|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.|
|Prologue: ye Old Corral webmaster was looking through some B westerns on Amazon's Prime movie service. Found one which was originally titled OUTLAW'S HIGHWAY (1934) but was re-issued as FIGHTING FURY (Krellberg / Regal, 1935). The star was Jack King and a German shepherd pooch named Kazan. A pretty poor movie. But I was interested in both King and Kazan ... and started researching. Jack King played mostly unbilled henchies in about fifty B westerns. In addition to OUTLAW'S HIGHWAY, Kazan starred in two other 1930s dog movies. King's life and history should be pretty straight forward ... easy peasy. Boy, was I wrong.|
Chuck Anderson, April, 2020
Above - Jack King, circa 1934 in OUTLAW'S HIGHWAY (Jack D. Trop, 1934), his solo effort as a B western hero.
Above - Jack King, circa 1937, and about 43 years old.
1934 theater ad.
Tall, thinnish Jack King appeared in about fifty films from 1930 - 1942. Most were westerns - and he was generally unbilled as a henchman, rider, posse member, etc. and he may have done some stunt work. He wasn't getting big paydays from that type and quantity of movie jobs. His real life was more complex, full of twists and turns.
At the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), our B western Jack King is confused with song writer Jack King whose full name was Jack Albert King. That fellah composed many movie tunes and hits included "How Am I to Know". Composer Jack Albert King passed away at his Hollywood home on October 27, 1943.
State of Tennessee military archives have records on our guy. Burt J. King was born in 1894 in Jackson, Tennessee and enlisted in the Tennessee National Guard on July 9, 1915 in Memphis. In May, 1918, his unit sailed to Europe for World War I duty and he was a Sergeant in the 105th Field Signal Battalion. He returned to the states in Summer, 1919, rank was now Sergeant First Class, and he was honorably discharged on July 17, 1919. In addition to the Tennessee records, his World War II draft registration confirms his birth info as Jackson, Tennessee and November 11, 1894 - plus, he's 6 feet tall and 190 pounds.
In this profile - as well as various records and articles - there are several common threads. One is his Tennessee born wife Mary Reynolds and they tied the knot in 1917 ... or 1919 ... or 1926. When the 1930 census was taken, King and Mary were in Los Angeles and her father Jess Reynolds was living with them. Another consistency is King's November 11, 1894 birth date.
In the late 1920s, Hollywood trade publications and newspapers had tidbits on King, wife Mary, and their travelin' dog act:
In the early 1930s, Jack King and Mary were in sunny California. He became the owner and trainer of Kazan, a german shepherd pooch, and the dog was featured in three films for Jack D. Trop, Sherman S. Krellberg, and Sol Lesser's Principal Pictures company. All were ultra low budget and churned out for the independent market.
King was producer and star of OUTLAW'S HIGHWAY (Jack D. Trop, 1934). In 1935, Sherman S. Krellberg changed the title and released it as FIGHTING FURY (Krellberg / Regal, 1935). Didn't matter as HIGHWAY is tedious, slow, a real stinker. The only positive is veteran Tom London as a scrufty, cackling, oafish no-good working for brains heavy Philo McCullough. Recall "Teddy, that straggly Airedale" who was touring with King in the late 1920s? Teddy shows up as a ranch mutt in OUTLAW'S HIGHWAY ... and even gets billed in the opening titles and credits.
For Sol Lesser, King teamed up with prolific director Spencer Gordon Bennet for JAWS OF JUSTICE (Principal, 1933) and FEROCIOUS PAL (Principal, 1934). Those collaborations began and ended quickly ... and there was money problems:
In early 1935, Jack King was bankrupt, owed about $14,000.00, and legal wranglings included threats that Kazan would be auctioned off to pay the bills. Supporting King's effort to keep his dog were Hollywood's Mrs. Leslie Carter and Alice Brady. In May, 1935, the court ruled that Kazan would remain with King and 25% of the dog's future earnings had to be used for debt payoff.
About a year later, King established his "John King Productions" company with plans to star himself and Kazan in an eight film series called "The Phantom Trio". That didn't happen.
Early 1938 Van Nuys, California newspapers had reports of his next venture, the California Shepherdize Inc. seeing-eye dog school and kennel. A few newspaper blurbs:
Found no follow-up articles or announcements that his seeing eye dog school was operational. Probably not.
Then things got crazier. The Golden Gate International Exposition (1939 - 1940) was a World's Fair at San Francisco's Treasure Island. Also going on was the 1939 - 1940 New York World's Fair in Queens, New York. A public relations stunt to connect these Fairs was a "Pony Express" ride and tour that began in Frisco in May, 1939 and ended about 120 days later in a celebratory meetup in New York City with Mayor LaGuardia.
In charge of that Pony Express ride were Jack King and he was supported by wife Mary, relief rider Don Hackett, many horses, a trailer, etc. Along the way, they did tour stops at Ford car dealerships and 'Kazan' performed. September, 1939 newspapers had more: "Mr. and Mrs. Jack King, official 'Pony Express Riders' from the San Francisco World's Fair ..." ; "... are accompanied by their famous police dog, 'Kazan', star of the current film, 'Fighting Fury' and several other Hollywood productions."
Left is a poor quality newspaper photo of King (in buckskins and on horseback) and wife Mary as they arrive at the New York World's Fair in late September, 1939. The photo caption reads: "Chief Scout of the modern Pony Express, Jack King, hands a letter to Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia of New York City as the rider arrives at the New York World's Fair. With him is his wife, Mrs. Mary King, relief rider. Kazan, dog star of the movies and mascot of the new Pony Express, is with Mrs. King."
Circa late 1939, King and Mary were back in Los Angeles and he picks up some uncredited roles in a few more westerns.
In 1941, Kazan passed away and newspapers carried an AP Syndicated death notice: "HOLLYWOOD, Aug. 4 (1941) - Kazan, German shepherd film star of a half-decade ago, died Sunday (August 3) in the home of his master, actor and stunt man Jack King. Mr. King saw Kazan in a pound ten years ago and paid 85 cents for the pup. As the star of 'Fighting Fury' and other films the dog earned as much as $250 a day."
Wonder if Kazan and Lone Eagle were the same dog? Aaah ... a mystery that we can't solve.
As noted earlier, King was a World War I Signal Corps veteran. His World War II draft registration had him residing at Camp Ayres, Chino, California and employer was the California State Guard. And in the 1942 and 1944 California Voter Registrations, Burt J. King's occupations were "Captain" (in 1942) and "Navy Police" (in 1944). Further down this webpage is a 1942 photo of Lieutenant Burt J. King of the California State Guard. Military history indicates that Camp Ayres was originally a camp for the WPA (Work Projects Administration). During World War II, it was utilized by the California Guard and became a POW camp for German prisoners. As to that "Navy Police" occupation: probably an error; or perhaps King was mustered out circa 1943 or so because of age, and then hired as civilian police / security at military bases. Another mystery.
Around 1950, the Kings moved from Los Angeles to the Palmdale, California area. And he got involved in some politicking. April, 1952 California newspapers listed candidates for California's June 3, 1952 primary election for U. S. Congressional seats and Republican Burt John King was one of ten people running for the 21st district nomination. That district covered Lancaster and Palmdale, California. Newspapers indicated that King was a veteran of both World Wars and his platform was pro-America, anti-Communist, and anti-big labor bosses. Voters weren't impressed as he received a paltry 1792 votes in that June, 1952 primary and the Republican winner was Edgar W. Hiestand (with 29,000+ votes).
Then we find Burt John King (1894 - 1966) and Mary E. King (1897 - 1973) spending their later years in Arkansas. Both passed away there and are interred at Dennard Cemetery, Dennard, Van Buren County, Arkansas.
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Jack King. But the birth and death info is incorrect - is showing the October, 1943 death of song writer Jack Albert King: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0454792/
The Internet Movie Database has info on Kazan: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1548882/
On the trail of Burt John King / Jack King
Found no birth info or early 1900s census records on King and family. The earliest info on King were World War I Army service details at the State of Tennessee Archives. And in the 1930 and 1940 census, King's an actor.
Marriage strangeness - there's three marriage licenses for King and Mary Reynolds. Did they marry, divorce, re-marry, divorce, and re-marry a third time?
In addition to World War I service in the 105th Field Signal Battalion, King's World War II draft registration has him doing some type of military, security or police duty. And in the 1942 and 1944 California Voter Registrations, his occupation is "Captain" and "Navy Police".
Ancestry.com had many California Voter Registrations, some of which list occupations. Most have their home address as 1830 North Cahuenga Boulevard, Los Angeles, which ties back to King's World War II draft registration:
In that 1950 voter registration above, King and wife Mary resided in the Palmdale, California precinct. April, 1952 California newspapers listed candidates for California's June 3, 1952 primary election for U. S. Congressional seats and Republican Burt John King was one of ten people running for the 21st district nomination. That district covered Lancaster and Palmdale, California. Newspaper reports indicated that King's platform was pro-America, anti-Communist, and anti-big labor bosses. Voters weren't impressed as he received a paltry 1792 votes in that June, 1952 primary (and the Republican winner was Edgar W. Hiestand with 29,000+ votes).
California Digital Newspaper collection has an April 16, 1952 newspaper with a list of candidates for the June, 1952 California primary election - Republican Burt John King from West Lancaster, California was running in the 21st district: https://cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=SCS19520416.1.6&srpos=1&e=-------en--20--1--txt-txIN-%22burt+john+king%22-------1
Find A Grave website has photos of the markers for Burt John King and Mary E. King at Dennard Cemetery, Dennard, Van Buren County, Arkansas:
His marker reads: "Burt John King, Tennessee, Sergeant First Class, 105 Field Signal Battalion, World War I, November 11, 1894 - December 28, 1966": https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/14340880/burt-john-king
More on Dennard Cemetery, Dennard, Van Buren County, Arkansas at the Arkansas GenWeb: http://www.argenweb.net/vanburen/cemetery/cemdenna.htm
I did contact the Searcy County, Arkansas library. They did not find an obituary for King, but an obit for Mary was in the local Marshall Mountain Wave newspaper - excerpt: "Mrs. Mary King, 76, passed away September 12, 1973 in the Nursing Home in Jacksonville, Arkansas. She was born July 10, 1897 in Nashville, Tennessee ...". No mention of hubby Burt or children in her obit.
March, 1942 newspapers had two different photos from this event - caption from the above photo reads: "This one-horse radio set, invented by Corp. Edwin Block of the California State Guard, is the newest gadget for Uncle Sam's fighters. Corporal Block, right, is shown explaining the new instrument to Lieut. Burt J. King ..."
In 1942, King would have been about 48 years old.
California Digital Newspaper collection has the second photo from the event: https://cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=MT19420305.1.1&
King and Kazan in newspapers, trade publications, more.
October 25, 1934 Motion Picture Daily: "Jack D. Trop has acquired ... six pictures featuring Kazan, the dog, Cactus, the horse, and John King. King is producing the features, first of which is 'Outlaw's Highway', already completed."
The deal with Jack D. Trop didn't last long, and amounted to that one film. Sherman S. Krellberg acquired OUTLAW'S HIGHWAY (1934) and released it as FIGHTING FURY (Krellberg / Regal, 1935), touting it as "THE WONDER DOG AND THE LONE RANGER in an Action-Thrill Melodrama". Above - that's Philo McCullough battlin' Kazan.
The stars of this medicocre, slow, tedious western:
KAZAN THE WONDER DOG
JOHN KING THE LONE RANGER
CACTUS THE WHITE STALLION
Remember "Teddy, a straggly Airedale" who was performing with King in Chicago in 1928 on the Cotton Theater Circuit and on tour? Teddy shows up as a ranch mutt in OUTLAW'S HIGHWAY ... and even gets billed in the opening titles and credits.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above is the pressbook cover for JAWS OF JUSTICE (Principal, 1933) which was released in December, 1933. 'Richard Terry', the hero and lead in this mountie adventure, was really Jack Perrin. Why the 'Richard Terry' alias - perhaps Perrin wanted to hide his association with this clunker.
JAWS was a "Bennett - King" production, short for the collaboration between King and prolific director Spencer Gordon Bennet.
Kazan starred in another for Sol Lesser's Principal company - FEROCIOUS PAL (Principal, 1934).
March 17, 1934 Hollywood Filmograph: "John King, owner of the famous dog Kazan, has cancelled his contract with Sol Lesser, Principal Pictures Corporation, and is not to finish what was known as the Kazan series for that organization. Mr. King is planning an entirely new series of feature pictures starring Kazan ..."
King's bankrupcy from May, 1935 newspapers.
March, 1935 newspapers: "Screen celebrities started a movement to save from the auction block one of their fellow players, Kazan, movie dog. Led by Mrs. Leslie Carter and Miss Alice Brady, the film group determined to prevent the police dog from being separated from its owner, Jack King, by bankruptcy action."
Above - 1936 trade ad for King's proposed "The Phantom Trio" series with he and Kazan as the stars. That didn't happen.
Jack King in B westerns.
Above are Jack King, Kazan and trusty steed Cactus in OUTLAW'S HIGHWAY (Jack D. Trop, 1934). Sherman S. Krellberg acquired HIGHWAY and issued it as FIGHTING FURY (Sherman S. Krellberg / Regal, 1935).
King was the producer and star of OUTLAW'S HIGHWAY (Jack D. Trop, 1934). Above is a screen capture of hero King riding Cactus in the opening scenes from FIGHTING FURY. He wore the same uniform when he portrayed gunfighter 'Slade' in Reb Russell's RANGE WARFARE (Kent, 1934) - see screen capture below.
At about 45 minutes into RANGE WARFARE (Kent, 1934), hero Reb Russell enters the saloon looking for gunslinger 'Slade'. Shots are fired and the gunman winds up face down on the barroom floor. Screen capture above of Jack King as 'Slade'.
(From Old Corral Collection)
Left to right in this lobby card from TOO MUCH BEEF (Normandy, 1936) are Frank Ellis, Jack King, hero Rex Bell and Horace Murphy. Crop/blowup below of their faces.
Left is Curley Baldwin and Jack King on the right, in a screen capture from Rex Bell's IDAHO KID (Colony, 1936).
Below - King wore the same shirt in Tim McCoy's THE TRAITOR (Puritan, 1936).
Above is a crop from the pressbook cover for Tim McCoy's THE TRAITOR (Puritan, 1936). Faces above are all Texas Rangers - left to right are Jack Rockwell (upper left), Karl Hackett (lower left), Tim McCoy, Jack King, and Hal Taliaferro.