Henry King’s Mysterious Mugshots

Henry King in 1915

Henry King was about as squeaky clean as they come in a place as rife with scandal as Hollywood. He was married to the same woman, a silent film actress named Gypsy Abbott, until her death in 1952. He and Gypsy raised four children and lived in the same beautiful home at 645 S. Muirfield Road in Los Angeles for more than 20 years.

He came from a farming family in Christiansburg, Virginia. He dropped out of high school and worked on the railroads for a time. He stumbled into acting when he accompanied a friend to an audition and got an offer to try out for a part. It turned out he had a talent for it.

He moved on from being a theatrical actor to acting in Hollywood movies, where he got in on the ground floor, just as motion pictures were taking hold. He went on to become a film director and he worked at various studios, including 20th Century Fox. He made nearly 70 films over a career that spanned almost 40 years. He was nominated twice for an Oscar for Best Director.

He was an avid pilot who enjoyed scouting film locations in his personal plane. Though he was 55 years old when the United States got involved in World War II, he served as a deputy commander of the Civil Air Patrol.

He died, aged 96, of a heart attack in his sleep at his California home in 1982.

There is no record of any wrongdoing on the part of Henry Edmondson King, in 1939 or at any other time during his long life, according to newspapers and online biographies. He was a decent man who got along with temperamental actors and demanding studio heads alike. Unlike many Hollywood celebrities, he didn’t have a big ego. He was calm on the set and efficient at his craft. Sure, he made a lot of money, but that’s not a crime in America.

Henry King stand up_marked

The only dishonest thing he ever did that I was able to discover was to tell the occasional fib about his height. On his 1918 World War I draft registration card he claimed to be 6’2.5” tall. On a 1922 passport application he said he was 6’6” tall. His “stand-up” photo indicates he was about 5’11” but he was older when it was taken, so who knows. Maybe he had osteoporosis.

Why did the NYPD take mugshots of Henry on April 28, 1939? And they were not just any mugshots, but a set of both the standard front and side photos along with the “stand up” photo of his full body. He looks calm and composed in the photos, with an expression on his face that gives absolutely nothing away. But he was an actor so it’s not surprising that he was able to carefully control his face.

Were the photos taken as a publicity stunt for a film about crime in New York City? If so the film was never made. In 1939 King was probably working on Little Old New York, a film about the life of engineer Robert Fulton as he worked to build the first steam-powered ship in America. The movie was released in February 1940 and, according to imdb, some of the scenes in it were filmed on location in New York City.

Does the number 41144 have some meaning? Is it a hidden code? Or is it just the number Henry was given when he was arrested, if he was arrested.

Henry, your mugshots are very intriguing. What’s the story behind them?

Henry King mugshot back
The reverse side of Henry King’s mug shot photos.

Featured photos: Front and side mug shot photos of Henry King, taken on April 28, 1939 by the NYPD. Collection of the author.

28 thoughts on “Henry King’s Mysterious Mugshots

    1. Thanks and lol! Hoping for a story out of absence of story for sure! I knew he was a well known director when I bought the photos and I also knew that, if he’d committed a crime, it wasn’t obvious to me or anyone else. I really doubt the NYPD would have gotten involved in a stunt for movie purposes but that’s just my gut reaction. In all honesty I don’t know! I’m hoping someone will see the blog post and give me some clues to follow.

      I have some more photobooth photos for you. I just got back from England an am still jet lagged. Hopefully I’ll be able to get them off to you next week.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I think this was a stunt of some kind. On the other hand, I’ve looked at a lot of Hollywood photos over the years and I’ve never seen anything like this.

    There was also a 1923 film called “Little Old New York,” starring Marion Davies. Come to think of it, Henry King probably knew her and many other stars of the Silent era. What a giddy time it must have been!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow! How interesting. It could be nothing, but earlier the same year the film Jesse James was released, directed by Henry James, and there was controversy surrounding the treatment of horses in making the film. Might be worth a look? It’s hard to imagine what he might have been arrested for, though!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. According to the film’s Wikipedia page, the American Humane Association made that allegation but that was based on viewing the finished film. The horses weren’t injured because a soft landing spot (out of camera view of course) on a platform below the cliff was where they actually ended up. But even if it was true, the movie was filmed in Missouri, not New York, so it’s unlikely the NYC authorities would have arrested Henry.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. While I couldn’t see anything about Henry King there, I had a look at the NYC Municipal archives site and it seems that the number is called a ‘Stand Up Number’. So it must be to do with processing the people and ID’ing them on the resulting photos.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for checking! The same number appears on his close up front and side mugshot photos. I’m not sure if the NYPD always took both the stand-up and the close up photos and whether the fact that they did in Henry’s case means anything. I also don’t know if the specific number indicates anything other than, as you point out, it was used for processing and locating the photos again.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That’s a good thought! I’ve been in touch with them with other questions and they aren’t very good about call backs (could take a few weeks!). At some point I’m going to go there and do some research and I’ll likely take Henry’s mugshots with me and see what else I can find out about them.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. From my experience working in law enforcement, the mug shot numbers are always in numerical sequence for each agency. So, you’re correct, it would be fantastic to find the book-in ledger. If that can’t be found, another idea is to see if any other known mug shots have numbers nearby to King’s. There’s always the outside chance that some of the other people photographed may have had their arrest mentioned in the press, and just maybe they were arrested at the same time for the same crime. Yes, I know, that’s a real long shot. Is there a historical society that holds any law enforcement records from this era?

        Liked by 3 people

      3. I think the best bet is, as she suggested, the New York City Municipal Archives. I tried to see if I could find anything about the number on his photos by checking what they have online but I couldn’t find much and the majority of their holdings aren’t online. Lucky Luciano’s mugshot was taken three years before Henry’s and is a higher number – 72321 (http://www.thesmokinggun.com/mugshots/celebrity/gangsters/lucky-luciano). So the numbering system wasn’t sequential.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Well, there goes my idea up in smoke! So much for law enforcement experience. I forgot one thing, Kansas and NYC may do things differently. OK, another idea. If the municipal archives site is slow or unhelpful, consider a phone call or email to NYPD. There are always officers or retired officers that have a special interest in the history of the department. They may not have a title of historian after their name but they are known unofficially as the people with the answers from the good ‘ole days. Some of these officers have had relatives on the department going back generations (ex. Bluebloods on TV). One email or phone call forwarded to the right person could make things much easier. Anything is possible. You could find the grandson of the officer who took the photo. I may be crazy but I’m not kidding.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Are wild guesses allowed? Prostitution sting. And given the Hollywood machine. I’m not surprised an arrest was kept quiet
    Any kind of arrest.
    The full face mugshot quite startled me. His expression is grim, but his EYES! So light! No wonder he was tapped as an actor, although I suppose plenty of handsome young men were in the early days of film.
    I wonder if any of his kids are still alive?

    Liked by 1 person

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