Joe Sawyer

Active - 1929 - 1962  |   Born - Jan 1, 1905   |   Died - Apr 21, 1982   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Western, Crime, Action

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Beefy, puffy-faced Canadian actor Joseph Sawyer spent his first years in films (the early- to mid-'30s) acting under his family name of Sauer. Before he developed his comic skills, Sawyer was often seen in roles calling for casual menace, such as the grinning gunman who introduces "Duke Mantee, the well-known killer" in The Petrified Forest (1936). While under contract to Hal Roach studios in the 1940s, Sawyer starred in several of Roach's "streamliners," films that ran approximately 45 minutes each. He co-starred with William Tracy in a series of films about a GI with a photographic memory and his bewildered topkick: Titles included Tanks a Million (1941), Fall In (1942), and Yanks Ahoy (1943) (he later reprised this role in a brace of B-pictures produced by Hal Roach Jr. for Lippert Films in 1951). A second "streamliner" series, concerning the misadventures of a pair of nouveau riche cabdrivers, teamed Sawyer with another Roach contractee, William Bendix. Baby boomers will remember Joe Sawyer for his 164-episode stint as tough but soft-hearted cavalry sergeant Biff O'Hara on the '50s TV series Rin Tin Tin.

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