Emory 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. He was nicknamed "The Big Swede" and was sometimes credited as "Emery" or "Parnel".[1]

Emory Parnell
Parnell in the TV series The Life of Riley
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
OccupationVaudevillian, actor
Years active19381973
Spouse(s)Effie Laird

Early years

Born in St. Paul, Minnesota,[2] Parnell trained as a musician at Morningside College, a Methodist institution in Sioux City, Iowa.

He spent eight months in the Arctic in 1929, looking for gold in that area's wastelands.[3] He also worked as a telegrapher.[2]


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."[4]

During part of the Chatauqua 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."[5] The Parnells resumed the act during the Korean War, doing "three to six programs a week in Army camps."[5]


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 a variety of role, such as policemen, doormen, landlords, and small town businessmen.[6] One of his first films was Doctor Rhythm (1938).[7]

Although his appearances were often in "B" films, such as the Ma and Pa Kettle series, he also made credible showings in "A" films as well. One notable part was as a Paramount studio executive who sang about avoiding libel suits to open 1941's Louisiana Purchase.[6] Parnell was also part of writer-director Preston Sturges' unofficial "stock company" of character actors in the 1940s, appearing in five of Sturges' films,[8] 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 made a memorable appearance 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.[9]


In May 1949, Parnell appeared on Broadway for the first and only time, in the play Mr. Adam, which ran for only five performances.[10][11]


In the 1950s, Parnell began to appear on television in both 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 the character "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 even shorter series, Klondike, with James Coburn and Ralph Taeger. He was cast in an episode of the NBC family drama, National Velvet. He appeared in a 1964 episode of Perry Mason as Leo Mann, an angry investor, titled "The Case of the Latent Lover". In 1966 he made an appearance on Petticoat Junction as Sheriff Blake in the episode: "Jury at the Shady Rest". In 1966 he also appeared on "Green Acres" as Sheriff Blake in the episode: "Pig in a Poke".

Later years

As late as 1970, Parnell was traveling and entertaining with a family act—himself, his wife, and their grandson, Dennis Parnell.[5]

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.

Personal life

Parnell was married to Effie Laird, an actress who appeared with him both in vaudeville and in films.[2] They had two children together, one of whom, James Parnell, also became an actor.[1][12]

Parnell owned a 36-foot yacht and was a member of the United States Coast Guard Reserve.[13]


Parnell died of a heart attack in 1979 at age 86.

Selected filmography


  1. IMDB Biography
  2. "It's a Record For the Parnells". New York, Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. July 16, 1944. p. 24. Retrieved February 4, 2016 via Newspapers.com.
  3. "Double Feature at Park, Now". Pennsylvania, Reading. Reading Times. August 6, 1938. p. 5. Retrieved February 4, 2016 via Newspapers.com.
  4. "Grotto Picks 6 Numbers for Lyceum Course". Illinois, Decatur. The Decatur Herald. September 16, 1923. p. 3. Retrieved February 4, 2016 via Newspapers.com.
  5. 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.
  6. Erickson, Hal Biography (Allmovie)
  7. "'Doctor Rhythm' Prescribes Well". Pennsylvania, Harrisburg. Harrisburg Telegraph. June 10, 1938. p. 16. Retrieved February 4, 2016 via Newspapers.com.
  8. 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.
  9. "(radio listing)". Kansas, Hutchinson. The Hutchinson News. August 19, 1939. p. 8. Retrieved February 4, 2016 via Newspapers.com.
  10. Mr. Adam at the Internet Broadway Database
  11. "Emory Parnell". Playbill Vault. Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  12. James Parnell on IMDb
  13. "Not the Type". Utah, Salt Lake City. The Salt Lake Tribune. February 23, 1945. p. 18. Retrieved February 4, 2016 via Newspapers.com.
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