Lee "Lasses" White
The Southern-fried sidekick to B-Western stars Tim Holt and Jimmy Wakely, Lee "Lasses" White was, according to writer/director Oliver Drake, "the salt of the earth." A co-worker, perennial bad guy Terry Frost, remembered having "a ball every minute I was with (him)." Coming to films late in his long career, the Texas-born performer became a star in early-20th century minstrel shows, earning his nickname (short for "molasses") while trouping with Honey Childs and the famous A.G. Fields Minstrels. He later performed on Nashville radio, including four years with the Grand Ole Opry, before pulling up stakes and moving to Hollywood. By 1941, White was playing Ed Potts, henpecked husband of town gossip Clara Potts (Fern Emmett), in RKO's Scattergood Baines comedies, and he went on to replace the equally elderly Emmett Lynn in the sidekick role of Whopper in the studio's popular Tim Holt Westerns. RKO let White go when Holt left to enlist, but he was back in the harness by 1944, "sidekicking" this time for Jimmy Wakely, Monogram's low-rent answer to Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. By 1947, Wakely was persuaded to ditch the veteran performer in favor of the younger Dub Taylor, recently released from Columbia. According to Jimmy, the change ultimately proved detrimental to the series as a whole, as Taylor's brand of very physical humor clashed with his own natural reticence. Never a top favorite with the kids, the target audience of B-Westerns in the '40s, White was really more of a comic actor than a clown and his work -- rolling eyes and swaying walk -- belonged squarely to the long-lost era of blackface minstrel shows. He died in 1949 in Hollywood.