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The 'brains' and 'action' heavies who had meaty roles and lots of dialog ... and the players who were fathers, ranch owners, lawman, mayors, judges, lawyers, storekeepers, newspaper editors, wardens, etc.

Ernie Adams

Real name:
Ernest Stephens Dumarais

Ernest Stephen Dumarais

1885 - 1947

Above - closeup/crop of Ernie from THE GUN RANGER lobby card shown below.

Ernie Adams was the oldest of two sons of Laura Girard and Leon Dumarais. His birth name was Ernest Stephens Dumarais and he was born June 18, 1885 in San Francisco. Father Leon's occupation was "bartender / saloon keeper". Brother Louis Laurent Dumarais was born in San Francisco in 1888.

Parents Laura and Leon split up in the early 1890s and both re-married. Laura tied the knot with Lambert/Bert Beatty and Leon's second wife was named Marie. At the time of the 1900 census, Ernest and his brother were living in San Francisco with mother Laura and her second husband, Lambert/Bert Beatty (and Laura has had three daughters with Beatty).

Ernie's acting career began in traveling shows and the vaudeville circuit. He was married twice. His first was in 1912 to Mamie Silver. Wife number two was Berdonna Weinberg (1890-1961). Unsure of the date of their nuptials, but she was Ernie's wife when he registered for the World War I draft in 1918. Her stage name was Berdonna Gilbert, and she and Ernie had a vaudeville comedy musical act, billing themselves as "Adams and Gilbert". Berdonna's theatrical career ended circa 1920 when daughter Shirley was born.

Newspapers, trade publications, and other sources provide a timeline of Ernie and Berdonna's vaudeville days and Ernie's transition to movies:

The Century Comedies mentioned above were two-reelers from Julius and Abe Stern, the brothers-in-law of Universal Pictures boss Carl Laemmle. The Stern's Century Film Company lasted from about 1919-1926 and their comedy shorts were released by Universal. Century stars included Baby Peggy (Diana Serra Cary) and Pal the Dog.

Vaudeville - 1913 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Vaudeville - 1914 in Iowa.

Ernie in Hollywood and about forty years old - above from the 1925 Standard Casting Directory.

His Hollywood career ran from about 1919 through his death in 1947 and consisted of about 450 silent and sound films and much of his screen work was unbilled / uncredited. Les Adams has him with about 385 sound film appearances, and included in that quantity are 125 westerns and 34 serials. His film work at Republic Pictures is about 40 features and serials scattered over the years 1936-1947.

As noted, cowboy films and cliffhangers amounted to about a third of Ernie's total film appearances. In those, he often played a gang member as well as specializing in "stool pidgeon", "squealer" and "weasel" roles. When I saw him in an oater or chapterplay, I knew he was a shifty no-good that you couldn't trust. One of his better "weasel" portrayals was the (very) nervous helper to crooked Cy Kendall who is plotting to steal a goldmine in one of Tim Holt's best, THE FARGO KID (RKO, 1940).

During the 1930s and 1940s, he did a dozen+ oaters with Bob Steele and another dozen+ with Charles Starrett. He did a bunch with Johnny Mack Brown. There was a dozen+ at Monogram with Tex Ritter, Jack Randall and the Trail Blazers. And he did a few with Tim McCoy, Ken Maynard, Tim Holt, Bob Baker, Bill Elliott, Bob Allen, the Three Mesquiteers, and the Hopalong Cassidy series with William Boyd. Taking an opposite approach, what western heroes didn't Ernie work with? He wasn't in films with Lash LaRue ... or Sunset Carson ... or at PRC with the Texas Rangers and Buster Crabbe ... or at Monogram with Jimmy Wakely and Whip Wilson ... nor did he appear with singing cowboy Fred Scott.

The bulk of his work consisted of uncredited, minor / bit parts in various A and B grade movies. And you can spot Ernie as a reporter, bartender, taxi driver, waiter, convict ... and a face in a saloon crowd or on a town street.

Following are some highlights and remembrances of Ernie in serials, westerns and other films:

Suffering from heart problems, he died on November 26, 1947 at the West Olympic Sanitarium, Los Angeles. From the December 3, 1947 issue of Film Daily: "Adams Rites on Coast. Hollywood - Funeral services were held for Ernest Adams, 62, veteran musical comedy star and screen character actor. He was best known for his work as Miller Huggins in 'Pride of the Yankees.' "

Check out Ernie's film statistic chart below. He was working right up to his passing.

Words and phrases to describe Ernie include nervous, fidgety, shifty, constantly moving, and boundless energy. And he had a plethora of facial expressions ranging from quizzical to scared to death to "I've got an idea!". At about five foot, six inches in height, he was small in size but made an impression on movie audiences. He was always fun to watch, especially when stealing the scene from the hero or brains heavy.

Ernie's Movie stats.
Below is a chart of Ernie Adams's movie work from 1919-1948 in westerns, serials, shorts, and other films. I've used the RELEASE dates (not filming dates) from the Internet Movie Database (IMDb).
Total films in this chart = 459 and about one third are westerns and serials.
1923 1924 1925 1926 1927 1928 1929 1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948

(From Old Corral collection)

In BEYOND THE ROCKIES (RKO, 1932), Tom Keene battles rustlers and is assisted by three helpers. The quartet of heroes are, from left to right, Ernie Adams, Julian Rivero, Tom Keene, and Hank Bell (and they called themselves "the roamin' rovers"). They even serenade us with some tunes around a campfire and at the ranch.

(From Old Corral collection)

Above is a blue duotone 1950 re-release title card for THE GUN RANGER (A. W. Hackel/Republic, 1937) starring Bob Steele. Pretty Eleanor Stewart is the heroine, and on the right is Ernie Adams.

(From Old Corral collection)

Above from left to right are Ted Adams, Ernie Adams, and Bob Steele in ARIZONA GUNFIGHTER (Republic, 1937), one of the A. W. Hackel/Supreme oaters released by Republic Pictures. This was one of Ted Adams' better roles, playing a reformed gunman.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from left to right are Earl Dwire (face hidden), Hal Price (with beard), Lois Wilde, Jack Randall, a bearded Chick Hannan and Ernie Adams in a crop from a lobby card from DANGER VALLEY (Monogram, 1937), Randall's third starring western. Handling both the producer and director chores was Bob Steele's father, Robert North Bradbury. Hal Price was Jack's sidekick in this one.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above - hero Jack Randall takes out prolific baddie John Merton. Herman Brix (later, Bruce Bennett) is in the left center facing Lane Chandler. And young Dickie Jones is being corralled by Ernie Adams. From Randall's LAND OF FIGHTING MEN (Monogram, 1938).

(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

THE PHANTOM STAGE (Universal, 1939) is about stolen gold shipments and was singing cowboy Bob Baker's twelfth western film and his last starring role before moving to Universal's Johnny Mack Brown series. Above - Baker discovers that pint-sized Ernie Adams hides in a special trunk and pilfers the gold shipments while the stage is enroute.

Does this "person hiding in a trunk on a stage to steal stuff" sound familiar? It was used in Bob Steele's GALLOPING ROMEO (Monogram, 1933) and Ernie Adams was in that. Ed Brady and Ernie are the no goods forcing heroine Doris Hill to hide in the trunk and snitch the money.

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Ernie Adams:

Daniel Neyer's "The Files of Jerry Blake" serial website has more on Ernie Adams in cliffhangers:

The Internet Broadway Database has Ernie in one New York play in 1918:

There's a cast photo of Betty Hutton, Kit Guard, Ernie Adams, William Farnum, and other familiar faces from THE PERILS OF PAULINE (Paramount, 1947) at:

The Three Stooges Net website has Ernie in a couple Three Stooges shorts at Columbia Pictures:

On the trail of Ernie Adams.
The Family Search website (free), (subscription), Newspaper Archive, trade papers, Google Newspaper archive, California Death Index, and the death certificate provide additional information on Ernie Adams / Ernest Stephens Dumarais and family.

Ernie's early years in San Francisco ... his parents split up ... both parents re-marry.

   Ernie's father, Leon Dumarais (about 1856-1915):

  • In the 1900 census, Ernie's father Leon Dumarais has re-married - 45 year old Leon Dumarais (born France; occupation "Saloon keeper"), his 39 year old wife Marie (born France) and a lodger are living in San Francisco, California:
  • had many San Francisco, California Voter Registrations and City Directories from the 1880s-1890s and Ernie's father, Leon Dumarais, was listed. Examples: in the 1890 and 1896 voter registrations, Leon Dumarais is a "Bartender".
  • You can sign up for a free account at Family Search. With that, you can view the San Francisco, California funeral home record and a newspaper obituary on "saloon keeper" Leon Dumarais:
  • 1905-1939 California Death Index has a record for 59 year old Leon Dumarais who passed away July 24, 1915 in the San Francisco, California area:
  • had the will and 1915 probate documents on Leon Dumarais who passed away July 24, 1915 in San Francisco and wife Marie was the sole beneficiary. Next of kin were: his 57 year old wife Marie Dumarais, living in San Francisco; son Laurent Dumarais, living in San Francisco; and son Ernest Dumarais, residing in Kansas City, Missouri. From the will: "I make no provision for my son, LAURENT DUMARAIS, nor my son ERNEST DUMARAIS. My omission does not arise from want of affection, but is nevertheless intentional."

   Ernie's mother, Laura Girard (1865-1961):

  • Ernie, his brother Louis Laurent Dumarais, and mother Laura (re-married) are together in the 1900 census - 30 year old Berton Beatty (born California; occupation "Compositor-Printer"), his 35 year old wife Laura (born France), 15 year old stepson Earnest [sic] Beatty (born California; occupation "Errand Boy"), 12 year old stepson Laurent (born California), three daughters, and a lodger are living in San Francisco, California. In addition to the two sons with first husband Leon Dumarais, Laura has three daughters with new husband Berton - there's 8 year old Bertina, 7 year old Aimee, and 6 year old Laura T. All three girls were born in California:
  • 1910 census summary and census takers worksheet - 39 year old Bert F. Beatty (born California; occupation "Printer") is a lodger residing in Los Angeles. No wife or children are with him and he's listed as married for about 15 years:
  • 1910 census summary and census takers worksheet - 45 year old Laura G. Beatty (born France; occupation "Cook - Boarding house") and her 4 year old son Bert F. Beatty are living in San Francisco. She's been married twice and had 7 children and 6 are still living:
  • 1920 census summary and census takers worksheet - 54 year old Laura G. Beatty (born France; no occupation listed), her 14 year old son Bertford F. (born California), 21 year old daughter Laura (born California), 26 year old daughter Aimee Burroughs (born California), and 7 year old grandson Robert Burroughs are renting in San Francisco. Laura is still listed as married; immigrated to the U. S. in 1876; and became a U. S. citizen in 1892:
  • California Death Index has a record for Laura G. Beatty, born January 12, 1865 in France, mother's maiden name of Girard, and she passed away January 21, 1961 in the San Francisco, California area:

Ernie's wives, Mamie Silver and Berdonna Weinberg.

   Wife #1 was Mamie Silver:

   Wife #2 was Berdonna Weinberg (1890-1961). Her stage name was Berdonna Gilbert and she and Ernie were vaudeville's "Adams and Gilbert":

  • Illinois birth record (not the birth certificate) for Ernie's wife Berdonna Weinberg. She was born August 27, 1890 in Chicago, Illinois to Sara Rose (born Texas) and Israel Weinberg (born Detroit, Michigan):
  • The California Death Index has a record for Ernie's wife, Berdonna Adams. She was born August 27, 1890 in Illinois and passed away February 12, 1961 in the Los Angeles area:
  • There's more info below on Berdonna, including the birth of daughter Shirley, Shirley's 1943 marriage to soldier Robin C. Black, etc. She and Ernie were married when he registered for the World War I draft in 1918 ... and it appears that Berdonna's nickname was "Birdie".

Vaudeville ... working for Chicago talent agent/booker Boyle Woolfolk ... on to Hollywood and movies.

  • World War I draft registration - Ernest Stephens Dumarais - and wife Birdie Dumarais - live at 836 E. 45th Street, Chicago, Illinois. His birth date is June 18, 1885; occupation is "Performer-Traveling" and his employer is "Boyle Woolfolk". Ernie registered on September 7, 1918 at Lawton, Comanche County, Oklahoma:
    (Boyle Woolfolk was a Chicago talent agent/booker for about fifty years and booked shows for the Western, Orpheum, Keith, and Butterfield vaudeville circuits, more.)
  • California Birth Index for Ernie and Berdonna's daughter Shirley Dumarais - she was born June 13, 1920 in Los Angeles and her mother's maiden name was Weinberg: has the June 13, 1920 birth certificate for Shirley Dumarais, born June 13, 1920 in Los Angeles. Parents were Ernest S. Dumarais (born California; occupation "Picture Business") and Birdomer [sic] Weinberg (born Illinois; occupation "Housewife").
  • 1930 census summary and census takers worksheet - 39 year old Ernest T. Dumarais (born California), 38 year old wife Berdoma [sic] (born Illinois) and 9 year old daughter Shirley L. (born California) are renting at 197 Franklin Avenue, Los Angeles. Ernie reports that both of his parents were born in France. He was not a World War I veteran. And his occupation is "Actor-Motion Picture Studio":
  • 1940 census summary and census takers worksheet - 54 year old Ernest Adams (born California), his 49 year old wife Berdonna (born Illinois), and 19 year old daughter Shirley (born California) are renting in a multi-family dwelling at 1830 Cherokee Avenue in Los Angeles, and he lived in the Los Angeles area in 1935. Notation from the census taker indicates the building is the Commodore Hollywood Apartments. Adams completed school through the 8th grade; his occupation is "Actor-Films", and in 1939, he worked 6 weeks and earned $1500.00. Daughter Shirley Adams reports her occupation as "Actress-Films", and in 1939, she worked 2 weeks and earned $56.00:
  • World War II draft registration: Ernest Stephens Dumarais is still living at 1830 Cherokee Avenue, Los Angeles. His birth date and location are June 18, 1885 and San Francisco. He lists his contact as the Screen Actors Guild and occupation is "motion picture actor - name 'Ernie Adams' ":
  • October 21, 1943 Los Angeles marriage license of Ernie's daughter, 23 year old Shirley Laurette Adams (born California; occupation "Actress"), to 23 year old Robin C. Black (born California; occupation "Soldier"). This was the first marriage for both. Her parents were Ernest Stephen [sic] Adams and Berdonna Weinberg:
  • Death certificate: Ernest Adams was born June 18, 1885 in San Francisco, California and his occupation was "Actor-Motion Pictures". Parents were Leon D. Adams (born San Francisco) and Laurence G. Girard (born Paris, France). His wife was Berdonna Adams; their home address was 1830 N. Cherokee Ave., Los Angeles; and he was not a military veteran. Ernie had suffered from heart problems for six months. He was hospitalized for one week at the West Olympic Sanitarium, Los Angeles, and passed away from acute pulmonary edema on November 26, 1947. Pierce Bros. Hollywood was the funeral director and burial at Valhalla Cemetery. Death certificate informant was his son-in-law, Robin Black, 1830 N. Cherokee Ave., Los Angeles.
  • There was a funeral notice in the November 9, 1947 issue of the Los Angeles (California) Times newspaper. Excerpts: "Ernest Adams, 62, motion-picture character actor ... interment in Valhalla Cemetery ... lived at 1830 N. Cherokee Ave. ... Besides his widow Berdonna he leaves a daughter, Mrs. Robin Black."
  • Trade publications also carried news on Ernie's death:
    From the December 3, 1947 issue of Film Daily: "Adams Rites on Coast. Hollywood - Funeral services were held for Ernest Adams, 62, veteran musical comedy star and screen character actor. He was best known for his work as Miller Huggins in 'Pride of the Yankees.'"
    From the December 3, 1947 issue of Variety: "Ernest Adams, 62, screen actor, died Nov. 26 (1947) in Hollywood after a long illness. Before entering pictures, he appeared in numerous stage musicals."
  • The California Death Index has a record for Ernest Adams was born 6/18/1885 in California, Mother's maiden name of Girard, and he passed away on 11/26/1947 in the Los Angeles area:
  • The California Death Index has a record for Ernie's wife, Berdonna Adams. She was born August 27, 1890 in Illinois and passed away February 12, 1961 in the Los Angeles area:
  • The California Death Index has a record for Ernie's brother - Louis L. Dumarais was born May 15, 1888, mother's maiden name of Girard, and he passed away April 5, 1963 in San Francisco:

Find A Grave - Ernest S. Adams nee Dumarais is interred at Valhalla Memorial Park, North Hollywood, Los Angeles County, California:
Wife Berdonna Weinberg Adams is also interred at Valhalla Memorial Park, North Hollywood, Los Angeles County, California:

Ernie's real name

Neither nor Family Search have a birth certificate or birth index record on Ernie. But we do have his World War I and World War II draft registrations, and his name and signature on both registrations is "Ernest Stephens Dumarais".

(Courtesy of Dale Crawford & Jim Sorensen)
Photo of the grave marker at Valhalla Cemetery for Ernest S. Adams NEE Dumarais.

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