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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.


Herman Hack

Real name:
Herman H. Hackenjos

1899 - 1967


appeared in at least 381 westerns and 20 serials


In 2004, I connected with Dorothy Hack Burnette Babcock, Herman Hack's daughter. And special thanks to Dorothy for info and photos of her family. She and hubby Robert Babcock live in California.



(Courtesy of Dorothy Hack)

Above is a 1920s photo of Herman with his brothers Ben and Andrew at home in Indiana. That's Herman on the right wearing the glasses.


(Courtesy of Dorothy Hack)

Above - 2002 photo of Dorothy (left) and her sister Kay (right).

Herman Hackenjos was born June 15, 1899. Some biographies have his birth location as Panola, Illinois. However, Herman reported Gridley, Illinois on his World War II draft registration. Not a major issue - the driving distance between Gridley and Panola is about eleven miles.

Veterans Administration records indicate he served with an Army Cavalry troop circa World War I but am unsure if he went overseas and saw action.

Les Adams has prolific performer Herman Hack identified in 400+ sound era films, and that number includes appearances in 381 westerns and 20 chapterplays. Les adds that Hack did it all - henchman, townsman, barfly, posse rider and rope-holder in a lynch mob, and most of his movie work was uncredited.

As the B western faded away, Hack migrated to television work and he can be spotted in episodes of many TV shows including THE GENE AUTRY SHOW, THE RANGE RIDER, ANNIE OAKLEY, BUFFALO BILL JR., HAVE GUN - WILL TRAVEL, THE BIG VALLEY, GUNSMOKE, more. He also did an occasional A grade film. Example: Herman was one of the church elders in the Gary Cooper FRIENDLY PERSUASION (Allied Artists, 1956).

His film and TV career spanned about 35 years, from about 1931 through the mid 1960s.

I asked Herman's daughter Dorothy about the Hackenjos last name ... she noted "that dad had to cut it down as they would ask him how to spell his name ... so he put "Hack" and that is how he was known in the business for years."

Dorothy noted that much of the Hack/Hackenjos family are in Indiana (Bluffton, Berne, Morton, Ft. Wayne).

She also mentioned that prolific supporting actor Jack 'Pappy' Kirk was Herman's best friend and the best man at the wedding of Herman and Signe in May, 1932. Other close friends included Bob Steele, Al Haskell, and the brothers Roy and Buck Bucko.

On October 19, 1967, Herman passed away from a heart attack at his home.

  Although some of the data may be incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Herman Hack: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0352368/

The Family Search website (free), Ancestry.com (subscription), Fold3 Military records, California Death Index, and newspapers have information on Herman Hack and family:

  • 1900 census summary and census takers worksheet has "Hockingose" as the family name. Living in Panola Township, Woodford county, Illinois 37 Andrew Hockingose [sic](born Germany; occupation "Farmer"), his 32 year old wife Elizabeth (born Germany), 4 year old son Andrew (born Illinois), 3 year old son Benjamin (born Illinois), and 1 year old son Herman (born June, 1899 in Illinois): https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MSC8-NJN
  • 1920 census summary and census takers worksheet - Herman Hackenjos (born about 1899 in Illinois) is a "Hired man" working for farmer Osee B. Mason in Umatilla, Oregon. The birthplace of Herman's parents was Germany: https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M4ZR-56W
  • May 7, 1932 Los Angeles County marriage license of 32 year old Herman Hackenjos (born Illinois; occupation "Actor") to 34 year old Signe Axelia Newberg (born Sweden; occupation "Cook"). This was the first marriage for both. His parents were Andrew Hackenjos and Elisabeth Gramm (both born in Germany). B western performer Jack Kirk (John A. Kirkhuff) was one of the witnesses:
    https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L93H-WQT5?mode=g&i=1062&cc=1804002
    https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-893H-W7ZB?mode=g&i=1063&cc=1804002
  • Ancestry had the July 7, 1932 Petition for Citizenship of Signe Axelia Hackenjos which was filed at District Court, Los Angeles, California. Signe Axelia Johansson was born January 23, 1898 in Larf, Sweden and migrated from Sweden and arrived in New York, New York on September 11, 1923.
  • 1940 census summary and census takers worksheet - 41 year old Herman Hackenjos (born Illinois), 42 year old wife Signe (born Sweden) and 12 year old daughter Dorothy own their home at 712 North Citrus Ave. in Los Angeles, and they lived in the Los Angeles area in 1935. Herman reports his occupation as "Actor - motion pictures", and in 1939, he worked 42 weeks and earned $2100.00: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/K9CF-XZ7
  • His World War II draft was not available on Family Search but was on Fold3 Military records: 42 year old Herman Hackenjos was born June 15, 1899 in Gridley, Illinois. His contact was wife Signe and they lived at 535 N. Laurel Lane, Los Angeles. His employer was Central Casting Corp. He's 5 feet 7 1/2 inches tall and 170 pounds.
  • Ancestry had 1942-1954 Los Angeles Voter Registrations - Herman Hackenjos (occupation "actor") and Signe A. Hackenjos ("housewife") live at 535 N. Laurel Avenue, Los Angeles.
  • California Death Index has a record for Herman H. Hackenjos, born June 15, 1899 in Illinois, and he passed away October 19, 1967 in the Los Angeles area: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VP4T-KWR
  • Veterans Administration Index record for World War I veteran Herman Hackenjos, G Troop, 1st Cavalry, and he was discharged September 13, 1919. He was born June 15, 1898 and passed away October 19, 1967 in California: https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CS1J-X4Y3-M?i=2040&cc=2968245
  • October 20, 1967 edition of the Van Nuys (California) Valley News newspaper had a death notice: "... Herman Hack died yesterday at his home ..." ; "... heart attack in his home ..."

Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website has photos of the grave markers for Herman and Signe Hackenjos at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills), Los Angeles, California:
Herman Hackenjos: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/85886145/herman-hack-hackenjos
Signe Hackenjos (1898-1973): https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/105334401/signe-axelia-hackenjos





(Courtesy of Dorothy Hack)

Above are Merrill McCormick (on the left) and Herman Hack on their way to work circa mid 1930s. The street intersection may be Hollywood and Western.



(Courtesy of Dorothy Hack)

Members of the Santa Monica Mounted Police unit circa 1939-1940. The men in the photo include three western film veterans - from L-to-R are unidentified, Bob Card, Ralph 'Buck' Bucko, unidentified, unidentified, and Herman Hack.



(Courtesy of Dorothy Hack)

Above are Herman and wife Signe and daughters Dorothy (left) and Dolly Kay (right) circa 1943.


(Courtesy of Dorothy Hack)

Above is the Hack Family circa 1956 - Herman and wife Signe in the center with and daughters Dorothy (right) and Kay (left).
 

(Courtesy of Dorothy Hack)

Herman and wife Signe and daughters Kay (left) and Dorothy (right) circa 1947.



(Courtesy of Dorothy Hack)

Mid 1959 - above are Signe, Herman and daughter Dorothy working on the TV series, THE NINE LIVES OF ELFEGO BACA which starred Robert Loggia. Ten films in the Elfego Baca series were made by Disney and were initially broadcast during 1958-1960.
 

(Courtesy of Dorothy Hack)

Above are Herman and daughter Dorothy working on THE LIGHT IN THE FOREST (Disney/Buena Vista, 1958) which starred Fess Parker.



(Courtesy of Dorothy Hack)

Above from L-to-R are Smiley Burnette, Herman Hack and Rufe Davis circa mid 1950s during one of the get-togethers of the "Chuck Wagon Trailers", a bunch of veteran western film performers who met and did an annual barbecue event. For a time, Hack was the leader/coordinator of the Trailers. Both Smiley and Herman passed away in 1967.



(Courtesy of Dorothy Hack)

Above - Herman is at home in his Santa Claus suit along with his grandchildren Elizabeth and John Burnette. This photo is probably from Christmas, 1966, about a year before Herman passed away.



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