who know how to make a bullet go exactly where they want it to can
use that ability for good or bad. Either way, there can be money
"He is seldom heard of himself," the Associated Press reported in
1927, "but twelve hundred times he has held the life of some screen
star or featured player within the crook of his trigger finger."
One reason that this interesting but virtually forgotten character
who passed himself off as a Texan could be labeled as "seldom heard
of" even at the height of his Hollywood career lay in the fact that
at birth he had been saddled with the most common of surnames -
Hundreds of thousands if not millions of fine people have the last
names of Jones, but from the standpoint of a self-promoter or researcher,
a person could hardly have a worse surname. Keeping up with the
Joneses is tough.
If Ed Jones had been branded with a more distinctive handle, it
would be a lot easier to learn about him today. As it is, of all
the billions of web pages out there in Cyber Space, only two semi-substantial
reference to Jones surfaces in an online search.
Back when the information highway was just a dirt road, the showman
in Jones must have realized he needed to enhance his name a bit
for better recognition. What he - or someone -- came up with was
"King Fisher" or "Pardner" Jones.
of "King Fisher" is not too surprising. Jones claimed to have been
born in Del Rio,
not far from the South Texas range of outlaw-lawman John "King"
Fisher. Fisher and former Austin
city marshal Ben Thomas were gunned down in San
Antonio in March 1884, probably about the year of Jones' birth.
King Fisher, unlike most Texans named Jones, had strong name recognition
in late 19th century and early 20th century Texas.
The truth is that Edward Zachariah Jones was born June 17,
1875 in Alabama, not Texas. At some point, Jones did head west and
well could have spent some time in the Lone Star State.
At some point, he ranged farther west. He told folks that he grew
up in New Mexico and Arizona. That's where he learned to shoot,
which led to his unusual way of making a living. Known as the "gunman
of Hollywood," Jones did stunt shooting for Western filmmakers,
often using real bullets.
A heavyset man with a handlebar moustache, Jones said he had been
a deputy under Wyatt Earp, but when Earp packed a six-shooter, Jones
was too young for that line of work. But somewhere along the line,
it's incontrovertible that Jones learned how to shoot and shoot
good. Tinsel Town liked -- and needed -- someone like that.
In 1923, Jones
worked as technical advisor during the filming of a screenplay based
on Emerson Hough's "The Covered Wagon," the first Western epic.
Produced by James Cruze and shot in Utah, the film rejuvenated the
Western, restoring the genre to life from one of its many near-death
experiences over the years.
Cruze sought and achieved realism in his movie, and Jones helped
make that happen. The Texan also provided a little Old West reality
During the filming of a buffalo hunt, a cantankerous bison charged
the horses pulling a wagon containing chief cameraman Karl Brown
and his camera. The wagon overturned, dumping Brown in the path
of an infuriated buffalo.
As Photoplay Magazine later reported: "Old Ed Jones, a movie actor,
a puncher and a dead shot, calmly…shot between horses, men, cameras
and wagon - a space about a foot in diameter - and brought down
the buffalo. It saved Brown's life probably and that's how they
had buffalo meat the first day in camp."
When "talkies" put the writers of sub titles out of business in
1927, the principal sound associated with an appearance by Jones
became the crack of gunfire.
"When a director wants realism in a sequence where bullets are supposed
to be flying perilously close to the principal characters he calls
on Pardner Jones," the AP said.
Indeed, Jones was the go-to guy for shooting hats off actor's heads
or cigars out of their mouths. A la William Tell, he also could
make instant apple sauce, albeit with a bullet instead of an arrow.
His crowning achievement came when actor Tom Mix let Jones "smash
with a bullet the works of a watch he carried over his heart."
(That makes a good story, but surely it had been faked. In the real
world, a watch is not all that bullet-proof.)
In addition to shooting, Jones also handled bit parts, his filmography
listing 37 movies, from "The Man from the East" in 1914 to "The
Arizona Wildcat" in 1939. Jones also facilitated horseback scenes
and wrangled horses and cattle on location. During that 25-year
career, movies went from silent black-and-white one-reelers to sophisticated
color films with sound.
No matter his common name and lack of star status, Jones must have
made good copy for Hollywood press agents, the screen magazines
and the tabloids. He died in Los Angeles on Feb. 7, 1958 at 82.
One thing is for sure about Ed "King Fisher" or "Pardner" Jones
- he was a Texas wannabe who could at least shoot like a Texan.
© Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" October
6 , 2016 column
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