(January 20, 1895–March 1, 1962)
Roscoe Ates was a prolific actor
and musician in primarily western films and television.
born in the rural hamlet of Grange, Mississippi, northwest of
Hattiesburg. Grange is no longer included on road maps. Ates spent
much of his childhood overcoming a severe stutter. He entered the
entertainment medium as a concert violinist but found economic
opportunities greater a vaudeville comedian. He revived his long-gone
stutter for humorous effect. Besides his early films, Ates starred in
his own short subject series with RKO and Vitaphone.
His first film
role was at the age of thirty-four in 1929 as a ship's cook in South
Sea Rose. The next year he was cast as "Old Stuff" in the film
the Kid with Johnny Mack Brown (1904–1974) as Billy the Kid and
Wallace Beery (1885–1949) as Deputy Sheriff Pat Garrett.
In 1931, Ates appeared in a total of fourteen films, some
roles uncredited. He appeared in the following:
- Cimarron (1931) as
Jesse Rickey, based on the Edna Ferber novel about Oklahoma
- The Champ (1931), with Wallace Beery and Jackie Cooper
- Renegades of the
West (1932), as Dr. Henry Fawcett
- Freaks (1932)
- Alice in
Wonderland (1933) as Fish
- Fair Exchange (1936), as Elmer Goodge
- God's Country and the Woman (1937) as Gander Hopkins
- The Great
Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok (1938) as Oscar "Snake-Eyes" Smith.
Bill Elliott played Hickok.
- Gone With the Wind (1939) as a
convalescing Confederate soldier. While scratching his back on a tent
pole, he utters the line "These animules is driving me crazy!"
- Three Texas Steers (1939), a John Wayne film, features Ates as Sheriff
- Cowboy from Sundown (1940), a Tex Ritter film, with Ates as
Deputy Gloomy Day
- Bad Men from Missouri (1941) as Lafe.
From 1946-48, Ates appeared as the western character Soapy
Jones in fifteen films, including Colorado Serenade, Driftin' River
(with Shirley Patterson), Stars Over Texas, and Tumbleweed Trail (all
1946), West to Glory, Shadow Valley, and Wild Country (all 1947), and
Check Your Guns, Black Hills, Tornado Range, The Westward Trail, and
The Tioga Kid (all 1948). His Soapy Jones character is the sidekick to
the "Singing Cowboy" portrayed by native Texan, Eddie Dean
(1907–1999). Thereafter, George "Gabby" Hayes employed archival
footage from many Soapy Jones films in his 1950s children's television
series, The Gabby Hayes Show.
In 1950, Ates was cast in his first
television role as Deputy Roscoe in the short-lived ABC series The
Marshal of Gunsight Pass, which was broadcast live from a primitive
studio lot in Los Angeles, California. Eddie Dean also appeared in
this program, as did Jan Sterling (1921–2004) in the role of Roscoe's
much younger girlfriend.
these songs in his films:
Billy the Kid: "Turkey in the Straw"
Remote Control: "The Wedding March" (1930)
the West: "Farmer in the Dell" (1932)
Rancho Grande: "Dude Ranch
Cow Hands" (uncredited, 1938)
Cowboy from Sundown: "The Craw-dad
Captain Caution: "Hilda" (1940)
Serenade: "Home on the Range" (1946)
Driftin' River: "Way Back in
Wild West, also known as
Prairie Outlaw: Song,
"Elmer, The Knock-Kneed Cowboy" (1946)
soon appeared on television in multiple roles. He was cast as Henry
Wilson in the episode "The Census Taker" of the syndicated western
series The Cisco Kid, starring Duncan Renaldo and Leo Carrillo. He
appeared that same year in the Gale Storm sitcom, My Little Margie and
on the detective series Boston Blackie. He appeared on Gail Davis's
Annie Oakley series as Curly Dawes, the telegraph operator, in
"Showdown at Diablo" (1956) and as Walsh in "Annie and the Miser"
(1957). Ates played The Ranger in the 1957 episode "Sorrowful Joe
Returns" of ABC's The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin.
In 1958, the
63-year-old Ates was cast as "Old Timer" in the episode "The
Sacramento Story" of NBC's Wagon Train starring Ward Bond. That same
year he was Edwin Winkler in the episode "Force of Habit" of Lee
Marvin's NBC crime drama, M Squad.
In 1959, Ates appeared as Juniper
Dunlap in "The Painted Beauty" episode of John Payne's NBC western,
The Restless Gun, as Dusty Peabody in "The Man from Solitary" of Rod
Cameron's syndicated western crime drama State Trooper, and as
Harrison in "A Well of Gold" on Tom Nolan's NBC Buckskin series.
1960, he was cast as Fenton in the episode "Hot Ice Cream" of Charles
Bronson's ABC series Man with a Camera, as Lou Nugget in "The Fabulous
Fiddle" of Scott Brady's syndicated Shotgun Slade, and as Deputy Boak
in "The Missing Queen" of Andrew Duggan's ABC crime drama Bourbon
Street Beat, set in New Orleans.
1959-1960, Ates appeared once as "Old Timer" and in seven episodes as
Ike Jenkins in the John Russell and Peter Brown ABC western series
Lawman, set in Laramie, Wyoming. The episodes are entitled "The
Visitor", "The Gang", "The Ring", "The Friend", "The Exchange", "The
Breakup", "The Stranger", and "Man on the Mountain".
same time frame as he appeared on Lawman, Ates guest starred as Renton
in two episodes entitled "Long Odds" of Dale Robertson's Tales of
Wells Fargo and four times on ABC's Maverick in episodes entitled
"Gun-Shy", "Two Beggars on Horseback", "Two Tickets to Ten Strike"
(with Connie Stevens and Adam West, with Ates cast as Joe the Barber),
and "Hadley's Hunters". In 1960, he appeared as a bartender in the
episode "The Rape of Red Sky" of NBC's The Outlaws. He appeared in
Will Hutchins's ABC western, Sugarfoot, in the 1960 episode "The Man
From 1958-60, Ates appeared five times
on CBS's Alfred Hitchcock Presents mystery series. In the 1958 episode
"And the Desert Shall Blossom", Ates and William Demarest, later of My
Three Sons, appear as two old timers Tom and Ben, respectively, who
are living in the Nevada desert. The local sheriff, played by Ben
Johnson, appears with an eviction notice, but he agrees to let the men
stay on their property if they can make a dead rosebush to bloom
within the next month. Ates also appeared in the Hitchcock episode
"The Jokester" in the role of Pop Henderson.
In 1960, Ates appeared
as a guest in the presentation of the life story of honorary Hollywood
mayor Johnny Grant on NBC's This Is Your Life biography series
starring the host Ralph Edwards.
Ates's last credited roles were in
1961 as a drunk in Robert Stack's ABC series The Untouchables and as
sheriffs in The Red Skelton Show in episode entitled "Candid Clem" and
in "Three for One" of NBC's Whispering Smith starring Audie Murphy.
His final screen appearance in Jerry Lewis's 1961 film The Errand Boy
Ates was married three times. After his divorce from the former Clara Callahan, he married in 1949 Leonore Belle Jumps. She died in 1955. In 1960, he married the
Beatrice Heisser, who survived him.
Ates died of lung cancer at the
age of sixty-seven in Hollywood. He is entombed at Forest Lawn
Memorial Park in Glendale, California. Plot: Great Mausoleum,
Columbarium of Consecration, Niche #1882.