Horace Murphy: A Real Western Character

I’ve seen both Finley, Tennessee and Osceola, Arkansas as birthplaces for B movie and radio western character actor Horace Murphy (1880-1975) — but both are near the Mississippi River, and that’s the salient point. The son of a country doctor, Murphy started out as a child actor and cornet player with traveling shows, including the Newton Family Wagon Show, the C.W. Parker Carnival Company, and Dr. Rucker’s Korak Wonder Medicine Show. He became the half-owner of a show boat called the “Cotton Blossom Floating Palace” and a chain of tent shows (with attached exhibition baseball teams) that played the territory west of New Orleans. Then he built two brick-and-mortar theatres in the Los Angeles area.

Murphy had a bit part in a 1931 thriller called The Phantom, but properly began his movie career in 1934, amassing 125 credits over the next dozen years, supporting Tex Ritter, Johnny Mack Brown, George O’Brien, and others. On radio in the ’40s, he was a regular on Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch, The Roy Rogers Show, and Red Ryder. In 1950 he played the storekeeper on Granby’s Green Acres with Gale Gordon and Bea Benaderet, the inspiration for the later tv sitcom Green Acres. His last professional credit was a walk-on as a farmer on The Abbott and Costello Show in 1954.

To learn more about vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous.