Jones by Mike
"Jones was the go-to guy for shooting hats off actor’s heads or
cigars out of their mouths. A la William Tell, he also could make instant apple
sauce, albeit with a bullet instead of an arrow."
is seldom heard of himself,” the Associated Press reported in 1927, “but twelve
hundred times he has held the life of some screen star or featured player within
the crook of his trigger finger.”|
One reason that this interesting but
virtually forgotten Texan could be labeled as “seldom heard of” even at the height
of his Hollywood career lay in the fact that at birth he had been saddled with
the most common of surnames – Jones.
Hundreds of thousands if not millions
of fine people have the last names of Jones, but from the standpoint of a self-promoter
or researcher, a person could hardly have a worse surname. Keeping up with the
Joneses is tough.
If Edward Jones had been branded with a more
distinctive handle, it would be a lot easier to learn about him today. As it is,
of all the billions of web pages out there in Cyber Space, only one semi-substantial
reference to Jones surfaces in an Internet search. Back when the information highway
was just a dirt road, the showman in Jones must have realized he needed to enhance
his name a bit for better recognition. What he – or someone -- came up with was
“King Fisher” or “Pardner” Jones.
Jones’ use of “King Fisher” is not too surprising. Jones was born in Del Rio,
not far from the South Texas range of outlaw-lawman John “King” Fisher. Fisher
and former Austin city marshal Ben Thomas were gunned down in San Antonio in 1884,
probably about the year of Jones’ birth. King Fisher, unlike most Texans named
Jones, had strong name recognition in late 19th century and early 20th century
How long Jones stayed in Texas before he headed west is one of many
unknowns connected to his life, but he claimed that he grew up in New Mexico and
Arizona. That’s where he learned to shoot, which led to his unusual way of making
a living. Known as the “gunman of Hollywood,” Jones did stunt shooting for Western
filmmakers, often using real bullets.
In 1923, Jones worked as technical
advisor during the filming of a screenplay based on Emerson Hough’s “The Covered
Wagon,” the first Western epic. Produced by James Cruze and shot in Utah, the
film rejuvenated the Western, restoring the genre to life from one of its many
near-death experiences over the years.
Cruze sought and achieved realism
in his movie, and Jones helped make that happen. The Texan also provided a little
Old West reality off screen.
During the filming of a buffalo hunt, a cantankerous
bison charged the horses pulling a wagon containing chief cameraman Karl Brown
and his camera. The wagon overturned, dumping Brown in the path of an infuriated
As Photoplay Magazine later reported: “Old Ed Jones, a movie actor,
a puncher and a dead shot, calmly…shot between horses, men, cameras and wagon
– a space about a foot in diameter – and brought down the buffalo. It saved Brown’s
life probably and that’s how they had buffalo meat the first day in camp.”
When “talkies” put the writers of subtitles out of business in 1927, the principal
sound associated with an appearance by Jones was the crack of gunfire.
“When a director wants realism in a sequence where bullets are supposed to be
flying perilously close to the principal characters he calls on Pardner Jones,”
the Associated Press said.
Indeed, Jones was the go-to guy for shooting
hats off actor’s heads or cigars out of their mouths. A la William Tell, he also
could make instant apple sauce, albeit with a bullet instead of an arrow. His
crowning achievement came when actor Tom Mix let Jones “smash with a bullet the
works of a watch he carried over his heart.”
In addition to shooting,
Jones also handled bit parts, his filmography listing 37 movies, from “The Man
from the East” in 1914 to “The Arizona Wildcat” in 1939. Jones also facilitated
horseback scenes and wrangled horses and cattle on location. During that 25-year
career, movies went from silent black-and-white one-reelers to sophisticated color
films with sound.
No matter his common name and lack of star status,
Jones must have made good copy for Hollywood press agents, the screen magazines
and the tabloids. Unfortunately, whatever else was written about him contemporarily
remains to be rediscovered.
One thing is for sure about Ed “King Fisher”
or “Pardner” Jones – he was a Texan who could shoot.
© Mike Cox
December 12, 2004 Column