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The 'brains' and 'action' heavies who had meaty roles and lots of dialog ... and the players who were fathers, ranch owners, lawman, mayors, judges, lawyers, storekeepers, newspaper editors, wardens, etc.

(Courtesy of Jack Tillmany)
Edward Peil

His last name is often misspelled as: Piel, Peel, Pell, etc.

Full name:
Edward John Peil
(may or may not be Sr.)

1882 or 1883 - 1958

Photo left: Edward Peil, circa 1943, and about 60 years of age.

Edward Peil was born on January 18, 1882 in Racine, Wisconsin. His parents were John H. Peil (born in Germany) and Elizabeth Peil, and Edward was one of five children. As a young man, he worked as an apprentist druggist and also graduated from Notre Dame. Marriage followed and by 1910, he and wife Henrietta were in Chicago, and Peil had made a career change to theater work. A few years later, the couple were in Hollywood.

During the silent era, he did films for director D. W. Griffith, including the role of "Evil Eye" in Griffith's BROKEN BLOSSOMS in 1919. Peil also appeared in some westerns including several opposite Tom Mix. In the sound era, he free lanced hither and yon in support/character roles at various production companies in westerns, serials and other films. His movie career spanned about forty years, from approximately 1913 - 1953, and he did 400+ movies. Les Adams has Peil identified in 220+ sound films, and that includes 108 westerns and 19 serials.

Peil was the brains heavy in a couple of John Wayne oaters, THE MAN FROM UTAH (Lone Star/Monogram, 1934) and BLUE STEEL (Lone Star/Monogram, 1934). He also had a minor role in Wayne's cliffhanger THE THREE MUSKETEERS (Mascot, 1933). Mascot boss Nat Levine employed him in other serials: THE GALLOPING GHOST (Mascot, 1931), THE DEVIL HORSE (Mascot, 1932), THE MYSTERY SQUADRON (Mascot, 1933), THE LAW OF THE WILD (Mascot, 1934), and THE PHANTOM EMPIRE (Mascot, 1935).

Peil seemed to get attached to Columbia and Charles Starrett - he appeared in fourteen Starrett sagebrush adventures during the period 1936 - 1943. In about half of those, he was a lawman. Conversely, he didn't get many paychecks at Republic Pictures. The best of his five Republic westerns is COME ON, COWBOYS! (Republic, 1937), a Three Mesquiteers yarn with Peil as the crooked half-owner of a circus.

In the 1940s, an older and balder Edward Peil was often relegated to background/bit parts and his roles were mostly mild mannered rather than villainous. During this period, you can spot him as a rancher, jailer, townsman, etc. at PRC (with Bob Steele, Buster Crabbe, George Houston, Tim McCoy) and Monogram (with the Range Busters, Rough Riders).

On the right is a screen capture from the 1919 D. W. Griffith production of BROKEN BLOSSOMS showing Edward Peil as "Evil Eye".

He was billed fifth, behind Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess, Donald Crisp and Arthur Howard.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)
From left to right are Edward Peil, Eleanor Hunt and Yakima Canutt in a scene from the John Wayne BLUE STEEL (Lone Star / Monogram, 1934). Peil was the brains heavy and billed fourth as "Edward Peil". Canutt was the "Polka Dot Bandit".

Eleanor Hunt was a Ziegfeld girl and her biggest movie role was the leading lady to Eddie Cantor in WHOOPEE! (Samuel Goldwyn, 1930). She was married several times and her husbands included Rex Lease and producer George A. Hirliman.

On the right is a screen capture from the Gene Autry cliffhanger THE PHANTOM EMPIRE (Mascot, 1935) showing J. Frank Glendon (as "Professor Beetson") and Edward Peil (wearing glasses in the role of "Dr. Cooper").

Peil was billed eleventh in this serial ... but his name was misspelled as "Edward Piel, Sr.".

That wasn't the first nor last time that Peil's name was spelled incorrectly - another example is the Charles Starrett THE COWBOY STAR (Columbia, 1936) and he is billed fifth as "Edward Piel, Sr.".

(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
From left to right are Ray 'Crash' Corrigan, Edward Peil and Tom London in a scene from the Range Busters' FUGITIVE VALLEY (Monogram, 1941). London played the marshal and Peil was the jailer.

Peil, who at the time was about 58 years old, did get opening title credit and was billed eighth as "Edward Peil Sr.".

I recently saw the Frank Capra YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU (Columbia, 1938) on Turner Classic Movies. With about five minutes left in the film, the Sycamore family is being forced to move out of their home. And who appears, helping with the move and carrying one end of a sofa out the front door? Yup - a balding Edward Peil (in an uncredited part with no dialog).

Peil didn't have the heft or viciousness of Harry Woods, Roy Barcroft, Fred Kohler or Noah Beery Sr. But during the 1930s, Edward Peil provided us with some memorable moments of skullduggery.

In later life, Peil suffered from heart disease and he passed away from a cardiac arrest on December 29, 1958 at the Motion Picture Hospital, Woodland Hills, California.

(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

From left to right in this lobby card from THE TEXAS RANGER (Columbia, 1931) are Buck Jones, Harry Woods and an unbilled Edward Peil. A few months earlier, Peil was the brains heavy in one of Jones' worst, THE AVENGER (Columbia, 1931), with Buck sporting a moustache and playing Joaquin Murieta. These two films were among the series that Jones made in the early 1930s for producer Sol Lesser.

(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

On the far left is Edward Peil and next to him is Yakima Canutt. On the right is Wayne restraining pretty Eleanor Hunt while George Hayes handles the other six gun. From BLUE STEEL (Lone Star/Monogram, 1934), probably the best of Wayne's Lone Star series of westerns. Peil was the brains heavy and Canutt was the "Polka Dot Bandit".

(Pressbook ad courtesy of Les Adams)

Above is a pressbook ad from HEROES OF THE ALAMO (1937) from producer Anthony J. Xydias and his Sunset production company. Edward Piel (another wrong spelling) was Sam Houston. In 1938, Columbia Pictures needed to fill a hole in their schedule and picked up this independent production for distribution as a Columbia film.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from left to right are bartender Ethan Laidlaw, Charles Starrett, Forbes Murray, Edward LeSaint, Edmund Cobb and Edward Peil in a scene still from Starrett's SPOILERS OF THE RANGE (Columbia, 1939).

On the trail of Edward Peil ... and his son

The Family Search website (free), California Death Index and the Death Certificate provide more about Edward Peil and family:

Find A Grave website confirms that Peil is interred at San Fernando Mission Cemetery, Mission Hills, Los Angeles County, California:

Hans Wollstein found the following on Peil's son in the 1921 Motion Picture Studio Directory and Trade Annual:

JONES, Johnny; born Beloit, WI; educated Caldwell Military Coll., NY, schools in LA; stage career: "The Barrier", "Salomy Jane" company. Screen career: Harold Bell Wright Co. ("Shepherd of the Hills"), Morosco ("The Shuttle"), Wm. Fox ("Walls of Jericho"), Edgar in Booth Tarkington "Edgar" series. Height: 4, 6. Brown hair, grey eyes. Home ad.: 4211 Delmar Ave., Los Angeles, CA.

Jack Tillmany found a photo and telephone number for Peil in the 1939 Casting Directory: he listed himself as "Edward Peil, Sr."

Doesn't appear to be too much confusion with our Edward Peil - except that he may not be Senior - just plain Edward Peil. And his acting son is probably not Junior, but is Charles Edward Peil. Methinks that "Senior" and "Junior" were added to differentiate the father and son in their Hollywood careers.

Above are photo ads for Peil father and son from the 1925 Standard Casting Directory (available at the Internet Archive).

In the early 1920s, Gertrude 'Gertie' Messinger co-starred in the "Johnny Jones" comedies for Pathe. Her brother was prolific silent screen kid star Buddie Messinger. Starring as Johnny Jones was Charles Edward Peil (1907 - 1962), Edward Peil's son. Above is a 1922 ad from Motion Picture News (available at the Internet Archive) with images of Gertrude on the left and Peil on the right.

Peil Links

  Although some of the data may be incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Edward Peil:

and the Internet Movie Database has information on Peil's actor son, Edward (1907 - 1962) (but his real name is listed as Charles Edward Peil Jr., when it probably should be Charles Edward Peil):

Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana has an alumni newsletter from March, 1959 which includes a mention of the December 29, 1958 death of Edward J. Peil, actor ... and a graduate of the class of 1904. This link is to a pdf file to download/view that newsletter. Scroll to page 37 to view the Peil death notice:
Notre Dame also has a pdf file to download/view with Peil as a guard on the 1901 football team:

Boyd Magers has a profile on Peil at his Westerns Clippings website:

Kay Shackleton's website has several photos of the young Edward Peil Jr. in EDGAR'S FEAST DAY (Goldwyn Pictures, 1921), one of the series of two-reel "Edgar Pomeroy" shorts with Peil's son billed as "Johnny Jones":

You can download or stream the D. W. Griffith BROKEN BLOSSOMS from the Internet Archive:

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