00john lester johnson


Character: Bumbo
Birthday: August 13, 1893
Place of Birth: Suffolk City, Virginia
Date of Death: Mar. 27, 1968
Place of Death: West Los Angeles, California
First Short: The Kid From Borneo
Last Short: The Kid From Borneo
Number of Shorts: 1
History: John Leslie Johnson was an American actor and boxer possibly best known for appearing in the first integrated boxing event in 1916 and for his role as the wild-man in the Our Gang short, "The Kid From Borneo."
He was born John Leslie Johnson on August 13, 1893 in Suffolk, Virginia, later changing his middle name to "Lester," possibly because it sounded more masculine. A fighter in his teens, he made his career as a boxer, moving to New York City in 1910. Usually described as a giant, he was actually a good-sized light-heavyweight with a fighting weight that varied between 173 and 185 pounds. His first professional fight was in 1911 against Joe Jeannette in New York, but he lost the 10-round event on a decision. On July 13, 1916, the Harlem Sporting Club in New York City sponsored Johnson in the first integrated professional boxing event against Jack Dempsey, who was by then becoming one of the first known boxing stars. Despite breaking three of Dempsey's ribs in the second round, Dempsey held his own in the ten-round fight which ended on an indecision although several of the sportswriters gave Dempsey the winning title. Dempsey himself denied winning, later declaring in a statement that he thought Johnson had won and taught him how to fight.
Continued to box for several more years, Johnson eventually made his way to California but was denied another chance at the championship. He soon drifted into boxing obscurity and started supporting himself as a night watchman for the Armed Forces General Services Center in Maywood, Los Angeles and later as an actor. He made his debut in the 1922 film, "Square Joe," and made further roles, usually uncredited, in "The Spider," "Radio Patrol," "A Passport to Hell," "Hell's Highway" and "Blubber Mouth." He was forty years old when he appeared at Hal Roach Studios playing Bumbo the Wild Man confused as Spanky's Uncle George in "The Wildman from Borneo." Through most of his roles, Johnson played a variety of small parts through the 30s and 40s, usually as a doorman, a slave, a criminal, a witch doctor, and briefly as a policeman. He appeared in two Three Stooges shorts for Columbia Pictures, playing a medicine man in "Three Missing Links" and a palace guard in "Wee-Wee Monsieur," but he never had another starring role as he had in Our Gang. After suffering a series of disabling strokes in the late 1950s, he presided at the Veterans Administration Hospital in West Los Angeles, suggesting he might have had at least once briefly been in the military. He passed away at the age of 74 on March 27, 1968, survived by his wife, Lulu Dill-Johnson. It's not revealed if they had any children.
Johnson was interred at the Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles, California although his death certificate erroneously claimed he was born in South Carolina. His fight with Dempsey was mentioned in the 1983 TV movie, "Dempsey."

List of Shorts

Other Projects

00john lester2

John Lester Johnson in "Three Missing Links"

  • Square Joe (1922)
  • Flames of Wrath (1925)
  • The Spider (1931)
  • Radio Patrol (1932)
  • A Passport to Hell (1932)
  • Hell's Highway (1932)
  • Gambling Lady (1934)
  • Ever Since Eve (1934)
  • The Mighty Barnum (1934)
  • Steamboat Round the Bend (1935)
  • Escape from Devil's Island {1935)
  • A Scream in the Night (1936)
  • The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936)
  • White Hunter (1936)
  • Gold Diggers of 1937 (1937)
  • This Is My Affair (1938)
  • Tarzan's Revenge (1938)
  • The Story of Doctor Carver (1938)
  • Three Missing Links (1938) with The Three Stooges
  • Wee-Wee Monsieur (1938) with The Three Stooges
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1940)
  • Mystery In Swing (1940)
  • Drums of Fu Manchu (1940)
  • Mr. Washington Goes to Town (1941)
  • Lady Luck (1942)
  • Professor Creeps (1942)
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