Actor Edmund "Hoot" Gibson is said to have been given his unusual nickname because of his boyhood habit of hunting owls. After joining a circus at age 13, Gibson became stranded in Colorado and there began work as a cowpuncher. By age 16 he was a skilled performer in Wild West rodeo shows, going on to win the title of "World's All-Around Champion Cowboy" in 1912. It was about that time that Gibson began working in films as an extra and stunt man, frequently acting as a double for Harry Carey and other western stars; during the teens he appeared in many western two-reelers, but his career progressed slowly. In 1917 Gibson started getting supporting roles in John Ford-Harry Carey westerns at Universal, but this work was interrupted by service in the Army Tank Corps during World War I. Gibson was discharged in 1919 and went back to supporting roles in Ford westerns, soon landing his own two-reel series in which he was billed as "The Smiling Whirlwind."
After starring in his first feature films, John Ford's five-reelers Action and Sure Fire, Gibson skyrocketed to fame and went on to become the cowboy idol of millions of American kids in the '20s and well into the '30s. However, Gibson was an atypical western hero as he rarely carried a gun and was more of a comedian than action hero. Universal's #1 cowboy star throughout the '20s--earning $14,000 a week as star and producer--Gibson's only significant rival was Fox's Tom Mix. Gibson's popularity continued until 1936, the last year in which he was on the Top Ten Money-Making Western Stars list; Gene Autry's cowboy style took over after that, and Gibson retired from the screen after making a serial in 1937. He occasionally did a little more film work, though, including the low-budget 1944 Trail Blazers series as well as guest appearances in a few movies. Edward "Hoot" Gibson married and divorced silent-screen actress Helen Wegner Gibson and actress Sally Eilers.