Final Resting Places – Western Sidekicks & Supporting Actors
This month I will be sharing additional photos from the final resting places of several western film actors.
My focus in this column is on some of the Western’s great sidekicks and supporting cast, and we’ll start with George “Gabby” Hayes. Hayes has appeared in films alongside William “Hopalong Cassidy” Boyd, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, John Wayne, and others. Hayes, who died at the age of 83, is buried in Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills.
Also in Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, near his longtime co-star Gene Autry, is pal Smiley Burnette, who was just 55 when he died in 1967. Relatively early death seems to be a recurring theme in this month’s column, as will be seen below.
I was touched to discover that Gene Autry’s good friend, cowboy star and singer Monte Hale is buried just a few blocks from Autry. Hale and his wife Joanne, along with Gene and Jackie Autry, founded the Autry Museum of the American West. You can read more about the museum in my January 2019 column. Hale lived to be 89.
Fuzzy Knight, born John Forrest Knight, was a trusted sidekick and supporting actor in countless B-Westerns. He died at the age of 74 and is located in Valhalla Cemetery in North Hollywood.
Also with Valhalla is Douglass Dumbrille. This Canadian-born supporting actor might not be associated with Westerns, but he has performed regularly in the genre. I fondly remember him as the Marshal in one of my favorite B-Westerns. Flame of the West (1945) starring Johnny Mack Brown. An interesting trivia is that late in life Dumbrille married the much younger daughter of his friend, actor Alan Mowbray (memorably in the western). My dear Clementine); Despite their considerable age difference, the marriage was a success and lasted almost 14 years until Dumbrille’s death in 1974 at the age of 84.
James Millican was a longtime supporting actor who became a standout supporting actor in Westerns in the ’50s Dawn in Socorro (1954) and Red sunset (1956). Unfortunately, his life was ended by cancer at the age of 44; He was buried at Forest Lawn Glendale.
Also joining Forest Lawn Glendale is character actor Louis Jean Heydt, whose resemblance to Millican sometimes causes confusion among film fans. Millican and Heydt even played brothers Ed and John Jennings in the western Al Jennings from Oklahoma (1951) with Dan Duryea in the title role. Heydt himself died relatively young, only 56, when he suffered a heart attack during a play in Boston.
Another great character actor who died young was Millard Mitchell, who died at the age of 50; like Millican and Heydt, he is buried at Forest Lawn Glendale. Mitchell’s major western roles have included starring in two Anthony Mann westerns with James Stewart; Mitchell performed “High Spade”. Winchester ’73 (1950) and grizzled Jesse Tate in one of his last films, The bare spur (1953).
Winchester ’73 Co-star Stephen McNally is also at Forest Lawn Glendale; he memorably played the villain Dutch Henry Brown in that film. McNally alternated between supporting roles and villains in popular westerns like Audie Murphys The Duel at Silver Creek (1952) and Hell bent for leather (1960) and western heroes like the great film produced by Val Lewton Apache drums (1951). McNally, born Horace McNally, was originally a lawyer, educated at Fordham University Law School before turning to work on Broadway and films. McNally was 82 when he died in 1994.
William Bishop is another western actor who died young; he died of cancer in 1959 at the age of just 41. Including his memorable westerns Coroner Creek (1948) with Randolph Scott, thunderhoof (1948) with Preston Foster and Cripple Creek (1952) starring George Montgomery to name a few. Bishop was the nephew of screenwriter Charles MacArthur and his wife Helen Hayes; he was thus also the cousin of the actor James MacArthur. Bishop’s ashes are located in Woodlawn Cemetery in Santa Monica.
Great character actor James Gregory hasn’t been in many westerns but he deserves a mention here as he was in one of my personal favourites, gun glory (1957). I wrote about it gun glory, which starred Stewart Granger, here in a 2019 column on Unexpected Western Leads. I visited Gregory’s gravesite at Sedona Community Cemetery during a 2021 trip to Sedona, Arizona.
When I visit these cemeteries I cherish the opportunity to take the time to reflect on how each of these actors have enriched cinema history and indeed my own life as I have enjoyed their work.
For readers wondering about the lack of actresses in this post, I intend to return to this topic in the future and focus solely on Western Leading Ladies.
For more photos of Western star burial sites, see my columns from May 2019 and February 2022.
– Laura Grieve for Classic Movie Hub
Laura can be found on her blog, Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings, where she has been writing about film since 2005, and on Twitter at @LaurasMiscMovie. A lifelong film buff, Laura loves classics like Disney, film noir, musicals and westerns. She regularly reports on classic film festivals in Southern California. Laura will be writing all about westerns at the Western RoundUp for CMH.