Western Bad Guy and Sidekick


Jack Elam (1919-2003)


No matter how tenuous his link to Modesto, Jack Elam was first, and foremost, the perfect bad guy in many western films and television shows. Elam, the cockeyed cowboy character actor once attended Modesto Junior College and had a brother who taught there for many years. In movies and television, Jack often played a gun-slinging villain. But he also had roles as a lovable comic.


In a 1993 interview with The Bee, Elam said he didn't tell people his age. "I'm old," he said. "Just put down that I'm old." He was an accounting major at MJC for a brief time in the 1930s, and became a certified public accountant in Southern California in the 1940s. His one good eye -- the blind one had been poked with a pencil when he was 11 -- was giving him trouble, and a doctor told him it couldn't stand the strain of his reading so many large numbers in such small type. He was working as a controller for Hopalong Cassidy movies at the time, and finagled a new career as an actor.


Elam menaced good guys in such Hollywood classics as "The Sun-downers" (1950), "Rawhide" (1951), "High Noon" (1952) and "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" (1957), and later turned his evil image into comedy with roles as James Garner's sidekick in "Support Your Local Sheriff" (1969) and a blind bounty hunter in "The Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County" (1970).


His television roles ranged from cowboys on "Gunsmoke" and "Bonanza" in the 1960s to a benign Frankenstein-monster type in the weekly horror spoof "Struck By Lightning" in 1979.

Excerpts from Modesto Bee, Oct. 23, 2003


Link: Jack Elam on IMDB

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