Back to prior page

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)
Ethan Laidlaw

Full name:
Ethan Allen Laidlaw
Allen Ethan Laidlaw

1899 - 1963

Left - Laidlaw with his normal mustache and beard stubble.

Ethan Allen Laidlaw was born in 1899 in Butte, Montana to Charles Porter Laidlaw and Nellie Olis. When Ethan registered for the World War I draft in 1918, he was employed by the Burroughs Adding Machine Company in Butte. In the 1920 census, he was working as a Auto Repair shop machinist in Butte. In the 1940 census, he reported three years of college attendance.

How and why he wound up in Hollywoodland is a mystery. His movie career began in the mid 1920s, and he did silent westerns with Tom Mix, Bob Custer, Tom Tyler, Buzz Barton and many others. In sound films, Laidlaw was a busy guy in westerns and other movies. He was rarely credited and found his niche portraying criminals, gang members and B western henchmen.

Laidlaw successfully transitioned to television work and received many paychecks doing minor background roles in THE RIFLEMAN, HAVE GUN - WILL TRAVEL, GUNSMOKE, DEATH VALLEY DAYS, lots more ... including several dozen episodes of the Hugh O'Brian THE LIFE AND LEGEND OF WYATT EARP.

He had 500 film and TV appearances during a lengthy career that ran from about 1923 - 1963. Les Adams has him working in about 300 sound films, of which 134 are westerns and 16 are serials. His work for Republic Pictures amounts to about two dozen films during the period from 1937 - 1947, and that number includes one serial and 18 westerns.

I couldn't recall seeing Laidlaw without his usual mustache. But I spotted him clean shaven and without his 'stache in "The Buntline Special", an episode from season 5 of TV's THE LIFE AND LEGEND OF WYATT EARP.

Based on census and death certificate information, Laidlaw was married three times and there were no children.

He passed away on May 25, 1963 from a heart attack/coronary blockage at the Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital.

His military service is a question mark. At the Find A Grave website link below, the marker for Laidlaw has him as a World War II veteran in the U. S. Navy reserve. He may have served reserve time in California, but doubtful that he was on overseas duty due to his age and the significant quantity of his film roles during World War II years. The information might be incorrect and Laidlaw may have done Navy duty during or after World War I. But in the 1930 census, he answered "No" to the are you a military veteran question.

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

Boyd Magers has a biography of Ethan Laidlaw on his Western Clippings website:

Laidlaw did appear in about a half dozen of the Three Stooges comedies:

(From Old Corral collection)

Above is a copy of a lobby card from FUGITIVE FROM SONORA (Republic, 1943) showing Lynn Merrick, star Don Barry and baddie Ethan Laidlaw (with his mustache, but no beard stubble).

The Family Search website (free),, ProQuest obituaries, California Death Index, and the death certificate provide more information on Ethan Laidlaw and family:

Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website has a picture of the marker for Ethan A. Laidlaw at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California. His marker shows S1 USNR, WORLD WAR II (which appears to be Seaman First Class, Naval Reserve):

His first wife Mildred Carter Laidlaw passed away on March 25, 1947, and she is also interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California:

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above are Ethan Laidlaw and Jack Perrin in a lobby card for RAINBOW RIDERS (Reliable, 1934), one of the Bud 'n' Ben featurettes/shorts which co-starred rotund Benny Corbett (photo inset, upper left). Standing between Laidlaw and Perrin is Mack V. Wright. In addition to some acting jobs, Wright spent time behind the camera as the director of oaters such as the Three Mesquiteers' ROARIN' LEAD and RIDERS OF THE WHISTLING SKULL, and was co-director/assistant director/second unit director on THE VIGILANTES ARE COMING and THE GREAT ADVENTURES OF WILD BILL HICKOK serials, several of the Rough Riders films, and more.

(From Old Corral collection)

Left to right are 'Big Boy' Williams, Ethan Laidlaw, Harry Carey and Hoot Gibson in a lobby card from POWDERSMOKE RANGE (RKO, 1935). In this, Laidlaw had a credited role as no-good 'Fin Sharkey'.

(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 Starrett's SPOILERS OF THE RANGE (Columbia, 1939).

(From Old Corral collection)

Above is a 1953 re-release lobby card from the Three Mesquiteers THE NIGHT RIDERS (Republic, 1939). From left to right are Max Terhune, Ray Corrigan, John Wayne, Kermit Maynard, Ethan Laidlaw (kneeling), and grounded on the far right is Tom Tyler. Crop/blowup below showing Kermit Maynard, Ethan Laidlaw and Tom Tyler.

(Courtesy of Belinda Kirkhuff)

Above is a still from the Don Barry THE TULSA KID (Republic, 1940). From left to right are Matty Roubert, Fred 'Snowflake' Toones, Luana Walters, Ethan Laidlaw, George Douglas, Noah Beery Sr., John Beach and Jack Kirk.

(Courtesy of Ken Jones)

L-to-R are Charles Soldani (AKA Chief Soldani), Emile Avery and Ethan Laidlaw in a scene from the Charles Starrett oater, HORSEMEN OF THE SIERRAS (Columbia, 1949).

Back to prior page