Ates in 1933
January 20, 1895|
Grange, Mississippi, U.S.
|Died||March 1, 1962
Encino, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California|
|Spouse(s)||Clara Callahan (m. 1923; div. 1945)
Leonore Belle Jumps (m. 1949; her death 1955)
Beatrice Heisser (m. 1960; his death 1962)
Roscoe Ates (January 20, 1895 – March 1, 1962) also Rosco Ates, was an American vaudeville performer, actor of stage and screen, comedian and musician who primarily featured in western films and television. He was best known as western character Soapy Jones.
Ates was born on January 20, 1895 in the rural hamlet of Grange, northwest of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Grange is no longer included on road maps. Ates spent much of his childhood overcoming a severe speech impediment. He entered the entertainment medium as a concert violinist but found economic opportunities greater as 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 Billy the Kid with Johnny Mack Brown (1904–1974) as Billy the Kid and Wallace Beery (1885–1949) as Deputy Sheriff Pat Garrett. Ates served in WWII, training of the Air Force fighter squad program in Houston, Texas at Ellington Field Texas
In 1931, Ates appeared in a total of fourteen films, some roles uncredited. Here is a partial listing of his films:
- Check and Double Check (1930) as Brother Arthur, film based on the Amos 'n' Andy Radio program
- Cimarron (1931) as Jesse Rickey, based on the Edna Ferber novel about Oklahoma
- The Champ (1931), with Wallace Beery and Jackie Cooper
- Come on Danger! (1932)
- Renegades of the West (1932), as Dr. Henry Fawcett
- Freaks (1932)
- The Roadhouse Murder (1932)
- Lucky Devils (1933)
- 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 Brown
- Cowboy from Sundown (1940), a Tex Ritter film, with Ates as Deputy Gloomy Day
- Captain Caution (1940)
- Bad Men from Missouri (1941) as Lafe.
From 1946 to 1948, 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. 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 in the role of Roscoe's much younger girlfriend.
Ates performed these songs in his films:
- Billy the Kid: "Turkey in the Straw" (1930)
- Remote Control: "The Wedding March" (1930)
- Renegades of the West: "Farmer in the Dell" (1932)
- Rancho Grande: "Dude Ranch Cow Hands" (uncredited, 1938)
- Cowboy from Sundown: "The Craw-dad Song" (1940)
- Captain Caution: "Hilda" (1940)
- Colorado Serenade: "Home on the Range" (1946)
- Driftin' River: "Way Back in Oklahoma" (1946)
- Wild West, also known as Prairie Outlaw: Song, "Elmer, The Knock-Kneed Cowboy" (1946)
Ates 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. He had a nameless role as a barfly in the 1958 episode of "Maverick" called "Gun-Shy", a spoof of the series Gunsmoke. In 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.
Recurring role on Lawman
From 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".
During this 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 Eudora".
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 bloom within the next month. Ates also appeared in the Hitchcock episode "The Jokester" in the role of Pop Henderson.
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 an 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 was uncredited.
Family and death
- "Roscoe Ates, 67, Comedian, Dies. Veteran Of Movies Played Stuttering Cowboy Roles". New York Times.
- "Roscoe Ates": Biography by Hal Erickson". allmovie.com. Retrieved March 1, 2009.
- "Roscoe Ates". IMDB. Retrieved March 1, 2009.
- "Saddle Pals and Cowboy Sidekicks". B-Westerns.com. Retrieved March 1, 2009.
- "The Marshal of Gunsight Pass: Summary". TV.com. Retrieved March 1, 2009.
- "Annie Oakley". retroland.com. Archived from the original on December 10, 2009. Retrieved January 11, 2010.
- "Roscoe Ates Filmography". Fandango.com. Retrieved March 1, 2009.
- "Mrs. Roscoe Ates". New York Times. May 20, 1955.
- "Roscoe Ates". NNDB.com. Retrieved March 1, 2009.
- "Roscoe Ates burial site". Findagrave.com. Retrieved March 1, 2009.