American actor (1918-2003). Born in Miami, Arizona, Elam worked in the cotton fields when he was a boy. He got into a fight with a boy at a Boy Scout meeting when he was 12 years old. The other boy threw a pencil, which struck Elam in the left eye, blinding him and rendering his eye off-kilter and immobile. In the early 1950s, he'd mentioned the Darryl Zanuck, the head of 20th Century Fox, that he was thinking of getting the eye repaired, and Zanuck told him he should leave it as is, saying it was part of Elam's mystique. His strange, staring eye eventually became Elam's ticket to fame (Well, as much fame as you can get as a Hollywood character actor).

He attended Santa Monica Junior College and got jobs as the manager of the Bel Air Hotel and as an accountant. After World War II, Elam was hired as a bookkeeper at Samuel Goldwyn Studios, before being promoted to Office Controller for movie star William Boyd at Hopalong Cassidy Productions. But working on figures for long hours put a strain on his good eye, and his doctor warned him that continuing his work in accounting could cost him his sight. Soon after, he learned that a friend in the studio was having difficulty getting financing for three Western scripts. Elam made him a deal -- all three scripts got financed, and Elam got cast as a bad guy in all three movies.

Elam's portrayals of crazed villains were very popular, thanks at least in part to his scary eye, his 6' 2" frame, and his deep, gravelly voice, and he soon found himself in greater demand as an actor. He played, generally, three kinds of characters: terrifying thugs, killers, and general heavies; funny thugs, killers, and general heavies; and loveable old mountain men. And while playing all these different kinds of roles, he also became known on sets as a world-class gambler.

Some of Elam's movies included: "Trailin' West" (his first movie), "She Shoulda Said No," "The Sundowners," "High Lonesome," "Rawhide," "The Bushwhackers," "Rancho Notorious," "The Battle at Apache Pass," "Montana Territory," "High Noon," "Kansas City Confidential," "Ride, Vaquero!," "Ride Clear of Diablo," "Princess of the Nile," "The Far Country," "Vera Cruz," "Cattle Queen of Montana," "Kiss Me Deadly," "Wichita," "The Man from Laramie," "Kismet," "Tarzan's Hidden Jungle," "Thunder Over Arizona," "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral," "Baby Face Nelson," "The Gun Runners," "The Comancheros," "The Slowest Gun in the West," "4 for Texas," "Once Upon a Time in the West," "Support Your Local Sheriff!," "The Over-the-Hill Gang," "Sonora," "Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County," "Rio Lobo," "The Wild Country," "Support Your Local Gunfighter," "Hannie Caulder," "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid," "A Knife for the Ladies," "Huckleberry Finn," "The Ransom of Red Chief," "Hawmps!," "The Winds of Autumn," "How the West Was Won," "Grayeagle," "The Norseman," "Hot Lead and Cold Feet," "The Sacketts," "The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again," "The Villain," a short-lived TV series called "Struck by Lightning," where he played Frankenstein's monster, "Soggy Bottom, USA," "Cannonball Run," "Sawyer and Finn," "Cannonball Run II," "The Aurora Encounter," "Once Upon a Texas Train," "Big Bad John," "Suburban Commando," "The Giant of Thunder Mountain," "Bonanza: The Return," and "Bonanza: Under Attack" (his last film).

He was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1994. He died of congestive heart failure in Ashland, Oregon, on October 20, 2003.

Research from the Internet Movie Database (

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