Emory Parnell
Emory Parnell in Blonde Ice (1948).jpg
Parnell in Blonde Ice (1948)
Born(1892-12-29)December 29, 1892
DiedJune 22, 1979(1979-06-22) (aged 86)
Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Other namesEmery Parnell
Emory Parnel
  • Actor
  • vaudevillian
Years active1938–1973
SpouseEffie Laird
Children2; including James Parnell

Emory Parnell (December 29, 1892 – June 22, 1979) was an American vaudeville performer and actor who appeared in over 250 films in his 36-year career.

Early years

Born in St. Paul, Minnesota,[1] Parnell trained as a musician at Morningside College, a Methodist institution in Sioux City, Iowa.[citation needed]

He spent eight months in the Arctic in 1929, looking for gold in that area's wastelands.[2] He also worked as a telegrapher.[1]


Parnell spent his early years as a concert violinist. He performed on the Chautauqua and Lyceum circuits until 1930, when he relocated to Detroit, Michigan, to narrate and act in commercial and industrial films. A 1923 newspaper article described an upcoming Lyceum performance of "Emory Parnell, the one man band," saying that Parnell "plays an accordion, the snare drum and base [sic] drum, all at the same time."[3]

During part of the Chautauqua years, Parnell had a family act that included his wife. In 1970, she recalled, "[w]e covered every state as well as Canada, Alaska and New Zealand."[4] The Parnells resumed the act during the Korean War, doing "three to six programs a week in Army camps."[4]


Seeking better opportunities in Hollywood, Parnell and his wife moved to Los Angeles, California, where, helped by his red-faced Irish look of frustration, he immediately began to appear in films in roles such as policemen, doormen, landlords, and small town businessmen.[5] One of his first films was Doctor Rhythm (1938).[6]

Although his appearances were often in "B" films, such as the Ma and Pa Kettle series, he also performed in "A" films, including portraying a Paramount studio executive who sang about avoiding libel suits to open 1941's Louisiana Purchase.[5] Parnell was also part of writer-director Preston Sturges' unofficial "stock company" of character actors in the 1940s, appearing in five of Sturges's films,[7] including The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, where he played the crooked banker, "Mr. Tuerck", the chief antagonist of William Demarest's "Constable Kockenlocker". He also appeared as grumpy socialite Ajax Bullion in the Three Stooges short subject All the World's a Stooge.


In the late 1930s, Parnell was a member of the cast of Grouch Club on NBC.[8]


In May 1949, Parnell appeared on Broadway for the first and only time, in the play Mr. Adam, which ran for only five performances.[9][10]


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In the 1950s, Parnell began to appear on television in dramatic shows and situation comedies in roles similar to those that he had played in films. He portrayed William Bendix's factory foreman, Hank Hawkins, on The Life of Riley, and Bill Anders on five episodes of the ABC/Warner Brothers western series, Maverick.

He appeared on the ABC/WB series, Conflict and The Alaskans, with Roger Moore, and a related NBC series, Klondike, with James Coburn and Ralph Taeger. In 1958, he appeared as fire chief “Sam Carter” in the TV series The Real McCoys (S1E34 “Volunteer Fire Department”), and in 1961, he appeared as "Ira Ponder" in the TV Western series Bat Masterson (S3E18 "The Prescott Campaign"). He appeared in an episode of the NBC family drama, National Velvet and in a 1964 episode of Perry Mason as an angry investor in "The Case of the Latent Lover". In 1966 he portrayed Sheriff Blake in "Jury at the Shady Rest" on Petticoat Junction and in "Pig in a Poke" on Green Acres.

Later years

As late as 1970, Parnell was traveling and entertaining with a family act—himself, his wife, and their grandson, Dennis Parnell.[4]

Parnell's last acting appearance on television was in 1971 as a prospector on CBS's Gunsmoke. His last film role was as a bartender in the 1973 film, Girls on the Road. His final public appearance came in 1974, when he and his wife were interviewed by TV talk-show host Tom Snyder along with other residents of the Motion Picture Country Home and Hospital.[citation needed]

Personal life

Parnell was married to Effie Laird, an actress who appeared with him both in vaudeville and in films.[1] They had two children together, one of whom, James Parnell, also became an actor. His son James died in 1961.[11]

Parnell owned a 36-foot yacht and was a member of the United States Coast Guard Reserve.[12]


Parnell died of a heart attack in 1979 at age 86.[citation needed]

Selected filmography


  1. ^ a b c "It's a Record For the Parnells". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. New York, Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. July 16, 1944. p. 24. Retrieved February 4, 2016 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  2. ^ "Double Feature at Park, Now". Reading Times. Pennsylvania, Reading. Reading Times. August 6, 1938. p. 5. Retrieved February 4, 2016 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  3. ^ "Grotto Picks 6 Numbers for Lyceum Course". Herald and Review. Illinois, Decatur. The Decatur Herald. September 16, 1923. p. 3. Retrieved February 4, 2016 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  4. ^ a b c Kirkland, Alma (April 9, 1970). "Secret of youth for Parnells is entertain". California, Long Beach. Independent. p. 21. Retrieved February 4, 2016 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  5. ^ a b Erickson, Hal Biography (Allmovie)
  6. ^ "'Doctor Rhythm' Prescribes Well". Harrisburg Telegraph. Pennsylvania, Harrisburg. Harrisburg Telegraph. June 10, 1938. p. 16. Retrieved February 4, 2016 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  7. ^ Parnell appeared in The Great McGinty, Sullivan's Travels, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, The Great Moment and The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend.
  8. ^ "(radio listing)". The Hutchinson News. Kansas, Hutchinson. The Hutchinson News. August 19, 1939. p. 8. Retrieved February 4, 2016 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  9. ^ "Mr. Adam". IBDB.com. Internet Broadway Database.
  10. ^ "Emory Parnell". Playbill Vault. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
  11. ^ "Services Set Monday For Actor Parnell". Valley Times. North Hollywood, California. December 30, 1961. p. 2. Retrieved June 4, 2022 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  12. ^ "Not the Type". The Salt Lake Tribune. Utah, Salt Lake City. The Salt Lake Tribune. February 23, 1945. p. 18. Retrieved February 4, 2016 – via Newspapers.com. open access