James P. Spencer (James Ponia Spencer)
Mr. James P. Spencer (Kimo or Jimmy) was a very vigorous contributor in the "Golden Age" of Hollywood. He was active in film production and in acting at MGM and other major studios. He had a wonderful film legacy. Mr. Spencer was a native Hawaiian, born 1893 in Honolulu. His English & Scot's father was credited with bringing in the first sewing machines by clipper ships. A young Jimmy Spencer grew up and knew well the Hawaiian Republic with it's Honolulu royal family. His childhood was a happy one. When Mr. Spencer reached early adulthood, he migrated to Los Angeles. Read more... joined the US Army to fight in WW1.His army unit was the field artillery of the 13th Division. His unit was constituted into the National Army as 39th Field Artillery. The battalion was organized at Camp Lewis, WA. His Army service was exemplary and he rose to the rank of corporal. He was given an honorable discharge. Upon returning home, he became even more active in the local Southern Californian Polynesian community and it's many cultural events. Southern California had become an important focal point for Polynesian peoples. Kimo Spencer was a native Polynesian singer, musician, and dancer. He spoke Hawaiian and several other Pacific island languages. He was very proud of his island native culture. By now after the first world war, many of his old Honolulu friends had also migrated to "The Mainland". Jimmy Spencer had many childhood friends now in the ranks of that day's popular Polynesian performers and athletes. One of his most famous pals was Duke Kahanamoku. 'The Duke", Hawaiian Olympic Gold Medal swimmer and famous surfer. One of their favorite past times was abalone diving off Palos Verde and off Catalina Island's reefs. Large groups of Polynesian friends would gather for beach parties consisting of entertaining each other with their songs and dances from their home island cultures. Around this time, Mr. Spencer started a family by marrying and had two wonderful daughters. In the late 1920's and the early 1930's, Hollywood began to produce a great many "South Sea Island" films. This genre of film was very popular with the Depression Age film-going public. Many great many new up-coming actors got their starts in these island films. Some of those actors were Clark Gable, Jon Hall, Mamo Clark, Ray Mala, Joan Crawford and Loretta Young. Mr. Spencer became a useful contributor due to his personal Polynesian knowledge and artistic contacts. Mr. Spencer worked initially in casting and set direction with these "South Seas" Polynesian films. His duties were casting Polynesian islanders for daily "bit" parts and to cast large amounts of background performers [extras]. Most of his early work was for the studio giant, Metro Goldwyn Mayer. Some of his more legendary MGM films were: "Rain"('31)- Walter Huston and a new Joan Crawford. "Bird of Paradise"('32)- Joel McCrea and a new Delores Del Rio. "The Hurricane"('37)- a new Dorothy Lamour. "Mutiny on the Bounty"('35)- Charles Laughton and a new Clark Gable. "Call of the Wild"('35)- a new Loretta Young and Clark Gable. With his large amount of film industry contacts, Mr. Spencer gradually moved on to become a busy film actor. He was sometimes credited as Jimmy Spencer or Jim Spencer on film call sheets. Due to his exotic looks, he was often cast as an pacific islander or some other "native" role. Later, his acting roles became more recognizable. He would work with some of Hollywood's largest film stars (Jimmy Cagney, George Raft, Joel McCrea, Lucille Ball, Charles Laughton, Greta Garbo) and classic film directors (Fritz Lang, C.B. De Mile). His many acting roles were: · Frozen Justice ('29) ·The Sea God ('30)deep sea diver. ·Pueblo Terror (Cosmos Pictures '31) "Pedro". ·The Jungle Princess (Paramount '36)East Indian big game native. Starring Lola Montez. · Ebb Tide (Paramount '37).cook.Starring Francis Farmer. · Hawk of the Wilderness (Republic Pictures serial '38).island native warrior. · Each Dawn I Die (Warner Bros '39).prison cell-mate. Starring Cagney and Raft. **BEST ** · Union Pacific (Paramount '39)Sioux warrior. Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrea. Cecil B. De Mile director. · Western Union (20th Ctry Fox '41)Plains Indian warrior. Starring Randolph Scott. Fritz Lang director. · Girl, a Guy and a Gob (RKO '41) comedy.island native. Starring Lucille Ball, George Murphy. · Blossoms in the Dust (MGM '41)"Mr. Dirk". Starring Walter Pigeon, Greer Garson. · Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (MGM '41)young man. Starring Spencer Tracy. · Moonlight in Hawaii (Universal '41).Hawaiian "Chief Kikhanoui". · Unholy Partners (MGM '41)"Jimmy", drug store clerk. Starring Edward G. Robinson. · Two-Faced Women (MGM '41)."Carl". Starring Greta Garbo. · The Bugle Sounds (MGM '41).army recruit. Starring Wallace Beery. · The Tuttles of Tahiti (RKO '42)"Tupa". Starring Charles Laughton. · Pardon My Sarong (Universal '42)..comedy.island native. Starring Bud Abbot and Lou Costello. · Two Flags West (20th Ctry Fox '50)Plains Indian warrior. Starring Jeff Chandler. [Released after Spencer's accidental death.] Mr. Spencer was now in his mid-forties. He was getting more substantial acting roles. He was acting with larger film stars. The best example of his acting prowess was in Warner's "Each Dawn I Die", with James Cagney and George Raft. A comfortable film career could be seen for him. Tragically, this was not to be. Mr. Spencer was to accidentally die on a movie set. On 1943 at MGM film studios, a large lamp fell 40 feet and stuck Mr. Spencer. This accident killed him. He was only 50 years old. His funeral was held on 1943. His family had his remains cremated. He was given a veteran's plot at the Los Angeles National Cemetery. Mr. James P. Spencer's life was abundantly filled with family, music, good friends, dance, and a major pride in his Polynesian ancestry. He enthusiastically shared that with all. He found an inexhaustible way to take his many native talents and give them to many people. By his working in the films, he continues to share his work for others to enjoy after he has gone. He was an energetic, fun loving, and creative person. His vocation put him into the Golden Age of MGM. There he showed the best of his talented island culture and island home.