Jack Elam Poster


Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Family (2)  | Trade Mark (3)  | Trivia (13)  | Personal Quotes (4)

Overview (4)

Born in Miami, Arizona, USA
Died in Ashland, Oregon, USA  (congestive heart failure)
Birth NameWilliam Scott Elam
Height 6' (1.83 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Colorful American character actor equally adept at vicious killers or grizzled sidekicks. As a child he worked in the cotton fields. He attended Santa Monica Junior College in California and subsequently became an accountant and, at one time, manager of the Bel Air Hotel. Elam got his first movie job by trading his accounting services for a role. In short time he became one of the most memorable supporting players in Hollywood, thanks not only to his near-demented screen persona but also to an out-of-kilter left eye, sightless from a childhood fight. He appeared with great aplomb in Westerns and gangster films alike, and in later years played to wonderful effect in comedic roles.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Family (2)

Spouse Margaret M. Jennison (23 August 1961 - 20 October 2003)  (his death)  (1 child)
Jean L. Hodgert (24 August 1939 - 24 January 1961)  (her death)  (2 children)
Parents Kriby, Alice Amelia
Elam, Millard

Trade Mark (3)

His bulging eyes and unmoving left eye
Predominantly played mean, scheming henchmen in Westerns.
Gruff, yet authoritative voice

Trivia (13)

Parents are Millard Elam and Alice Amelia Kriby.
Had two daughters, Jeri Elam and Jacqueline Elam, and one son, Scott Elam.
Made a career with his eerie, immobile eye, which was caused by a fight with another kid at age 12. It happened during a Boy Scout meeting when another boy took a pencil, threw it, and it jabbed his eyeball.
Inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1994.
After World War II he worked as a bookkeeper for Samuel Goldwyn Studios and then as controller for William Boyd's Hopalong Cassidy production company. Staring at small figures on ledger sheets for hours on end strained his good eye and doctors told him he risked losing his sight if he continued his lucrative accounting business. When a movie director friend was having trouble getting financing for three western scripts, Elam told him he would arrange the financing in exchange for roles as a "heavy" in all three pictures. The first was The Sundowners (1950), starring Robert Preston, which helped launch his career.
Was known to be skilful in all forms of gambling. Also accomplished enough at winning games played with people on sets.
He once described the career of a character actor. It went like this: "Who's Jack Elam? Get me Jack Elam. Get me a Jack Elam type. Get me a young Jack Elam. Who's Jack Elam?"
Interviewed in "Bad at the Bijou" by William R. Horner (McFarland, 1982).
While working on Rawhide (1951), star Tyrone Power took a liking to novice actor Elam and convinced 20th Century-Fox studio boss Darryl F. Zanuck to sign him to a contract and had him cast in American Guerrilla in the Philippines (1950).
Started out in films as controller for Hopalong Cassidy Productions, but eye problems caused him to resign on doctor's advice.
In a "making of" documentary about the film Rio Lobo (1970), actor David Huddleston used costar Elam as an example of the five stages of the career of a character actor: "Who is Jack Elam?": "Get me Jack Elam." "I want a Jack Elam type.""I want a younger Jack Elam." "Who is Jack Elam?".
A majority of sources gave 1916 or 1918 as his year of birth. However, friends of his admitted that he lied about his age to get into the business earlier. The year on his birth certificate (that surfaced) reads 1920.
Jack Elam was a collector of small elephant figures.

Personal Quotes (4)

The heavy today is usually not my kind of guy. In the old days, Rory Calhoun was the hero because he was the hero and I was the heavy because I was the heavy - and nobody cared what my problem was. And I didn't either. I robbed the bank because I wanted the money. I've played all kinds of weirdos but I've never done the quiet, sick type. I never had a problem - other than the fact I was just bad.
[on Night Passage (1957)] It was a payday, but I could have done without it.
[Elam was not originally in the cast of "High Noon". After the movie concluded after the first cut, the filmmakers realized the climactic gunfight didn't work. They resumed production with Cooper and new cast member Elam] I knew him [Cooper] very well... They also had some extras in the bar. We went back to he jail cell and did a few shots of me in the cell with Cooper walking around and seeing me in there snoring. And then they did a shot where he lets me out of jail, and I go into the bar, people are coming out because it's high noon. They did about a full minute of me in the bar doing my drunken clown act. I'm taking drinks and putting drinks under my arms and all that. They were going to cut back and forth between me and the gunfight. But then they turned the picture loose with the regular gunfight before they added our stuff, and it got rave reviews. so they never put that stuff in. The only part they put in was to establish who I was. And the only thing you see of me in the bar was when I was going in and everyone else was coming out. The credits were already written up when I went to work. They didn't bother to put mine in, and that's why I didn't get the credit. But I was very happy because I got to work two days, and there was about a half a day with Cooper and me. And what a gentleman he was! There was about a day of me going into the bar and then of me just wandering around the bar. I understand there are some videocassettes of "High Noon" - but I don't think you can buy them in a store - where those scenes of mine are included in the outtakes, but I have never seen them. The last thing you see of me in the movie is when I'm going into the bar and the people are rushing out.
[on Audie Murphy] ... he was a true hero, I have to tell you. He loved to gamble, and I loved to gamble, and still do, and he was a real fanatic for poker, the horses, or dice, so that's what we did on the set. When we were on location, we had a poker game every goddamn night. But he was underrated as an actor and a very interesting guy. And he had a dynamite temper if you did him something wrong. I saw him flare up three or four times when he thought there was an injustice around him, and, believe me, he was like a coiled rattlesnake when he flared up, but never unreasonably. It was always in line such as if he didn't like some smart-ass on the set who was getting smart with a gal or something like that.

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