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Saddle Pals & Sidekicks

Frank Yaconelli

1898 - 1965

Special thanks to Philippe Yaconelli (Frank's son) and Ernie Yaconelli (Frank's brother) for sharing their family history, remembrances and photos with us.

Frank Yaconelli was another of the familiar and memorable B-western sidekicks --- later in this section, there are images and lobby cards of Frank as a saddle pal to Ken Maynard, Jack Randall and Tom Keene.  In addition to doing low-budget westerns, Yaconelli was often seen in A grade films.  Of those appearances, his best was probably as 'Pedro', one of the folks who were reduced in size by Albert Dekker (as the mad Dr. Thorkel) in DR. CYCLOPS (Paramount, 1940).  In films, Frank Yaconelli generally portrayed a person of Mexican or Italian heritage, and in non-westerns, he was often featured playing his concertina.

Frank Yaconelli had a life full of adventures and career variations, and a timeline and summary of events follows, much of it based on news clippings and other material from Philippe:

Half a century ago, there was Senator Joe McCarthy and his Senate Committee as well as the HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee), and their investigations included the Hollywood film industry.  This was post World War II and the "Cold War" had begun.  This was the time of the Marshall Plan, Stalin was in charge of Russia, Harry Truman was US President, and Hollywood was churning out film noir and movies about the "Red Scare".  Folks were labeled as Communists ... or pro-Communists ... or current or one-time members of the Communist party. Philippe recalls his Dad and the "Communist Witch Hunt in Hollywood":

"for some reason my dad was considered one of the bad guys (which is nonsense) and I heard bits and pieces from both of my parents commenting about this at various times -- making it extremely hard for him to be employed in Hollywood!"

Lou on the left, Frank on the right, and the performer in the center is unidentified.

This is probably a photo of their "Venetian Gypsy's" act circa 1915 or so.

(Courtesy of the Yaconelli Family)

(Courtesy of the Yaconelli Family)
World War I U. S. Army pilot Frank Yaconelli is on the right and the other man is unidentified. Frank would have been about 20 years old when this photo was taken.

(Courtesy of the Yaconelli Family)
(Courtesy of the Yaconelli Family)

Above, Nick Moro and Frank Yaconelli entertaining at a children's hospital (above left) and a military hospital (above right).

(Courtesy of the Yaconelli Family)

Above is the standard publicity still of Moro and Yaconelli circa 1940s when they had adopted a Mexican theme for their act and billed themselves using various taglines including "Those Mexican Vagabonds", "Those Two Hilarious Mexicans", "Two Gentlemen From South of the Border", more.  Their earlier act was based on an Italian theme and they billed themselves as "Italian Ambassadors of Mirth", more.

Boyd Magers included some biographical info on Frank Yaconelli in his review of Tom Keene's DRIFTIN' KID (Monogram, 1941):

"Italian born Frank Yaconelli, Tom's sidekick Lopez Mendoza, portrayed a Mexican in virtually every film he ever made. He pal'd with Ken Maynard in 1929's SENOR AMERICANO and a few more as well as four with Jack Randall and six with Keene. As Baby, Yaconelli even rode with Cisco Kid Gilbert Roland in three. His final days were spent operating a small Italian restaurant on Western Ave. in Hollywood, open only evenings for dinner where he and his wife would cook the dinners, pour the wine, wait on tables as well as pulling out his concertina to play and sing for customers. He died in '65 of lung cancer.  Badman Ace in DRIFTIN' KID is played by Frank's brother, Lou."

Les Adams has Frank Yaconelli identified in about 100 sound era films, and of that number, 43 are westerns and 2 are serials.  Les adds some additional tidbits about Lou, Frank and Nick Moro:

"There was a trio of Mexican musicians in the Phil Regan LAS VEGAS NIGHTS (Paramount, 1941).  The group consisted of Frank, Lou and Frank's vaudeville partner, Nick Moro.  Frank and Nick Moro were together in EMPTY SADDLES, ARIZONA ROUNDUP, WHERE TRAILS END, FIESTA, THEY MET IN ARGENTINA, and SLIGHTLY SCANDALOUS.  In Monogram's 1934 FLIRTING WITH DANGER, an uncredited Frank Yaconelli and Nick Moro pop up as entertainers in a South American cafe. Actually, Moro is the guitar player for dancer Maria Alba and Frank is a drunk, but Robert Armstrong, William Cagney and Edgar Kennedy break out singing "Sweet Adeline", and Moro plays the guitar for them, and Yaconelli strolls over and joins in the singing."

"He and brother Lou and Nick Moro were in a 1929 short called THE VOICE OF VAUDEVILLE, billed as the Yaconelly Brothers and called The Wandering Ministrels. I just ran across a poster (repro) from the film. Ray West and His Cocoanut Grove Orchestra were also featured."

 Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has information on:
     Frank Yaconelli:
     Lou Yaconelli:

You may also want to go to the In Search Of ... page on the Old Corral and check the California Death Records database.  There you will find a record for Frank Yaconelli, born 10/2/1898, and he passed away on 11/19/1965. There is a corresponding record in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI).

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