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Jack Elam

Elam in Kansas City Confidential (1952)
Born William Scott Elam
November 13, 1920(1920 -11-13)
Miami, Arizona,
United States
Died October 20, 2003 (aged 82)
Ashland, Oregon,
United States
Years active 1944–1995
Spouse(s) Margaret Jennison (1961-2003) (his death)
Jean Elam (1937-1961) (her death)

William Scott "Jack" Elam (November 13, 1920[1] – October 20, 2003) was an American film actor best known for his numerous roles as villains in Western films.


Early life

Elam was born in Miami, Arizona, to Millard Elam and Alice Amelia Kerby. Alice died in 1924, when young Jack was not quite four years old. Afterwards, he was raised by relatives in unhappy circumstances. By 1930, he was once again living with his father, older sister, Mildred, and their stepmother, Flossie.

He grew up picking cotton. As a Boy Scout, he lost the sight in his left eye after another Scout threw a pencil at him at a troop meeting.[2] He was a student of both Miami High School in Gila County and Phoenix Union High School in Maricopa County and graduated from the latter in the late 1930s.

He attended Santa Monica Junior College in California and subsequently became an accountant in Hollywood; one of his clients was movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn.[3] 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 wherein 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. In 1961, Elam played a slightly crazed character in an episode of The Twilight Zone, "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?".

In 1963, he got a rare chance to play the good guy when he played the part of Deputy Marshal J.T. Smith in The Dakotas, a TV western that ran for only nineteen episodes. He played an eccentric sidekick to John Wayne in Howard Hawks's Rio Lobo (1970). Elam was given his first comedic role in Support Your Local Sheriff!, after which he found his villainous assignments dwindling and his comic roles increasing.

In 1985 Elam played as Charlie in The Aurora Encounter.[4] During this film Elam made a lifelong relationship with a 11 year old boy named Mickey Hays who suffered from Progeria. As shown in the documentary I Am Not A Freak[5] viewers see really how close Elam and Hays really were. Elam says: "You know I've met a lot of people, but I've never met anybody that got next to me like Mickey."

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

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.[citation needed] This humorous quote has also been attributed to other actors, especially Ricardo Montalban and Mary Astor:

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?"

Elam died in Ashland, Oregon, of congestive heart failure. He was married twice, and had two daughters, Jeri Elam and Jacqueline Elam and a son, Scott Elam.

Partial filmography

TV series

Further reading

  • Mahar, Ted. (Oct. 4, 1998) The Oregonian. A Sampling of Elams Movies. Page L10.
  • 1920 November 13; Arizona Certificate of Live Birth for William Scott Elam
  • 1920 United States Census, Arizona, Gila County, Miami
  • 1924 September 7; Arizona Original Certificate of Death for Alice Amelia Kerby Elam
  • 1930 United States Census, Arizona, Gila County, Miami
  • 2003 October 20; Oregon Certificate of Death for Jack Elam


  1. ^ Other sources cite 1916 or 1918 as Elam's year of birth. The year 1920 stems from Elam's census records, as per Retrieved 2009-12-26.
  2. ^ Douglas Martin (October 23, 2003). "Jack Elam, Lazy-Eyed Movie Villain, Is Dead". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-11-27. 
  3. ^ Paul Wadey (October 23, 2003). "Jack Elam Archetypal villain in film and TV westerns". The Independent. Retrieved 2009-11-27. 
  4. ^ "The Aurora Encounter" (1986) at the Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2009-11-27.
  5. ^ "I Am Not A Freak" (1987) at the Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2009-11-27.
  6. ^ "Struck by Lightning" TV series (1979) at the Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2009-11-27.
  7. ^ Struck by Lightning TV series, Retrieved 2009-11-27.

External links



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