John Doyle Brooks (1923–1986)
John Doyle Brooks was a stuntman and actor whose career included appearances in some of the most renowned television shows of the 1950s and 1960s, including The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin and Naked City, as well as several movies and commercials.
Doyle Brooks was born on December 10, 1923, in Bethesda (Independence County) to John Henry Brooks and Deliah Ann Queary Brooks. Brooks developed an interest in show business at an early age, especially in the cowboy/western genre. On his parents’ farm in Bethesda, he learned to ride, rope, break horses, and shoot, becoming an expert marksman and sharpshooter.
In 1942, he married Bernice Sheffield of Batesville (Independence County), who shared his interest in the entertainment industry. Together, they operated a skating rink in a tent and traveled around the area showing movies. Brooks performed in a Wild West show in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and in Mississippi, where he did some filming. This led to the couple moving to Hollywood, California, in 1954.
Brooks started his career in movies as a cowboy stunt rider and stuntman shortly after he and his wife arrived in Hollywood, appearing in Jesse James’ Women (1954), starring Don “Red” Barry; Drums across the River (1954), starring Audie Murphy and Walter Brennan; The Command (1954), starring Guy Madison; Stranger on Horseback (1955), starring Joel McCrea; and Tension at Table Rock (1956), starring Richard Egan and Dorothy Malone, with Brooks billed as a trail herder.
In 1955, Brooks expanded his career to include television, signing a contract to perform in a series of episodes of The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin and other Herbert Leonard–produced series. In The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin (1954–1959), Brooks appeared as Ferringer in five episodes, doing stunt work and doubling, as well as playing a character called Apache Joe. Brooks performed stunt work and doubling in the TV series Circus Boy (1956–1958) and was featured as a circus worker in two episodes in 1956. Doyle appeared in a memorable episode of the Adventures of Superman (Season 4, Episode 8, which aired on May 12, 1956), in which he played a supporting role as Mr. Poole in “The Wedding of Superman.” Brooks appeared as a policeman in twenty-four episodes in the first season of Naked City in 1958 and 1959. On all these programs, Brooks continued to work as an extra and perform stunt work and doubling.
While he was working on the Herbert Leonard–produced TV show Tallahassee 7000, starring Walter Matthau, in Florida in 1961, Brooks was asked to go to Concord, Kentucky, to work as a stunt man for the pilot of the TV show Route 66. On Route 66, Brooks did stunt work and doubled for George Maharis in long shots of the Corvette traveling down the highway. Brooks also played the role of Fielding in four episodes from 1960 to 1962.
From 1963 until 1966, Brooks played the White Knight in several Ajax TV commercials, in which he would gallop down the street on a white horse. Dressed as a medieval knight in silver armor brandishing a lance with an Ajax banner attached to it, he would use the lance to zap people wearing dirty clothes. The advertisement became one of the most successful in the history of TV.
The stress of the Hollywood life placed a strain on his marriage, which ended in divorce in the 1960s. Brooks returned to Bethesda and married Amanda Alwilda “Trudy” Churchill. Together, they owned and operated a quail farm in Bethesda.
Suffering from heart problems, Brooks died on May 23, 1986. He is buried in Pilgrims Rest Cemetery in Bethesda.
For additional information:
“Doyle Brooks.” Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1876863/ (accessed November 18, 2015).
Sivulka, Juliann. Soap, Sex, and Cigarettes: A Cultural History of American Advertising. 2nd ed. Boston: Wadsworth Publishing, 2011.
Van Buren, Arkansas
Last Updated: 11/24/2015