Family Search website (free), (subscription), and the California Death Index provide more on Artie Ortego and family:

Find A Grave website notes that Artie Ortego is interred at San Fernando Mission Cemetery, Mission Hills, California:

Special thanks to Gary Wilcut for the photos of Artie from his family album. Artie's mother Rosa Ortega was Gary's great grandmother.

(Image courtesy of Gary Wilcut)

Written on the back of this photo: "Della & Arthur Ortega & daughter Elaine Ortega". Artie is very young (and thin) in this photo which has to be circa 1920 or so.

There's more info on Della and Elaine in the 1930 census: 30 year old Della Ortega (born California) and 10 year old daughter Elaine (born California) are among several lodgers living at 1510 Bridge Street in Los Angeles. Della was divorced and her occupation was "laborer - meat pkg":

(Image courtesy of Gary Wilcut)

Above - Artie in front of a furnished structure in his back yard which was the size of a two car garage. He called it "The Bunk House" and unemployed actor friends stayed there when down on their luck.

(Image courtesy of Gary Wilcut)

(Image courtesy of Gary Wilcut)

(Image courtesy of Gary Wilcut)

To Henchie Homepage            Go to next page