Parnell in the TV series The Life of Riley
|Died||June 22, 1979 (aged 86)|
|Other names||Emery 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".
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."
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." The Parnells resumed the act during the Korean War, doing "three to six programs a week in Army camps."
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. One of his first films was Doctor Rhythm (1938).
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. Parnell was also part of writer-director Preston Sturges' unofficial "stock company" of character actors in the 1940s, appearing in five of Sturges' films, 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.
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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".
As late as 1970, Parnell was traveling and entertaining with a family act--himself, his wife, and their grandson, Dennis Parnell.
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.
Parnell died of a heart attack in 1979 at age 86.