|Prairie Moon (1938)||$55 / week|
Dan White was born to George & Orpha White about one mile from the Suwannee River in Falmouth, Florida. Falmouth was a small sleepy town then, as it is still today. He was one of 13 siblings who were moved to Lakeland sometime around WW I. Lakeland is where Dan was introduced into show business in 1922 at the age of 14. He ran away from home when the show moved on and traveled thousands of miles throughout the South in tent, minstrel, vaudeville and theater shows. Dan performed on stage with his brother Willard for nine years with a stock company in Tampa's old Rialto Theater. Frances Langford worked with him during this time and it was Dan who told her to go to Hollywood. During this period he met Matilda "Tilda" Mae Spivey on the stage, and married her on February 25, 1933. Tilda had a two-year-old child from a previous marriage by the name of Arthur "Art" Grant Gifford. Times were tough, so Dan had to get out of show business for a while to make some real money. In 1934 he found work with the Conservation Corps in Homestead, Florida, but show business was always in his heart. Dan knew he had what it took to "make it" in Hollywood, so he decided to make the move to California in 1935. They packed all their possessions into their Ford and started the long, arduous trek across the country. This was during the Great Depression, and money was very tight. They had to stop frequently in various cities across the country to make extra money to continue their journey. Dan was a very good auto mechanic and never had a problem finding this type of work wherever he went. This skill paid off once during the filming of To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). During the "mob" scene, one of the cars they were to drive away in would not start. Dan opened the hood, stepped onto the front bumper, and had the car running in no time flat.
Dan and his family lived in Panama City, Florida, and Shreveport, Louisiana for a while. They reached Texarkana, Arkansas in January 1937, and had to stop for a different reason this time. Tilda was carrying their unborn child, and it was showing signs that it could wait no longer. Tilda's sister Mary happened to live in Texarkana, and they were able to stay there for a few months until the baby was born and got big enough to travel. Daughter June Larue White was born February 14, 1937. On April 1, 1937, Dan, Tilda, Art and June continued their journey to Hollywood. They arrived 16 days later, and found a house to rent just an eye-shot away from the "HOLLYWOOD" sign. They lived in this house for 23 years where many movie deals were made, and scripts were written--right in their own living room! Upon arrival in Hollywood, Dan had a hard time finding work and found himself down in Panama working on the Pan American Highway for 6 months. When he returned home in 1938, he found work with Republic Pictures where he made at least 6 movies in his first year alone. His first known film was a western titled Prairie Moon (1938) with Gene Autry. Dan made $55 a week working on this production. Over the years in Hollywood, Dan claimed to have made nearly 300 films and 150 television appearances, with about 70% of all this work being in westerns. Among his most well-known pictures were The Yearling (1946), Distant Drums (1951), Red River (1948), To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), Giant (1956), Duel in the Sun (1946), Four Faces West (1948), Jailhouse Rock (1957), Touch of Evil (1958) and many, many more. Somehow during all this filming, Dan and Tilda found time to have their third child--Donald Curtis White, born November 9, 1941; just 28 days before Pearl Harbor was bombed. Dan made his reputation in the numerous "B" westerns in which often played the villain (or "henchie"). His weathered, high-cheek boned face with its tight-drawn, expressionless mouth and beady snake eyes chilled the blood of many a Saturday matinee-er in the 1940s and 1950s. Dan loved his work, especially all of his "outdoor" pictures. In the 1950s and 1960s, when work in western films started to dry up, Dan turned to television. He was offered the role of Sam the Bartender in Gunsmoke (1955), but he didn't want to commit to something like that. He told his best friend Glenn Strange to apply for the job, and the rest is history. Dan lived in California for almost 40 years, but his real love was Florida where he grew up. Upon his retirement, he returned home to Tampa, just down the street from the old Rialto Theater where it all started. He made appearances in "Western Film Round-Ups" and television talk shows, and was frequently visited by his family in California until his death on July 7, 1980 at the age of 72. Dan left behind three children and 12 grandchildren. Not only will he be recognized and remembered for all his films, but he will also be remembered as a great father and grandfather. He will be missed and loved forever.