Jack Elam


Jack Elam Biography

William Scott Elam, known as Jack Elam (November 13, 1920 - October 20, 2003), was an American film and television actor best known for his numerous roles as villains in Western films and, later in his career, comedies (sometimes spoofing his villainous image). His most distinguishing physical quality was his lazy left eye. Before his career in acting, he took several jobs in finance and served two years in the United States Navy during World War II.

Elam played in 73 movies, and made an appearance in 41 television series. His best known works consist of Once Upon A Time In The West, High Noon and the television program, The Twilight Zone.

Jack Elam died in 2003 of congestive heart failure, leaving behind two daughters and one son.

Early life

Elam was born in Miami in Gila County in south central Arizona, to Millard Elam and Alice Amelia Kirby. His mother died in 1922 when Jack was two years old. By 1930, he was living with his father, older sister Mildred, and their stepmother, Flossie Varney Elam.

He grew up picking cotton and lost the sight in his left eye during a boyhood accident when he was stabbed with a pencil at a Boy Scout meeting. He was a student at both Miami High School in Gila County and Phoenix Union High School in Maricopa County, graduating from there in the late 1930s.

Elam attended Santa Monica Junior College in California. After that, he worked as a bookkeeper at the Bank of America in Los Angeles and as an auditor for the Standard Oil Company. In World War II, he served two years in the United States Navy and subsequently became an independent accountant in Hollywood; one of his clients was movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn. At one time, he was the manager of the Bel Air Hotel in Los Angeles.

Acting career

In 1949, Elam made his debut in She Shoulda Said No!, an exploitation film where a chorus girl's marijuana smoking ruins her career and drives her brother to suicide. He appeared mostly in westerns and gangster films playing villains. Elam made multiple guest star appearances in many popular Western television series in the 1950s and 1960s, including "Gunsmoke", "The Rifleman", "Lawman", "Bonanza", "Cheyenne", "Have Gun Will Travel", "Zorro", "The Lone Ranger", "The Rebel", "F Troop" and "Rawhide". In 1961, Elam played a slightly crazed character in an episode of The Twilight Zone entitled "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?." In April 1966 Jack Elam co-starred with Clint Walker in the western The Night of The Grizzly.

In 1963, Elam got a rare chance to play the good guy, Deputy U.S. Marshal and reformed gunfighter J. D. Smith in the ABC/Warner Brothers series, The Dakotas, a television western that ran for only nineteen episodes. He played George Taggart, a gunslinger-turned-marshal in the NBC/WB western series, Temple Houston, with Jeffrey Hunter in the title role. Elam got this part after James Coburn declined the role; the series ran for only twenty-six weeks.

In 1968, Elam had an amusing cameo in Sergio Leone's celebrated spaghetti western Once Upon a Time in the West, where he was one of a trio of gunslingers sent to kill Charles Bronson's character. Elam spent a good part of the scene trying to trap an annoying fly in his gun barrel. In 1969, he was given his first comedic role in Support Your Local Sheriff!, which was followed two years later by Support Your Local Gunfighter; both were opposite James Garner, after which he found his villainous parts dwindling and his comic roles increasing. (Both films were also directed by Burt Kennedy, who saw Elam's potential as a comedian and would direct him a total of 15 times in features and television.) In between those two films, he also played a comically cranky old coot opposite John Wayne in Howard Hawks's Rio Lobo (1970).

In 1979, he was cast"?ideally, some said"?as the Frankenstein monster in the CBS sitcom Struck by Lightning, but the show was cancelled after only three episodes.

In 1981, Elam played an eccentric doctor in the movie The Cannonball Run as Doctor Nikolas Van Helsing.

In 1984, Elam once again returned in the sequel The Cannonball Run II.

In 1985, Elam played Charlie in The Aurora Encounter. During this film Elam made a lifelong relationship with an 11-year-old boy named Mickey Hays, who suffered from progeria. As shown in the documentary I Am Not a Freak viewers see how close Elam and Hays really were. Elam said, "You know I've met a lot of people, but I've never met anybody that got next to me like Mickey."

In 1986, Elam also co-starred on the short-lived comedy series Easy Street as Alvin "Bully" Stevenson, the down-on-his-luck uncle of Loni Anderson's character, L. K. McGuire.

In 1988, Elam co-starred with Willie Nelson in the movie "Where The Hell's That Gold?"

In 1994, Elam was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.

In a wry and oft repeated comment on Hollywood superficiality, attributed first to Hugh O'Brian, Elam classified the stages of a moderately successful actor's life, as defined by the way a film director refers to the actor suggested for a part. (He said this on a George Plimpton ABC documentary about the making of Rio Lobo; Ricardo Montalbn would later use the recitation numerous times, with his own name, in speeches.)

Stage 1: "Who is Jack Elam?"
Stage 2: "Get me Jack Elam."
Stage 3: "I want a Jack Elam type."
Stage 4: "I want a younger Jack Elam."
Stage 5: "Who is Jack Elam?"

Personal life and death

He was married twice, first to Jean Elam from 1937 to her death in 1961 and second, Margaret Jennison from 1961 until his death in 2003. Elam had two daughters, Jeri Elam and Jacqueline Elam, and a son, Scott Elam. Elam died in Ashland, Oregon, of congestive heart failure, a month before he would have turned 83.

Filmography

See Jack Elam filmography for more information




This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Jack_Elam" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.
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