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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Noble Johnson
Johnson in 1915
Born(1881-04-18)April 18, 1881
DiedJanuary 9, 1978(1978-01-09) (aged 96)
Resting placeEternal Valley Memorial Park, Newhall, California
Other namesMark Noble
Years active1915–1950
Spouse(s)Ruth Thornton
(m. 1912; div. 19??)
Gladys Blackwell
RelativesGeorge Perry Johnson (brother)

Noble Johnson (April 18, 1881 – January 9, 1978), later known as Mark Noble, was an American actor and film producer. He appeared in films such as The Mummy (1932), The Most Dangerous Game (1932), King Kong (1933) and Son of Kong (1933).

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Johnson was born in 1881 in Marshall, Missouri. He was of African-American ancestry. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado. At age fifteen, Johnson left school to help his father, a horse trader, with work. In 1909, Johnson entered the film industry. Standing 6'2" and weighing 215 pounds, Johnson had an impressive physique that made him in demand as a character actor and bit player. In the silent era, he assumed a wide variety of characters of different races in a plethora of films, primarily serials, westerns and adventure movies. While Johnson was cast as black in many films, he also played Native American and Latino parts and "exotic" characters such as Arabians or even a devil in hell in Dante's Inferno (1924).[1]

Noble was good friends with fellow actor Lon Chaney, his schoolmate in Colorado.[2] He was also an entrepreneur, founding his own studio, Lincoln Motion Picture Company, in 1916 in Omaha, Nebraska, with his younger brother George Perry Johnson. The Lincoln Motion Picture Company was an African-American film company (apart from director Harry A. Gant) that produced what were called "race films", movies made for the African-American audience, which was largely ignored by the "mainstream" film industry, and was the first to produce movies portraying African-Americans as real people instead of as racist caricatures (Johnson was followed into the race film business by Oscar Micheaux and others). Johnson, who served as president of the company and was its primary asset as a star actor, helped support the studio by acting in other companies' productions such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1916), and investing his pay from those films in Lincoln. The Lincoln Motion Picture Company moved to Los Angeles in 1917 and became defunct in 1922.

Lincoln's first picture was The Realization of a Negro's Ambition (1916). For four years, Johnson managed to keep Lincoln a going concern, primarily through his extraordinary commitment to African-American filmmaking. However, he reluctantly resigned as president in 1920 because he could no longer continue his double business life, maintaining a demanding career in Hollywood films while trying to run a studio.

In the 1920s, Johnson was a very busy character actor, appearing in silent films such as The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921) with Rudolph Valentino, Cecil B. DeMille's original The Ten Commandments (1923), The Thief of Bagdad (1924), Dante's Inferno (1924) and When a Man Loves (1927). He made the transition to sound films, appearing in The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu (1929) as Li Po, in Moby Dick (1930) as Queequeg to John Barrymore's Captain Ahab, and in the Boris Karloff film The Mummy (1932) as "the Nubian". He was also the Native Chief on Skull Island in the classic King Kong (1933) (and its sequel The Son of Kong, 1933) and appeared in Frank Capra's classic Lost Horizon (1937) as one of the porters. One of his later films was John Ford's She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), in which he played Native American Chief Red Shirt. He retired from the movie industry in 1950.

Johnson died of natural causes on January 9, 1978, in Yucaipa, California. He is buried in the Garden of Peace at Eternal Valley Memorial Park in Newhall, California.

Selected filmography

Noble Johnson with Bela Lugosi and Sidney Fox in Murders in the Rue Morgue, 1932


  1. ^ Geraghty, Cassandra (July 20, 2020). "Noble Johnson: A Man Whose Body of Work is More Famous than His Name". Retrieved May 14, 2022.
  2. ^ UCLA Oral History Project George P. Johnson Collector of Negro Film History (1970), page 40

External links

This page was last edited on 21 March 2024, at 20:12
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