Jack Elam


Actor

About

Birth Place
Miami, Arizona, USA
Born
November 13, 1920
Died
October 20, 2003
Cause of Death
Unspecified Illness

Biography

Lean, eminently reliable veteran Hollywood player whose crookedly menacing face with its roving, sightless left eye helped him carve a niche as a villain in numerous Westerns and crime dramas since the 1950s, and later as a reliably comedic presence in his golden years. The actor's trademark cockeye was the result of a childhood fight in Phoenix after a fellow Boy Scout stabbed him in th...

Family & Companions

Margaret Elam
Wife
Second wife; married in 1961.

Notes

Elam was described by one film critic as "the roughest, meanest, dirtiest heavy ever to cast a shadow across a movie-lot cowtown."

Lost sight in left eye due to childhood fight.

Biography

Lean, eminently reliable veteran Hollywood player whose crookedly menacing face with its roving, sightless left eye helped him carve a niche as a villain in numerous Westerns and crime dramas since the 1950s, and later as a reliably comedic presence in his golden years.

The actor's trademark cockeye was the result of a childhood fight in Phoenix after a fellow Boy Scout stabbed him in the left eye with a pencil during a scrape at a troop meeting. After working as a theater manager, hotel manager and bookkeeper and accountant for film producers including Samuel Goldwyn, Elam was given his first acting job by producer George Templeton and made his debut in "Wild Weed" (1949). He helped raise financing for the film, "The Sundowners" (1950) in exchange for an sizable acting role in the film; later a tough-guy part in 1951's "Rawhide," starring Tyrone Power, helped make him a star. He soon became a familiar face, usually playing either a heavy or a cantankerous supporting player, such as dirty old men and harmless drunks with a wry bent in comedies like "Support Your Local Sheriff" and "The Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County." His more than 80 feature films include memorable performances in "High Noon" (1952), "The Far Country" (1955), "Kiss Me Deadly" (1955), "Once Upon a Time in the West" (1969), "Rio Lobo" (1970), "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid" (1973), and "The Cannonball Run" (1980) and its 1982 sequel.

Elam appeared on over twenty episodes of "Gunsmoke" during the 1950s and 60s and was featured on the Western series, "The Dakotas" (1963), "Temple Houston" (1963-64) and "The Texas Wheelers" (1974-75), as well as several telepics based on Louis L'Amour novels and various 1990s revivals of the classic series "Bonanza." In later years he starred in such short-lived fare as the Frankenstein-inspired sit-com "Struck by Lightning" (1979), the p.i. series "Detective in the House" (1985) and the comedy "Easy Street" (1986-87) opposite Loni Anderson.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Big Guns Talk: The Story of the Western (1997)
Bonanza: Under Attack (1995)
Uninvited (1993)
Grady
Shadow Force (1993)
Bonanza: The Return (1993)
Suburban Commando (1991)
The Giant of Thunder Mountain (1991)
Big Bad John (1990)
Hawken's Breed (1989)
Tackett
Once Upon a Texas Train (1988)
Where the Hell's That Gold?!!? (1988)
Louis L'Amour's Down the Long Hills (1986)
The Aurora Encounter (1986)
Cannonball Run II (1984)
Jinxed! (1982)
Jack
The Cannonball Run (1981)
The Villain (1979)
The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979)
Hot Lead and Cold Feet (1978)
Grayeagle (1978)
Trapper Willis
The Norseman (1978)
Dath Dreamer
Lacy and the Mississippi Queen (1978)
Willie Red Fire
The Creature From Black Lake (1976)
Hawmps (1976)
Bad Jack Cutter
The New Daughters of Joshua Cabe (1976)
Bitterroot
The Winds of Autumn (1976)
Pony Express Rider (1976)
Huckleberry Finn (1975)
A Knife For the Ladies (1974)
Sidekicks (1974)
Shootout In A One Dog Town (1973)
Handy
The Red Pony (1973)
Grandfather
Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973)
Hannie Caulder (1972)
Frank [Clemens]
The Daughters of Joshua Cabe (1972)
The Last Rebel (1971)
Matt Graves
Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971)
Jug May
The Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County (1970)
Kittrick
Rio Lobo (1970)
Phillips
Dirty Dingus Magee (1970)
John Wesley Hardin
Once Upon a Time in the West (1969)
Knuckles
Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969)
Jake
The Over-the-Hill Gang (1969)
Firecreek (1968)
Norman
Never a Dull Moment (1968)
Ace Williams
The Last Challenge (1967)
Ernest Scarnes
The Way West (1967)
Weatherby
The Rare Breed (1966)
Deke Simons
The Night of the Grizzly (1966)
Hank
4 for Texas (1963)
Dobie
The Comancheros (1961)
Horseface
The Last Sunset (1961)
Editor Hobbs
Pocketful of Miracles (1961)
Cheesecake
The Girl in Lovers Lane (1960)
Jesse
Edge of Eternity (1959)
Bill Wardrobe
The Gun Runners (1958)
Arnold
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957)
Tom McLowery
Lure of the Swamp (1957)
Henry Bliss
Dragoon Wells Massacre (1957)
Tioga
Night Passage (1957)
Shotgun
Baby Face Nelson (1957)
Fatso Nagel
Pardners (1956)
Pete
Artists and Models (1956)
Ivan
Jubal (1956)
McCoy
Thunder over Arizona (1956)
Slats Callahan
Man Without a Star (1955)
Grifter
Moonfleet (1955)
Damen
Tarzan's Hidden Jungle (1955)
Burger
The Man from Laramie (1955)
Chris Boldt
The Far Country (1955)
Newberry
Wichita (1955)
Al
Kiss Me Deadly (1955)
Charlie Max
Kismet (1955)
Hasan-Ben
Ride Clear of Diablo (1954)
Tim Lowerie
Cattle Queen of Montana (1954)
Yost
Jubilee Trail (1954)
Whitey
Princess of the Nile (1954)
Basra
Vera Cruz (1954)
Tex
Appointment in Honduras (1953)
Castro
Count the Hours (1953)
Max Verne
The Moonlighter (1953)
Strawboss
Ride, Vaquero! (1953)
Barton
Gun Belt (1953)
Kolloway
High Noon (1952)
Charlie
Montana Territory (1952)
Gimp
Kansas City Confidential (1952)
Pete Harris
The Battle at Apache Pass (1952)
Mescal Jack
My Man and I (1952)
Celestino Garcia
Lure of the Wilderness (1952)
Dave Longden
The Ring (1952)
Harry Jackson
Rancho Notorious (1952)
Mort Geary
Finders Keepers (1952)
Eddie
The Bushwackers (1952)
Rawhide (1951)
Tevis
The Bushwhackers (1951)
Cree
Bird of Paradise (1951)
The Trader
Key to the City (1950)
Councilman
One Way Street (1950)
Arnie
High Lonesome (1950)
Smiling Man
American Guerrilla in the Philippines (1950)
The Speaker
The Sundowners (1950)
Earl Boyce
Love That Brute (1950)
Gunman
A Ticket to Tomahawk (1950)
Fargo

Cast (Special)

Ride a Northbound Horse (1987)
Sheriff
Scrooge's Rock 'n' Roll Christmas (1984)
Scrooge
Sawyer and Finn (1983)
Legends of the West: Truth and Tall Tales (1981)
Skyward Christmas (1981)
Clay Haller
The Revenge of Red Chief (1979)
The Ransom of Red Chief (1977)
Sam
Cat Ballou (1971)
Six Guns for Donegan (1959)
Clinton (Guest)

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

The Girl, the Gold Watch & Dynamite (1981)
Louis L'Amour's The Sacketts (1979)

Life Events

1936

Became an accountant for Standard Oil; worked as accountant, controller, bookkeeper and independent auditor

1947

Worked as bookkeeper for Samuel Goldwyn and controller for "Hopalong Cassidy" films (date approximate)

1949

Film acting debut in "Wild Weed"

1963

TV series debut, "The Dakotas"

1969

TV movie debut, "The Over-the-Hill-Gang"

1973

Cast in the feature "Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid"

1977

Featured in the television mini-series "How The West Was Won"

1979

Potrayed the character Big Mack in "The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again"

1980

Cast in the comedy feature "The Cannon Ball Run"

1986

Co-starred in the comedy series "Easy Street"

1993

Had a memorable part in the television western "Bonanza"

Videos

Movie Clip

Wichita (1955) - My Name's Earp, Wyatt Earp Having been spied in silhouette in the opening scene, the star (Joel McCrea) introduces himself to the cattlemen, Walter Sande as the boss Wallace, Robert Wilke as Ben Thompson, Rayford Barnes as gun-curious Clements and Lloyd Bridges as Gyp, in Wichta, 1955, from producer Walter Mirisch, original story and screenplay by Daniel B. Ullman.
Jubal (1956) - They'll Steal You Blind Director Delmer Daves introduces key characters, as new ranch foreman Glenn Ford (title character) has to intervene when Pinky (Rod Steiger) and friends tangle with a caravan of Christian pilgrims (Basil Ruysdael as Shem Hoktor, Felicia Farr his daughter, Charles Bronson riding shotgun), in Jubal, 1956.
4 For Texas (1963) - Open, We're The Good Guys All action opening, Robert Aldrich directing, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin are among the stagecoach passengers, Dean narrating, and Charles Bronson leading the pursuit, including Jack Elam, also Percy Helton fretting on board, in the partial-Rat Pack comic-Western 4 For Texas, 1964, co-starring Anita Ekberg and Ursula Andress.
Kansas City Confidential - You Are From Tijuana? Framed Joe (John Payne) arrives with new friend Helen (Coleen Gray, her first scene, whom we will learn is the daughter of the master criminal) at the resort where Kane (Neville Brand) and Romano (Lee Van Cleef) realize he's taken the identity of their fellow hood, Teresa (Dona Drake) greeting, in Phil Karlson's Kansas City Confidential, 1952.
Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969) - We're On The Same Side Now... Still on his first day in the new job as sheriff, McCullough (James Garner) takes a warning from Jake (Jack Elam) in stride as he proceeds to arrest the troublesome Joe Danby (Bruce Dern) in Support Your Local Sheriff!, 1969.
Firecreek (1968) - An Honorary Position Part-time sheriff Cobb (James Stewart) confronts visiting thug Earl (Gary Lockwood) and meets the injured gang-leader Larkin (Henry Fonda), hoping to avoid trouble in Firecreek, 1968.
Firecreek (1968) - Lost Our Bearings Outlaws Norman (Jack Elam) and Earl (Gary Lockwood) are closing in on innocent Leah (Brooke Bundy) when their boss Larkin (Henry Fonda) rides up, early in Firecreek, 1968.
My Man and I (1952) - Open, Wonderful System Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler's famous "Stormy Weather," plays, providing the film's title as star Ricardo Montalban appears with both legit (Jose Torvay, Pascual Garcia Pena) and otherwise (Jack Elam) Hispanic pals, in the opening from My Man and I, 1952.
My Man and I (1952) - Do Not Jump On Conclusions Between-season fruit-picker buddies (Pascual Garcia Pena, Carlos Conde, Juan Torena, Jack Elam) are playing poker when harder-working Chu Chu (Ricardo Montalban) and friend Nancy (Shelley Winters) come looking for a loan from his cousin Manuel (Jose Torvay) in My Man and I, 1952.
Moonlighter, The (1953) - You Got The Wrong Man Early events, cowboy Wes (Fred MacMurray) rightly jailed for night-time rustling, protests but not enough when the locals mistake Tidy (Norman Leavitt) for him, slipping away in the aftermath, in the Barbara Stanwyck 3-D Western The Moonlighter, 1953.
Silent Partner, The -- (TV Clip) You're A Natural! Now made up to look at least 30-years younger, director Arthur Vale (Joe E. Brown) and silent star Kelsey Dutton (Buster Keaton) in a flashback, recounting their meeting on a movie set, in the Screen Director's Playhouse program The Silent Partner, 1955.
Last Rebel, The (1971) - What Took You So Long? Inappropriate language and music not much better but, recently paroled Confederates Hollis (Joe Namath) and Graves (Jack Elam) see fit to liberate slave Duncan (Woody Strode), about to be lynched, in The Last Rebel, 1971.

Trailer

Pocketful Of Miracles (1961) -- (Original Trailer) Bette Davis plays Apple Annie in Frank Capra's last movie, Pocketful Of Miracles (1961).
Firecreek - (Original Trailer) A pacifist sheriff (James Stewart) must use tougher means when his town is threatened by a band of outlaws in Firecreek (1968) co-starring Henry Fonda.
Count The Hours - (Original Trailer) A lawyer (MacDonald Carey) defends a migrant worker in a sensational murder trial in Don Siegel's Count The Hours (1953).
Last Sunset, The - (Original Trailer) A sheriff (Rock Hudson) finds the outlaw (Kirk Douglas) he's hunting leading a cattle drive and decides to help him before arresting him in Robert Aldrich's The Last Sunset (1961).
Far Country, The -- (Original Trailer) Two cowboys on the road to Alaska help a wagon train in trouble in Anthony Mann's The Far Country (1955) starring James Stewart.
Rare Breed, The - (Original Trailer) In this Western with breeding, James Stewart and Maureen O'Hara fight to take a rare English bull to Texas in The Rare Breed (1966).
Night Passage - (Original Trailer) James Stewart's guarding the railroad's money and his brother Audie Murphy is out to take it in the western adventure Night Passage (1957).
Support Your Local Gunfighter - (Original Trailer) When a con man (James Garner) sneaks off a train, he's mistaken for a gunman in Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971).
Moonfleet - (Original Trailer) A British buccaneer (Stewart Granger) is torn among three seductive women in Fritz Lang's Moonfleet (1955).
Last Challenge, The - (British Trailer) A young gun wants to make his name by shooting it out with the town marshal (Glenn Ford) in The Last Challenge (1967), here under its British title The Pistolero of Red River.
Vera Cruz - (Original Trailer) During the Mexican Revolution, rival mercenaries team up to steal a fortune in gold in Vera Cruz (1954) starring Gary Cooper.
Rancho Notorious - (Original Trailer) A cowboy (Arthur Kennedy) infiltrates a bandit hideaway - the Chuck-a-Luck - in search of his girlfriend's killer in Rancho Notorious (1952), Fritz Lang's cult Western featuring Marlene Dietrich in one of her definitive screen portrayals.

Companions

Margaret Elam
Wife
Second wife; married in 1961.

Bibliography

Notes

Elam was described by one film critic as "the roughest, meanest, dirtiest heavy ever to cast a shadow across a movie-lot cowtown."

Lost sight in left eye due to childhood fight.