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Appeared in EQ movieGuy Usher (May 9. 1883 or 1885 - Jun 16. 1944)*
(1) Estella Ma(r)y Cozad (aka Stella Cozad)
     (Jan. 9. 1904 - bfr 1909 ? , divorce)

(2) Nina G(u)ilbert
aka Nina Theresa Shaw**
Mar 28. 1909 - bfr  Jan 1920, divorce)
     James Guy Usher (b. Mar 29. 1910 - d. Mar 10. 2011)
     Myrtle Mae Usher (b. Dec 31. 1912 - d. Aug. 12 1986)

(3) Evelyn Walker
     (Jun 30. 1924 - Jun 16. 1944, his death)
1913 picture for stock theater company actor "James Guy Usher".
Above right: 1913 picture for stock theater company actor "James Guy Usher".

James Guy Usher was born on May 9. 1883 of 1885* in Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa to William Berard Usher and Mary S. Sullivan (from Wisconsin and Massachusetts respectively).

He went to school in Emmetsburg, Iowa (1897). Until 1899, he was part of the Mason Stock Company, Reno, Nevada. Thereafter trying to specialize in "leads" and "heavies."

On January 9. 1904 Guy (son of W. Usher) married for the first time to Estella Ma(r)y Cozad, in Council Bluffs, Pottawattamie, Iowa.

In 1906 James Guy Usher performed in several stock companies. "Miss Josephine Deffrey & Co." and "The Eckhardt's Ideals" were practically the same large Eastern repertoire company who brought A Fight For Honor, and the border drama The Great Northwest to the podium. Among the clever performers were Oliver Eckhardt, James Guy Usher, Frank Howard, Melvin Mayo, Win. Cornelius, Miss Georgia Nichols, Ella Morton and Sara Drummond (Sep 1906 - Apr 1907).

In June 1908 he joined the Lillian Mason stock company in Reno and in 1909 he was a part of the Ed Redmond Company and The Girton Company at Eureka. In The James Post Musical Comedy Company he played Michael O'Brien, Jr in Mr Murphy in Paris which opened the summer season on May 4th 1909 in The Garrick, San Diego and the following week, on May 12.  he played May The Best Man Win. Reportedly nothing funnier had ever been seen than the boxing match in the second act with Guy Merkel as Spider Kelly and Guy Usher as Bulldog Regan. The company closed with The New Motorman (June 2. 1909) cast as the superintendent of the road,  Guy did full justice to the part.

On May. 28 1909 Guy married Nina Theresa Shaw (aka Nina Guilbert)** in Arcata, Humboldt, California. The would have two children together (1910 and 1912).

Performing several plays in Long Beach The Girton Company was seen for weeks in August 1909. The Merchant of Venice (Aug. 21.) was a beautiful production and among the company's members were both James Guy Usher and Nina Gilbert. Early September Guy closed his engagement with The Girton Company to accept an engagement with the Belasco Theatre in Los Angeles. At Belasco he played in Classmates (Sep 25. 1909), The County Chairman (Sep 30. 1909), and The Regeneration (6 nov 1909).

James Guy had ambitions of writing an opera. Whilst working for the Belasco stock company he collaborated with William T. Kahler, a young composer, in writing an opera, for which friends of the authors confidently predicted great things. The name was kept secret and we don't know if this work was ever finished (Nov-Dec 1909).

The W.J. LeMoyne Stock Company resumed February 19. 1910 at the Walker Theatre, Los Angeles. Mr. LeMoyne had been ill but headed the cast once more. The balance of the company included Guy Usher, Chester Stevens,... W.M. Porter.

Dora Thorne was performed in March 1910 at The Jose Theatre, San Jose by The Ed Redmond company. Described as a new member Guy "proved to be a splendid actor". On June 25. 1910 a newspaper reported a rift at the Jose Theatre were half of the Ed Redmond company moved over to the Garden Theatre under direction of actor, director Al Hallett. Hallett joined with Eugene Mockbee and opened in the Garden Theatre on July 4th with many actors of the Redmond company including James Guy Usher.

The farce comedy Is Matrimony a Failure? made it's debut on April 7, 1911 at the Diepenbrock Theater. The play was a radical departure from anything the McRae Stock Players had yet attempted. It tells of the experience of a group of inhabitants of the fictitious valley of Rosedale, who discover a flaw that invalidates their marriage contracts, are called upon to decide whether they will have the ceremonies legally performed at once, or whether they will stock to the freedom so suddenly thrust upon them. The play required twenty-two characters. Margaret Oswald, John C. Livingstone, Charles King, Sherman Bainbridge, James Guy Usher, Alice Meyer, Nina Gilbert and several others were among the cast.

A newspaper reported on May 7. 1911 that James Guy Usher, who severed his connection with the Diepenbrock Theater, Sacramento accepted an engagement to play "heavy leads" at the Empire theater in Fresno and gave a dinner at the Hotel Land just prior to his departure, having as his guest a few of his close friends, including Mr. and Mrs. Clisbee and Mr. and Mrs. Mason.

He appeared as John Travers, the friendly lawyer in the comedy The Marriage of Kitty (1911) with Max Figman, Lolita Robertson, Phyllis Gordon, Louise Glaum. (Sep. 1911, Los Angeles)

By the end of 1912 James was appearing in the "Bailey & Mitchell Stock Company" featuring Guy Hitner and Clara Beyers. They performed a stirring play of the West Arizona (The Seattle, Dec 24.), and Get Rich Quick Wallingford, a modern comedy, dramatized from the story by Randolph Chester (The Seattle, Jan. 6. 1913).

Miss Warda Howard, Neil McKinnon, Frederick Harrington and James Guy Usher in one of the mirthful climaxes of this week's success, "The Girl in the Taxi".
Above: Miss Warda Howard, Neil McKinnon, Frederick Harrington and James Guy Usher in one of the mirthful climaxes of this week's success, The Girl in the Taxi. (1913)

Together with Huron L. Blyden, James Guy appeared for the first time with the Princess players (Warda Howard, John Lorenz) in Our New Minister, a rural comedy (Princess, Tacoma, Jul.20. 1913). The Players had their home base at The Princess Theatre, Tacoma and this play was the beginning of a series of performances: Madame X (Jul .27 1913),  The Woman's Way (Aug 9. 1913), and Miss Howards own version of Sappho (Aug 16. 1913).

"Miss Warda Howard and her company" brought The Girl In the Taxi, the New York success by Anthony Mars. The story tells of a young married woman who has just taken her seventh husband. Neil McKinnon, as the youth, has his first, opportunity in a lead role, and shows marked ability. Frederick Harrington is the comical seventh husband, and James Guy Usher, as the youth's father, is clever. Others who have leading parts are Miss Ethel Tucker, Miss Gilbert, George Zucco, .T. Will Pike, Miss Helen Rice, Ollie Cook, Arthur Weiland, Guy K'Burg, James Mott, and Miss Dorcas Matthews (The Princess, Tacoma, Aug 18. 1913). Other performances included Kindling (Sep 6.), When Knighthood was in Flower (Sep 13.)

In 1913 James kept changing stock company switching to the "Pantages company" where he worked with Dorothy Davis Allen in The Redemption (Pantages, Tacoma, Nov 24. 1913). Whilst in 1914 he worked with "The Metropolitan Players", headed by Florence Malone with Dwight A. Meade, Auda Due, Florence Spencer, Max Steinle, Nina Guilbert, Marie Van Tassel, Leslie Wallingford, Will T. Lloyd, Byron Aldenn and Oliver J. Eckhardt. The latter was the art director selected by Miss Malone to stage the plays in which she appeared.

Two new members of The Fletcher players, Miss Nina Gilbert and Mr. James Guy Usher, made their local debut in Over-Night.  Miss Gilbert proved herself to be an actress of exceptional talents and took the role of "Elsie Darling' in a splendid manner, while Mr. Usher was quite at home in the role of "Percy Darling." The story of the play itself is centered around a huge blunder in which two young married couples are interchanged on their honeymoon. (Vancouver, Dec 1913)

Again in Vancouver James Guy Usher was seen in Winchester (The Imperial, Vancouver, Jan 15. 1914).

The Avenue Players were well cast in The Littlest Rebel (The Seattle, June 6. 1914). Jimsy Mullaly, a clever child actress, assumed the title role and both James Guy Usher and Nina Guilbert were part of the cast. The company, to be known as the Metropolitan Players, opened on June 14th with several new members, James and Nina were retained. The Butterfly on the Wheel was the bill for the opening at the Metropolitan, to be followed by When Knighthood was in Flower.

In Sep 1914 manager Donnellan put together the "Frank Rich Musical Comedy company" with Miss Genevieve Blinn. Verne Layton, Guy Usher, Nina Gilbert. Mike Hooley, Jimmy Norton, Dave Williams, Florence Spencer, Marie Van Tassell and Bud Wallace.

Picture of Nina G(u)ilbert in 1914.James Guy Usher stock actor in 1914.
James Guy Usher Leading man with the Eckhard Players, who will return to the Empire Theatre for a week's engagement, presenting a repertoire of their most successful plays.(Star Phoenix, Saskatchewan, Saskatoon. April 30, 1915).
Top left: Picture of Nina G(u)ilbert in 1914
Top right: James Guy Usher stock actor in 1914
Above: James Guy Usher Leading man with the Eckhard Players, who will return to the Empire Theatre for a week's engagement, presenting a repertoire of their most successful plays.(Star Phoenix, Saskatchewan, Saskatoon. April 30, 1915).

On March 29. 1915 The Sherman and Usher Stock company closed a very successful sixteen-week engagement at the Majestic, Saskatchewan. Mr. W. B. Sherman has secured the rights to The White Feather for Western Canada from William A. Brady, and started the Sherman and Usher Stock company, headed by James Guy Usher, on tour April 3. Mr. Sherman has sixteen weeks booked for them. Sherman, manager of "The Majestic", has changed the name to "The Sherman". Although this didn't last long.

Mr. W. B. Sherman, manager of the Majestic and James Guy Usher have formed a partnership, and are presenting an excellent stock company at the Majestic. They opened with Within The Law (Dec 27. 1915) and then put on The Girl in the Taxi (Dec 30. 1915 - Jan 1. 1916) with James as the producer, and was supported by an excellent company.  This "Sherman and Usher Stock company", with Miss Zana Vaughn and James Guy Usher was strengthened with the addition of Mr. Jean Clarendon, Miss Clara La Mar and Jack Fleming. The personnel was Nina Gilbert, Laurel Bennetts, Allen Strickfaden, J. W. Middlemas, Charles Smith, S. G. Davidson, Perry Spencer, Jack Fleming. Other plays included The Price She paid (Feb. 23. 1916) ...

With the start of Summer (June 1917) Herman Lieb's stock company at the Wilson Ave. Theatre, Chicago was attracting much attention with Seven Keys to Baldpate, followed by A Full House James Guy Usher provided support for leading actors as Mitchell Harris and Marguerite Hertz.

In August 1917 he briefly made a sudden switch to a duo act, billed as vaudeville, he was playing opposite Nina Gilbert, with whom he had been performing in various companies since 1911, in a comedy playlet The Opponents which portrayed some humorous sidelights on the political activities of man and woman. Morning, Noon and Night was another little comedy they performed at the Hippodrome, Portland, Oregon. Nina Gilbert, as a suffragist who is a political rival to a non-suffraging husband, played by James Guy Usher. Described as a tussle of epigrams, wit and philosophy concerning suffrage, and winded up with the husband's election and 'wifie's' return to her kitchen. (Sep, 1917)

Soon after this start Guy accepted an offer to appear with the Alcazar Players in plays such as The Witching Hour (The Baker, Portland, Oct. 28 1917). By 1917 James and Nina were still husband and wife, although their marriage was all but over, and according to the 1920 (Salt Lake City) census he lived (registered as single) with his brother Eugene F. Usher, a switch operator for the railroads and his wife Minnie A. and family.

By May 30. 1920 manager W. W. Freeman of the Palace theater made arrangements to place a permanent dramatic stock company there. The opening performance by the "Associated Players", under the management of Harry J. Iceland, featured James Guy Usher in the leading role. He was said to be an actor of exceptional ability and wide experience. For three years Mr. Usher was Nat Goodman's leading support. He had played the leading parts with the "Alcazar Players" of Portland, Oregon, "the Empress company" at Vancouver, and had just finished a two-year engagement with the "Hippodrome Players" at Salt Lake City. The feminine portion of the cast was headed by Miss Viola Hanes.

Nina remarried in Tacoma, Washington on Nov. 8, 1920, to Robert Clement Turner. Guy married a third time to Evelyn Walker (b.1902) on June 30. 1924 in Golden, Jefferson County, Colorado.

The stocky, officious American actor made a spectacular film debut, somewhat late in his career, in "The Penguin Pool Murder" (1932), playing the drowned victim of the titular crime."Mystery of the Wax Museum" (1933) had Guy Usher playing a detective (uncredited).
Above left: Usher in The Penguin Pool Murder (1932).
Above right: Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) had Guy Usher playing a detective (uncredited).

It was director George Archainbaud who "discovered" Guy while attending a casting call for bit players. Impressed by his mature appearance, professionalism, and baritone voice he got him a spectacular film debut, somewhat late in his career, playing the drowned victim in The Penguin Pool Murder (1932).

Many of Usher's subsequent roles required a great deal of fluster and bluster: as land-developer Harry Payne Bosterly in It's a Gift (1934), he dismissed W.C. Fields by bellowing, "You're drunk!," whereupon Fields put him in his place by responding, "And you're crazy. But tomorrow I'll be sober, and you'll always be crazy."

Usher also appeared as D.A. Hamilton Burger in the 1934 Perry Mason adaptation The Case of the Black Cat. In the late '30s-early '40s, Guy Usher was a mainstay at Monogram Pictures, again specializing in murder victims.

Guy Usher as Inspector Queen in the first Ellery Queen movie "The Spanish Cape Mystery" (1935).(From L to R) Frank Conroy, Guy Usher, Warner Oland in "Charlie Chan at the Opera" (1936).
Above left: Guy Usher as Inspector Queen in the first Ellery Queen movie The Spanish Cape Mystery (1935)
Above right: (From L to R) Frank Conroy, Guy Usher, Warner Oland in Charlie Chan at the Opera (1936).

The first actor to appear, very briefly, as Inspector Queen. Guy Usher played him in the first Ellery Queen movie  The Spanish Cape Mystery (1935). At one time the opening sequence (the only part of the film in which the Inspector appears) was thought to be irretrievably lost, it has Usher as Inspector Queen calling in his son to help him out with a jewel robbery (See picture above left).

As a portly supporting actor he was seen in horror films of the late 1930s and early 1940s, usually playing industrialists or business people who seem powerless in the face of evil. This is certainly the case with Henry Morton in The Devil Bat (1940) - a typical executive type sitting behind an office desk issuing orders (See below left).

Guy Usher in "The Devil Bat"  (1940) usually playing industrialists or business people who seem powerless in the face of evil. This is certainly the case with Henry Morton in "The Devil Bat" (1940) - a typical executive type sitting behind an office desk issuing orders.Guy Usher as Admiral Arthur Wainwright in "King of the Zombies" (1941).
Above left: Guy Usher in The Devil Bat (1940).
Above right: Guy Usher as Admiral Arthur Wainwright in King of the Zombies (1941).
He would reappear uncredited in another EQ movie, this time as a police detective in A Desperate Chance for Ellery Queen (1942).
In the 1942 horror movie "The Mummy's Tomb" Guy Usher played a doctor (uncredited).As Zack Rodgers in "Lost Canyon" (1942) one of Guy Ushers last screen performances.
Above left: In the 1942 horror movie The Mummy's Tomb Guy Usher played a doctor (uncredited).
Above right: As Zack Rodgers in Lost Canyon (1942) one of Guy Ushers last screen performances.
At 59/61 years of age* James Guy Usher died from a heart attack on June 16. 1944 in San Diego, California, USA.

* With official documents varying his date of birth is either May 9. 1883 or 1885.
    His tombstone says 1885.

**If it can be confirmed that Nina Guilbert is indeed Nina
    Therese Shaw is these facts are correct.

All dates for movies are for the official US release.
All dates for TV programs are original first airdates.
All dates for (radio) plays are for the time span the actor was involved.

Facts in red still need confirmation.

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Other references
(1) Wikipedia
(2) IMdB
(3) Rotten Tomatoes

Additional video & audio sources
(1) Doomed to die full movie (1940) - YouTube

This actor profile is a part of Ellery Queen a website on deduction. The actor above played Inspector Queen in one of the Ellery Queen movies.  Click Uncle Sam if you think you can help out...!
Many of the profiles on this site have been compiled after very careful research of various sources. Please quote and cite ethically!

Page first published on November 1. 2017 
Last updated February 7. 2024 

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