Final Resting Places – Western Sidekicks & Supporting Actors
This month I’ll be sharing additional photos of the final resting places of several Western movie actors.
My chief focus in this column is on some of the great Western sidekicks and supporting actors, and we’ll begin with George “Gabby” Hayes. Hayes appeared in films alongside William “Hopalong Cassidy” Boyd, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, John Wayne and more. Hayes, who passed away at the age of 83, is buried at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills.
Also at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, near his longtime costar Gene Autry, is sidekick Smiley Burnette, who was only 55 when he passed on 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 note that Gene Autry’s good friend, fellow cowboy star and singer Monte Hale, is buried just a couple spots away from Autry. Hale and his wife Joanne cofounded the Autry Museum of the American West along with Gene and Jackie Autry. You can read more about the museum in my January 2019 column. Hale lived to be 89.
Fuzzy Knight, who was born John Forrest Knight, was a familiar sidekick and supporting player in countless “B” Westerns. He died at age 74 and is at Valhalla Cemetery in North Hollywood.
Also at Valhalla is Douglass Dumbrille. One may not associate this Canadian-born supporting actor with Westerns, but he periodically appeared in the genre. I fondly recall him as the Marshal in one of my favorite “B” Westerns, Flame of the West (1945), which starred Johnny Mack Brown. An interesting bit of trivia is that late in life Dumbrille married the much younger daughter of his friend, actor Alan Mowbray (memorable in the Western My Darling Clementine); despite their considerable age difference, the marriage was a success and lasted nearly 14 years, until Dumbrille’s passing in 1974 at the age of 84.
James Millican was a longtime bit player who became an outstanding supporting player of the ’50s in Westerns such as Dawn at Socorro (1954) and Red Sundown (1956). Sadly his life was cut short by cancer at the age of 44; he was buried at Forest Lawn Glendale.
Also at 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 of Oklahoma (1951), with Dan Duryea in the title role. Heydt died relatively young himself, only 56 when he had a heart attack while performing in a play in Boston.
Another great character actor who died young was Millard Mitchell, who passed on at the age of 50; like Millican and Heydt, he’s buried at Forest Lawn Glendale. Mitchell’s great Western roles were in a pair of Anthony Mann Westerns starring James Stewart; Mitchell played “High Spade” in Winchester ’73 (1950) and grizzled Jesse Tate in one of his last films, The Naked Spur (1953).
Winchester ’73 costar Stephen McNally is also at Forest Lawn Glendale; he memorably played villain Dutch Henry Brown in that film. McNally alternated between supporting roles and villains in favorite Westerns such as Audie Murphy‘s The Duel at Silver Creek (1952) and Hell Bent for Leather (1960) and heroes in Westerns such as the great Val Lewton produced film Apache Drums (1951). McNally, born Horace McNally, was originally an attorney educated at Fordham University Law School before turning to work on Broadway and in films. McNally was 82 when he passed away in 1994.
William Bishop is another Western actor who died at an early age; he was just 41 when he died of cancer in 1959. His memorable Westerns included Coroner Creek (1948) with Randolph Scott, Thunderhoof (1948) with Preston Foster, and Cripple Creek (1952) with George Montgomery, to name just a few. Bishop was the nephew of screenwriter Charles MacArthur and his wife Helen Hayes; he was also thus the cousin of actor James MacArthur. Bishop’s ashes are at Woodlawn Cemetery in Santa Monica.
The great character actor James Gregory wasn’t in many Westerns, but he merits mention here as he was in a personal favorite of mine, Gun Glory (1957). I wrote about Gun Glory, which starred Stewart Granger, here in a 2019 column on “Unexpected Western Leads.” I visited Gregory’s gravesite at Sedona Community Cemetery while on a 2021 trip to Sedona, Arizona.
When I visit these cemeteries I appreciate the opportunity to take time to reflect on how each of these actors enriched cinema history and indeed, my own life as I have enjoyed their work.
For readers wondering about the absence of any actresses from this post: I intend to return to this topic in the future, focusing solely on Western Leading Ladies.
– Laura Grieve for Classic Movie Hub
Laura can be found at her blog, Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings, where she’s been writing about movies since 2005, and on Twitter at @LaurasMiscMovie. A lifelong film fan, Laura loves the classics including Disney, Film Noir, Musicals, and Westerns. She regularly covers Southern California classic film festivals. Laura will scribe on all things western at the ‘Western RoundUp’ for CMH.