Bruce Cabot

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Bruce Cabot
Cabot in Sinners in Paradise (1938)
Etienne Pelissier Jacques de Bujac

(1904-04-20)April 20, 1904
DiedMay 3, 1972(1972-05-03) (aged 68)
Years active1931–1971
Gracy Mary Mather Smith
(m. 1926; div. 1930)
(m. 1933; div. 1937)
Francesca De Scaffa
(m. 1950; div. 1957)

Bruce Cabot (born Étienne de Pelissier Bujac Jr.; April 20, 1904 – May 3, 1972) was an American film actor, best remembered as Jack Driscoll in King Kong (1933) and for his roles in films such as The Last of the Mohicans (1936), Fritz Lang's Fury (1936), and the Western Dodge City (1939). He was also known as one of "Wayne's Regulars", appearing in a number of John Wayne films beginning with Angel and the Badman (1947), and concluding with Big Jake (1971).[1]

Early life[edit]

Cabot was born in Carlsbad, New Mexico, to a prominent local lawyer, Major Étienne de Pelissier Bujac Sr. and Julia Armandine Graves, who died shortly after giving birth to her son. Étienne Sr. was the son of John James Bujac, a lawyer and mining expert in Catonsville, Maryland. Cabot's father graduated from Cumberland School of Law near Nashville, Tennessee, and served in the U.S. Army during the Spanish–American War and the Philippine–American War before settling in Carlsbad.[2][3]

Cabot graduated from Sewanee Military Academy in 1921, and briefly attended the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, but left without graduating.[4]

He worked at many jobs, including as a sailor, an insurance salesman, oil worker, surveyor, and prize fighter; he also sold cars, managed real estate, and worked at a slaughterhouse. A meeting with David O. Selznick at a Hollywood party led to his acting career.[5] He claimed that he auditioned by acting out a scene from the play Chicago. The audition went "rather awful" in his opinion, but it did lead to him being cast in The Roadhouse Murder (1932).[1]

Acting career[edit]

Early roles[edit]

Cabot appeared in nearly 100 feature films. He made his debut in an uncredited bit part in an episode of the serial Heroes of the Flames (1931). In Ann Vickers (1933), he portrays a soldier who seduces a naive woman (Irene Dunne), and gets her pregnant before he leaves for the war.[6] He then appeared in King Kong (also 1933), which became an enormous success and established Cabot as a star.[5]

He also portrays villains in several productions, appearing as a gangster boss in Let 'Em Have It (1935) and as the Huron warrior Magua opposite Randolph Scott in The Last of the Mohicans (1936). He co-stars with Spencer Tracy in Fritz Lang's first Hollywood film, Fury (1936), playing the leader of a lynch mob. He also appears with Errol Flynn in Michael Curtiz's epic Western Dodge City, which in 1939 was one of Warner Bros.'s biggest hits.

He tested for the lead role of the Ringo Kid in John Ford's Stagecoach (1939), but John Wayne was cast in the part.[7] A consistent box-office draw, Cabot appeared in many movies at many studios before leaving Hollywood to serve in World War II.[1]

War service and return to Hollywood[edit]

Cabot enlisted in December 1942 and, after Officer Training School in Miami Beach, was commissioned as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Force. In 1943 Cabot was an Air Transport Command operations officer in Tunis.[8]

Cabot headed back to Hollywood and fell in with John Wayne on the set of Angel and the Badman (1947), and became part of Wayne's circle, this relationship paying off in the 1960s, when Wayne cast him in 10 more of his films: The Comancheros (1961), Hatari! (1962), McLintock! (1963), In Harm's Way (1965), The War Wagon (1967), The Green Berets (1968), Hellfighters (1968), The Undefeated (1969), Chisum (1970), and Big Jake (1971).[5][9]

In 1965, he played the sheriff in the comedy western Cat Ballou.

Cabot's final screen appearance is in the James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever (1971).

He was inducted into the New Mexico Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2012.


Cabot starred in a number of the Tales of Tomorrow, a science-fiction drama, during its second season (1952–53) on ABC.

He also appeared on other television series, such as:

  • Burke's Law - "Who Killed Holly Howard?" - Thomas Matherson (1963)
  • Bonanza - "A Dime's Worth of Glory" - Sheriff Reed Larrimore (1964)
  • Daniel Boone - "The Devil's Four" - Simon Bullard (1965)

Personal life[edit]

Cabot was married three times, in Florida to Mary Mather Smith, whom he divorced prior to moving to Hollywood, and to actresses Adrienne Ames and Francesca De Scaffa (1930-1994).[1]

He was one of Errol Flynn's social pack for several years, but they fell out during the production of the unfinished The Story of William Tell in the mid-1950s. Flynn was producing the film and asked Cabot, whom he described as "an old, old pal," to appear in it, knowing that Cabot was having difficulty finding work in Hollywood at that time. When Flynn's production partners went broke, though, production on the film halted, leaving Flynn stranded in Rome facing financial ruin. Cabot, in an attempt to get paid when other cast members were working for no money, had court officials seize Flynn's and co-producer Barry Mahon's personal cars and their wives' clothing from their hotel rooms.[10]

In 1955, Bruce Cabot sued Flynn in a London court for unpaid salary of £17,357 ($48,599.60) saying he had been promised four weeks' work on the film but did not get it.[11] Flynn wrote angrily in his autobiography of what he termed Cabot's "betrayal", adding the passage: " I never went looking for Cabot. I was afraid I might kill him."[12] Eleven years after Flynn's death, in a 1970 interview, Cabot paid tribute to him as a critically underrated actor, but said that Flynn had destroyed himself through narcotic addiction.[citation needed] David Niven, also part of Flynn's social pack, in his autobiography accused Cabot of being missing when debts were to be paid.[citation needed]


Cabot died May 3, 1972, at age 68 in the Motion Picture Country Home at Woodland Hills, California due to lung cancer.[1] He was buried in his hometown of Carlsbad, New Mexico.


Cabot in the trailer for Fury (1936)
Cabot and Gene Tierney in Sundown (1941)
Cabot in the Western Angel and the Badman (1947)
Cabot and Maureen O'Hara in McLintock! (1963)


  1. ^ a b c d e "Bruce Cabot, Film Actor, Dies; Played the Hero in 'King Kong'". The New York Times. May 4, 1972. p. 48. Retrieved January 12, 2023.
  2. ^ Twitchell, Ralph Emerson (1917). The Leading Facts of New Mexican History. Vol. III. Cedar Rapids, Iowa: The Torch Press. pp. 235–236. Retrieved May 21, 2017.
  3. ^ Birchell, Donna Blake (2015). Legendary Locals of Carlsbad, New Mexico. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. p. 73. ISBN 978-1467102261. Retrieved May 21, 2017.
  4. ^ "Bruce Cabot, Actor, Is Alumnus" (PDF). Sewanee Alumni News. Vol. VII, no. IV. Associated Alumni of the University of the South. August 1941. p. 4. Retrieved May 21, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c "Bruce Cabot: Biography". AllMovie.
  6. ^ "Ann Vickers (1933): Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related". Allmovie.
  7. ^ Boardman, Mark (January 25, 2017). "Etienne Pelissier Jacques De Bujac (Bruce Cabot)". True West Magazine. Archived from the original on May 11, 2018. Retrieved May 10, 2018.
  8. ^ "Shadow box". Retrieved 2023-11-09.
  9. ^ "Bruce Cabot". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on December 16, 2017. Retrieved January 21, 2021.
  10. ^ C. Tibbetts, John; M. Welsh, James (2010). American Classic Screen Features. Scarecrow Press. pp. 10–11, 362. ISBN 9780810876798.
  11. ^ Cabot Sues Errol Flynn, New York Times, 25 May 1955: 37
  12. ^ Flynn, Errol (1959). My Wicked, Wicked Ways. Dell. p. 10.

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