Actor Jay C. Flippen

Jay C. Flippen (March 6, 1899 – February 3, 1971) was an American character actor who often played police officers or weary criminals in many films of the 1940s and 1950s.


Born on March 6, 1899, in Little Rock, Arkansas, Flippen was an established and respected vaudeville singer and stage actor before his film career. He had been discovered by famed African-American comedian Bert Williams in the 1920s, and was Williams’s Broadway understudy and tour replacement for the 1920 musical revue “Broadway Brevities.” He called himself “The Ham What Am,” and his occasional blackface roles included those as Williams’ replacement. Flippen attained the most coveted booking in vaudeville, headlining at the Palace Theatre in New York six times between March 1926 and February 1931. In 1928, he proclaimed he would no longer perform in blackface.

At one time, he was also a radio announcer for New York Yankees games and was one of the first game-show announcers. Between 1924 and 1929, Flippen recorded more than 30 songs for Columbia, Perfect, and Brunswick.

His first film, the 1928 Warner Bros. short subject “The Ham What Am”, captures his vaudeville performance, with other shorts in the 1930s, but his film career started in earnest in 1947. Some of Flippen’s most noteworthy film work came in support of James Stewart in five of the films the two made under the direction of Anthony Mann during the 1950s. He gave notable supporting performances in three John Wayne films: as a humorous, larcenous Marine air-crew line chief in Flying Leathernecks (1951), as Wayne’s commanding general in Jet Pilot (1957), and as a wheelchair-bound senior partner of Wayne’s in Hellfighters (1968). He also made a fourth film that co-starred John Wayne (How the West Was Won, 1962), but played his only scene with Debbie Reynolds and Gregory Peck.

He also appeared on television, including a 1960 guest-starring role as Gabe Jethrow in the episode “Four Came Quietly” on the CBS Western series Johnny Ringo, starring Don Durant. In 1962, he guest-starred on the ABC drama series Bus Stop as Mike Carmody in “Verdict of 12” and Follow the Sun as Fallon in “The Last of the Big Spenders”. He also appeared on ABC’s The Untouchables as Al Morrisey in “You Can’t Pick the Number” (1959) and as Big Joe Holvak in “Fall Guy” (1962). In the 1962-63 season, Flippen was cast as Chief Petty Officer Homer Nelson on the NBC sitcom Ensign O’Toole, with Dean Jones in the starring role.

He also guest-starred on CBS’ The Dick Van Dyke Show in its first season, playing Rob Petrie’s former mentor Happy Spangler. In 1964, he appeared as Owney in an episode of CBS’ Gunsmoke with James Arness. In 1963, he guest-starred on Bonanza. He appeared four times on NBC’s The Virginian in the 1960s; in 1966, he appeared on the ABC comedy Western The Rounders. In 1967, Tom Tryon and he guest-starred in the episode “Charade of Justice” of the NBC Western series The Road West. After a leg amputation in 1965, Flippen continued acting, usually using a wheelchair, such as in his comeback role in a 1966 episode of The Virginian, and his 1967 guest appearance in Ironside (season one, “A Very Cool Hot Car”).

Personal life

He was married for 25 years to screenwriter Ruth Brooks Flippen.

While filming Cat Ballou in 1965, he had to have one of his legs amputated due to a serious infection, originally resulting from a minor scrape with a car door, and likely complicated by his diabetes. Flippen finished his scenes in that film in great pain, and after the amputation, he took a short period of recuperation and healing, then returned to work, from that period forward taking roles that did not hide his disability.[citation needed]


Flippen died February 3, 1971, aged 71, during surgery for an aneurysm of an artery, one month before his 72nd birthday. He was interred in a crypt in the Corridor of Memories section at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.

Selected filmography

  • Million Dollar Ransom (1934) – Singer (uncredited)
  • Marie Galante (1934) – Sailor in Bar (uncredited)
  • Brute Force (1947) – Hodges
  • Intrigue (1947) – Mike, the bartender
  • They Live by Night (1948) – T-Dub
  • A Woman’s Secret (1949) – Police Insp. Jim Fowler
  • Down to the Sea in Ships (1949) – Luke Sewell
  • Oh, You Beautiful Doll (1949) – Lippy Brannigan
  • Buccaneer’s Girl (1950) – Jared Hawkins
  • The Yellow Cab Man (1950) – Hugo
  • Love That Brute (1950) – Biff Sage
  • Winchester ’73 (1950) – Sgt. Wilkes (with Jimmy Stewart)
  • Two Flags West (1950) – Sgt. Terrance Duey
  • The Lemon Drop Kid (1951) – Straight Flush Tony (with Bob Hope)
  • The Flying Leathernecks (1951) – MSgt. Clancy (Line Chief) (with John Wayne)
  • The Lady from Texas (1951) – Sheriff Mike McShane
  • The People Against O’Hara (1951) – Sven Norson
  • The Model and the Marriage Broker (1951) – Dan Chancellor
  • Bend of the River (1952) – Jeremy Bailey (with Jimmy Stewart)
  • The Las Vegas Story (1952) – Capt. H.A. Harris
  • Woman of the North Country (1952) – Axel Nordlund
  • Thunder Bay (1953) – Kermit MacDonald (with Jimmy Stewart)
  • Devil’s Canyon (1953) – Captain Jack Wells
  • East of Sumatra (1953) – Mac
  • The Wild One (1953) – Sheriff Stew Singer
  • Carnival Story (1954) – Charley Grayson
  • Six Bridges to Cross (1955) – Vincent Concannon
  • The Far Country (1955) – Rube (with Jimmy Stewart)
  • Man Without a Star (1955) – Strap Davis
  • Strategic Air Command (1955) – Tom Doyle (with Jimmy Stewart)
  • It’s Always Fair Weather (1955) – Charles Z. Culloran
  • Kismet (1955) – Jawan
  • Oklahoma! (1955) – Skidmore
  • The Killing (1956) – Marvin Unger
  • 7th Cavalry (1956) – Sgt. Bates
  • The King and Four Queens (1956) – Bartender (with Clark Gable)
  • The Halliday Brand (1957) – Chad Burris
  • Hot Summer Night (1957) – Oren Kobble
  • Public Pigeon No. 1 (1957) – Lt. Ross Qualen
  • The Midnight Story (1957) – Sgt. Jack Gillen
  • The Restless Breed (1957) – Marshal Evans
  • Run of the Arrow (1957) – Walking Coyote
  • Night Passage (1957) – Ben Kimball (with Jimmy Stewart)
  • The Deerslayer (1957) – Old Tom Hutter
  • Jet Pilot (1957) – Major General Black (with John Wayne)
  • Escape from Red Rock (1957) – Sheriff John Costaine
  • From Hell to Texas (1958) – Jake Leffertfinger
  • Wild River (1960) – Hamilton Garth
  • Studs Lonigan (1960) – Father Gilhooey
  • The Plunderers (1960) – Sheriff McCauley
  • How The West Was Won (1962) – Huggins (with John Wayne) (uncredited)
  • Looking for Love (1964) – Mr. Ralph Front
  • The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) – Drunken Soldier – Herod Antipas’ Court (uncredited)
  • Cat Ballou (1965) – Sheriff Cardigan
  • The Spirit Is Willing (1967) – Mother
  • Firecreek (1968) – Mr. Pittman (with Jimmy Stewart)
  • Hellfighters (1968) – Jack Lomax (with John Wayne)
  • The Old Man Who Cried Wolf (1970) – Pawnbroker
  • The Seven Minutes (1971) – Luther Yerkes (final film role)
  • Television

  • Wanted: Dead or Alive – episode “Miracle at Pot Hole” – Chute Wilson (1958)
  • Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color – episode “The Griswold Murder” – Pop Griswold (1959)
  • The Untouchables – episode “You Can’t Pick the Number” – Al Morrisey (1959)
  • Stagecoach Coast – episode “Not in Our Stars” – Aaron Sutter (1961)
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show – episode “The Return of Happy Spangler” – Happy Spangler (1962)
  • The Untouchables – episode “Fall Guy” – Big Joe Holvak (1962)
  • Ensign O’Toole – 32 episodes – Chief Petty Officer Homer Nelson (1962-1963)
  • Bonanza – episode “The Prime of Life” – Barney Fuller (1963)
  • Gunsmoke – episode “Owney Tupper Had a Daughter” – Owney (1964)
  • The Virginian – episode “Ride to Delphi” – Stage Depot Agent (uncredited) (1966)
  • The Virginian – episode “The Wolves Up Front, the Jackals Behind” – Pa Colby (1966)
  • A Man Called Shenandoah – episode “The Imposter” – Andrew O’Rourke (1966)
  • Ironside – episode “A Very Cool Hot Car” – Muldoon (1967)
  • The Virginian – episode “The Barren Ground” – Asa Keogh (1967)
  • The Virginian – episode “Stopover” – Judge (1969)
  • Rawhide – episode “Incident of the Widowed Dove” – Marshal Lindstrom (1959)
  • The Name of The Game – episode “Chains of Command” – Zack Whitten (1970)
  • External Links

    Actor Jay C. Flippen – Wikipedia

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