My lifelong preoccupation with Hollywood sites and the related research led to all of my books, and eventually the Movieland Directory and the TMD site. Along the way I stumbled onto thousands of interesting Hollywood stories, which will eventually become another book when I’m done with the two or three I’ve been working on the past year or so. In the meantime, I’ll drop a few of the tales here as I think of it. What’s most interesting to me is how so many of the stories are intertwined with other stories and other stars’ lives. Ace Hudkins is a great example.
Ace Hudkins was born in Nebraska in 1905 and began boxing at 12. He began fighting professionally at 16 and boxed until he was 27 and was never knocked out. His nicknames were “The Wildcat” and “The Nebraska Wildcat”. In the years around 1925-1926, Hudkins and Clever Sencio were the top drawing cards at Los Angeles’ Olympic Auditorium. One of his most famous fights was a 1927 fight in New York, a knockout of hot prospect Ruby Goldstein. One writer wrote of Hudkins’ win over Goldstein as “the fight that broke the Jewish banks.” It was Hudkins’ toughness that most impressed his faithful fans; his fight against Sammy Baker was described as “the bloodiest fight ever seen…even the referee was drenched in ruby red…” Fighting from lightweight to light-heavyweight, he won several California State Heavyweight Titles and was Southern California’s biggest boxing drawing card in the 1920s.
In 1930 he lived with his extended family at 2302 Observatory Avenue in L.A.; his brothers Clyde and Art served as his managers. As his boxing career wound down in the early 1930’s his personal life fell apart as he battled alcoholism and went on extended “benders.” On January 10, 1932 he was charged with Assault with a Deadly Weapon in Los Angeles for punching T. Leonard Park, 38, in the head with his bare fist and fracturing his skull. Hudkins claimed that he and a friend, Ellen Dorsey, were standing at an intersection when Park and a companion, Edward B. Martin, approached and insulted the woman. The charges were later dropped but Park sued Hudkins for $50,000 and was awarded $1.
That March, his pretty live-in girlfriend Rhea Hill sued for $160,000; $100,000 for breach of a promise to marry, and $60,000 for beating her. After winning the lawsuit on April 2nd, Ace went out, got drunk, and was arrested for public drunkenness and fighting with the police. The following July 16th he was arrested for drunk driving and speeding near Fresno. Released from jail the next morning he went to a nearby bar and when he left, drove his car directly into a service station building, destroying both car and building and landing back in jail charged with drunk driving again. In December he was arrested and convicted twice more in Fresno on the same charges.In March, 1933, Hudkins spent a month in Hawaii and was arrested twice for disorderly conduct following fights in hotel bars and spent a week in jail.
On August 7, 1933, a drunk Hudkins started a brawl in a Hollywood café and pulled a gun (which turned out to be unloaded) on the bar’s owner Richard Harris, who pulled his own (loaded) gun and shot Hudkins twice in the chest. Ace lingered near death for two weeks at a Glendale hospital while receiving two blood transfusions, but somehow survived.On November 9th Hudkins was arrested after a drunken early-morning brawl when his friend David Chalmers’ father-in-law – a huge San Pedro longshoreman – took the gun he was still carrying and knocked him unconscious with it. Leaving the fight, he and Chalmers tried to drive away without paying for 8 gallons of gas and were arrested for petty theft. Just two weeks later on November 21st he was arrested when police found both he and Chalmers passed out drunk and asleep in his car at a stoplight at Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street. By the time of his December 2nd arrest a drunken rampage at his 416 South Burlington Avenue apartment building, headlines read ACE HUDKINS SOJOURNING IN CELL AGAIN. The judge, seeing him for the third time in three weeks, sent him to the county jail for five days.
In the late 1930’s, Hudkins settled down and married, and after operating a bar in Hollywood moved to Toluca Lake and bought a stable where he and his brother Art ran a string of race-horses. He lived there with his wife Mildred and their adopted son Robert Herron and rented horses, wagons, and cowboy gear to studios for westerns and the land for filming. Hudkins Brothers Movie Ranch was a favorite of dozens of cowboy stars who boarded horses (the property is now part of Forest Lawn Glendale) and among Ace’s friends were Smiley Burnette, Guinn Wilson, Fred Kennedy, Gene Autry, and John Wayne. Ace was soon doing stunt work in their movies and his horses appearing in dozens of Republic Studio films.
In 1938, Republic rented one of his horses – whom Ace had named ‘Hi Yo Silver’ – for a movie version of The Lone Ranger. The horse’s name became The Lone Ranger’s trademark. Ace’s favorite horse was Olivia de Havilland’s mount in the 1938 classic The Adventures of Robin Hood. When filming was completed, Roy Rogers came looking for a horse for his first starring vehicle, Under the Western Sky, and took de Havilland’s horse for a ride around the ranch. After the lengthy ride Rogers and the horse had become instantly attached, and although he was only making $75 a week at the time agreed to pay Ace $2,500 for the horse. It took him several years to pay for his new partner, whom Ace had named Trigger. Ace’s horse Trigger co-starred in all 82 movies made by Rogers between 1938 and 1952 and also appeared in all 100 TV episodes of ‘The Roy Rogers Show.’In the 1954-57 television series ‘Annie Oakley,’ both horses used to play the role of Oakley’s horse Target were Ace’s horses.
Ace was still doing stunt work in films as late as the mid-1960’s. In his final film, 1966’s Batman, the 61 year-old almost broke his neck when he dove off the side of a prop submarine hull into Sorenson’s Lake at the 20th Century Fox Malibu Ranch. The “lake” was only 4′ deep and Ace hit the bottom and spent three weeks in the hospital recovering. Ace Hudkins died on April 8, 1973 in Los Angeles and was posthumously inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1995. His adopted son Robert D. Herron had a long career as a stuntman, stunt director, and actor and was one of the founding members of the Stuntmen’s Association of Motion Pictures and served on the board of directors of the Screen Actors Guild.
A young boxing fan posted the following story on an internet site dedicated to boxers of that era; “I was a security guard back in 1971 when I was college…we did all the apartment complexes is Foster City, Calif…got a call over patrol car radio from a complex manager about an attempted robbery…I arrived to be met by a short old man with a shuffling step & a flat nose…he was the new apartment manager, Craig Exley…I asked him if he was hit in the nose during robbery, and he laughed & said that happened years ago when he was a boxer…I asked him if he could describe the 3 robbers, and he said he could, but why don’t I just look at them myself?…I entered his office to find 3 (African Americans) between 6 to 8 inches taller than him all laying on the floor knocked out..he said he only hit them once each after they threatened him…they thought this old man would be an easy mark…we talked about the framed boxing pictures on his wall while we waited for police to come, and he said with a smile, “Yeah, I used to be Ace Hudkins..” .I was just an 18 year old kid, but my dad was a boxer in the 1930s…Ace (Craig) revelled (sic) me with stories about Mickey Walker fights til the cops got there…”
Ace Hudkins, member of my Forgotten Hollywood Hall of Fame.