Birthday: November 13, 1918 Birth
Place: Miami, Arizona, USA Height: 6' 2"
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Colorful American character actor equally adept at vicious killers or grizzled sidekicks. As a child he worked in the cotton fields. He attended Santa Monica Junior College in California and subsequently became an accountant and, at one time, manager of the Bel Air Hotel. Elam got his first movie job by trading his accounting services for a role. In short time he became one of the most memorable supporting players in Hollywood, thanks not only to his near-demented screen persona but also to an out-of-kilter left eye, sightless from a childhood fight. He appeared with great aplomb in Westerns and gangster films alike, and in later years played to wonderful effect in comedic roles.
Made an infamous career with his eerie, immobile eye, which was caused by a fight with another kid at the age of 12. It happened during a Boy Scout meeting when another boy took a pencil, threw it, and it jabbed his eyeball.
Working for Samuel Goldwyn Studios as a bookkeeper for their accounting department, he progressed to Office Controller for cowboy star William Boyd at Hopalong Cassidy Productions before breaking into films.
Inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1994.
After WWII, Elam worked as a bookkeeper for Samuel Goldwyn Studios and then as controller for William Boyd's Hopalong Cassidy production company. Staring at small figures on ledger sheets for hours on end strained his good eye and doctors told him he risked losing his sight if he continued his lucrative accounting business. When a movie director friend was having trouble getting financing for three western scripts, Elam told him he would arrange the financing in exchange for roles as a "heavy" in all three pictures. The first was "The Sundowners," a 1950 film starring Robert Preston, which helped launch his long career.
Died two months after the death of fellow co-star Charles Bronson.
Was known to be great at all forms of gambling. Also great at winning games played with people on sets.
He once described the career of a character actor. It went like this: "Who's Jack Elam. Get me Jack Elam. Get me a Jack Elam type. Get me a young Jack Elam. Who's Jack Elam?"
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