Wednesday, October 17, 2012

cock-eyed cowboy

Jack Elam was a character actor that played in many film classics.   He could play the meanest  cold-blooded bad guy as well as the most loveable-grizzled good guy.  I wonder if Jack would've gotten noticed if he had not have had that accident back when he was was 12.  Some sources say it was an accident in Boy Scouts by a kid carrying a pencil.  Other sources say he got on the wrong end of a pencil in a school yard fight.  No matter, there was a pencil involved and poor Jack got his left eye poked out.  His handicap had to have contributed to his acting career.  If there was ever a need for a cock-eyed cowboy, Jack was your man.  One eye or two, Jack was one of the best character actors that ever came out of Hollywood.  He seemed to always be up there on the silver screen (or on television) - always standing out and always a great performance.

Sergio Leone used Elam at the first of his western epic Once Upon A Time in the West.  When Jack Elam comes to mind, I think of that extreme tight close up of his face.  Him waiting at the train station with his desperado friends...Elam catching that fly in the barrel of his pistol.  Leone sure knew how to draw back the curtain for one of his shows.  Leone knew how to begin a story with immediate curiosity and anticipation.  It was a perfect moment for Elam

Jack worked under the direction of the best; Don Seigel, Robert Aldrich, Andrew McLaglan, Anthony Man, Howard Hawks and dear old friend Burt Kennedy.   Directors liked working with him and so Jack found himself always in demand.  Jack rode along side film greats like Gary Cooper, James Stewart, John Wayne, Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas and the list goes on and on.  Jack guest starred on oodles of television shows like Bonanza, Twilight Zone, The Rifleman, The Untouchables.  He starred in over 100 TV episodes.  If there was a TV show back in the 60 and 70's - Elam was sure to show up in at least one episode.  Jack Elam was everywhere.  I never got tired of him either.  To this day, I enjoy seeing him ride into the scene.  He was a great actor and a good fellow.
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