Character: Jack Hanlon
Birthday: February 15, 1916
Place of Birth: Fort Worth, Texas
Date of Death: December 23, 2012
Place of Death: Las Vegas, Nevada
First Short: Olympic Games
Last Short: The Glorious Fourth
Number of Shorts: 2
History: Jack Clem Hanlon was a precocious, freckle-faced child actor who began his film career at age 10 in “The General” from United Artists, one of the top 100 films of the time. Although more successful as a solo child actor, he was quite fond of his brief appearance in two of the Our Gang series, but he long lamented that most of his performance in "The General" wound up on the cutting room floor. His memories of the film was that Buster Keaton who starred in was strictly business on the set because he had spent a lot of his own money into the film. The plot was built around Keaton joining the Confederate Army during the Civil War and included the recreation of the Great Locomotive Chase military raid of April 12, 1862. The film was one of the costliest movies of its time at $750,000 - and a box office flop. The film’s bloated budget combined with Keaton's failure to turn a profit cost him his artistic independence for the rest of his long film career. Yet, venerable actor and director Orson Welles called the film "one of the greatest comedies ever made, the greatest Civil War film ever made and perhaps the greatest film ever made.”
Hanlon joined the Our Gang ensemble at Hal Roach Studios for two of its Silent shorts after "The General" was released. The experience left him with a friendship in Jay R. Smith, and they remained close friends long after their film careers ended until October 2002, when Smith was found murdered near his home in the Las Vegas desert. Charles “Wayne” Crombie, a homeless man Smith had befriended, was convicted of the murder and was given two life sentences.
After departing the Rascals, Hanlon starred in “The Shakedown” in 1929, which was made for just $50,000, but one of his fondest acting memories came in the 1930 film “Romance,” where he played the role of a street urchin and got his first on-screen kiss from the legendary Greta Garbo. Garbo was nominated for an Academy Award for that leading role.
Hanlon was one of the few child actors to graduate successfully to talking pictures, and between 1930 and 1933, Hanlon appeared in eight more "talkies," including “Big Money” with Clark Gable and “The Wagon Master.” He left acting at sixteen and went on to graduate from high school in Southern California, playing minor league baseball and serving as an Army Air Corps paratrooper during World War II. Small in stature, Hanlon was a longtime furniture mover for Allied Van Lines after World War Two and retired to Las Vegas in the mid-1990s. He had married in 1940 but is not known to have had any children, later losing his wife, Jean, in 1977. His sister-in-law, Maude, became his life-long companion until she too passed in 2002. Hanlon soon died in Las Vegas at age 96 in 2012. He had resided for eighteen years in an apartment until he relocated to a local assisted living facility after a stroke. He is survived by three nieces, a nephew, two great-nieces; three great-nephews, and six great-great-nieces-and-nephews.
List of Shorts
- The General (1926) - with Buster Keaton
- The Shakedown (1929)
- Romance (1930) - with Greta Garbo
- Big Money (1930) - with Clark Gable
- The Wagon Master (1930)