Stunt Memorial: Hudkins, Ace (RIP)

Ace Hudkins

Born: 1905 Passed: 1973

Ace Hudkins was born in Nebraska in 1905 and began boxing at 12. He began fighting professionally in 1921 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 1930s his personal life was a mess as he battled alcoholism and went on extended benders. On January 10, 1932 he was charged with Assault with a Deadly Weapon in L.A. for punching T. Leonard Park 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 another man approached and insulted the woman. The charges were later dropped but Park sued Hudkins for $50,000 and was awarded $1. On March 24, 1932, his 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.

On 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, 1932 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 (what turned out to be an unloaded) gun on the bar’s owner Richard Harris, who pulled his own (loaded) gun and shot Hudkins twice in the chest. He lingered near death for two weeks at a Glendale hospital while receiving two blood transfusions, but somehow survived. On November 9th Hudkins was yet again 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, his problem was public knowledge. The judge sent him to the county jail for five days.

In the late 1930s, Hudkins 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 D. Herron and rented horses, wagons, and cowboy gear to studios for westerns and his land for filming. His Hudkins Brothers Movie Ranch was a favorite of dozens of cowboy stars who boarded horses at the ranch (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 movies. 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 yell. Ace’s favorite horse was used as Olivia de Havilland’s mount in the 1938 classic The Adventures of Robin Hood. When filming was done, cowboy actor Roy Rogers came looking for a horse to ride in 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 Rogers was only making $75 a week at the time, he 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.” 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.

In Ace’s trophy room, among other things, was a document from the Governor of Kentucky stating that he had made Ace a Kentucky Colonel. He died April 8, 1973 in Los Angeles and was posthumously inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1995. His adopted son Robert 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.

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