|James C. Morton|
|born: 25 August 1884
United States of America
|died: 27 October 1942
United States of America
(chronic myocarditis, aged 58)
|Loveable, balding American actor, a regular opponent to Laurel and Hardy - often as a policeman.
James’s father was Henry K. Lankton, who usually went by the name Harry, born in New York, NY on 23 June 1857, and his mother Ann Lankton (sometimes given as Annie). Interestingly, for someone who so often played policemen in film comedies, James’s father seems to have been on the New York City police force; a city directory from 1883 lists him as such. The Lanktons were, in the year prior to James’s birth, living at 113 Washington Place.
At some point around 1902, James married. Records don’t indicate the name of his spouse, and the information has to be inferred from later sources that indicate his son Alfred was born in New Jersey on 8 April 1903, and that at some point James and Alfred’s mother divorced.
Exactly when James adopted the last name Morton as his stage pseudonym is unclear, but it occurred no later than 1910. The cast of the Broadway musical “The Merry Whirl,” which debuted in May, 1910, lists “James C. Morton” in its cast. He remained busy on Broadway and on the vaudeville circuit over the next twenty years; his last Broadway credit, from February 1931, places him in the role of “Judge Halsey” in the drama “Hobo,” which unfortunately had a short run.
James’s WWI draft registration, dated September 7, 1918, shows him living on Long Island, and currently employed in the “Theatrical” industry, through “United Booking”. Interestingly, though James still went by the surname Lankton at this time for legal purposes, he listed his nearest relative as his father, Harry K. Morton, who resided in Fletcher Place in the Bronx. This may have been an error on the part of the Selective Service official who made out the card, as other sources show James’s father’s last name as the same as his own, Lankton, and there’s an error in arithmetic too, for though James’s date of birth is recorded correctly, his age is given as 35 when in fact he had turned 34 only two weeks before. James’s physical characteristics were described as “medium” height and build, “gray” eyes, and “brown” hair. A note at the end of the registration card states “Theatrical Name James C. Morton”.
The 1940 census has “James C. Morton” living at 2051 Corning Avenue, Los Angeles, an address only about a half mile northeast of the Hal Roach Studio and even closer (a matter of a few blocks) to the Arnaz Ranch site owned by Roach and used as an ancillary filming location. James rented this home (which has been completely obliterated by new apartment buildings) for a modest $30 a month, so it was likely a small bungalow similar to the few contemporary survivals in the neighborhood. With James lived his 37 year old son, Alfred, though James indicated his age as 54 (which would imply Alfred had been born when James was 17). Both James and Alfred recorded their occupations as “free lance actor” at “Motion picture studio”. Under education, James had completed 6 years of school, and Alfred 8. This suggests James’s education ended somewhere around the year 1896. James’s marital status is “divorced” at this time. But not for long.
Later that year, James remarried, on December 7, to Elizabeth “Betty” Dolmage, in Santa Monica, CA. James’s age on the marriage certificate was given as 55, though in fact he was 56, and Betty’s was 18. (Quite an age difference, especially for that era!) Witnesses for the marriage were his son, Alfred Morton, and Alfred’s wife Joan. (Interestingly, James’s son took his stage name as his legal surname). James was still living at 2051 Corning, and listed his occupation as “Actor” on the marriage certificate.
James C. Morton passed away on October 27, 1942 at his present home, 18138 Erwin St., Reseda, CA. (Reseda is a considerable distance northwest of Morton’s former address on Corning Ave.; the town is situated between Van Nuys and Canoga Park). The death certificate lists cause as “chronic myocarditis” and indicates James had been under treatment by a doctor for three days leading to his death (which is undoubtedly why his date of death is often misrepresented as occurring October 24). The attending physician recorded James had had this condition 11 years, or since about 1931. James was interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, CA, (Plot: Section A, Lot 104) on October 30th. James’s son Alfred passed away at the age of 67 on 13 August 1970.
Prior to his death in 1942, he had accompanied Laurel and Hardy on two tours, performing in the Drivers license sketch.
|Real name: James Carmody Lankton
|Films listed on this page: complete Hal Roach filmography;
plus all films with Charley Chase.