Jay C. Flippen (March 6, 1899 in Little Rock, Arkansas – February 3, 1971 in Los Angeles, California) was an American character actor who often played police officers or weary criminals in many films of the 1940s and 1950s.
Flippen was an established and respected vaudeville singer and stage actor before his film career. He had been discovered by famed African-Americancomedian Bert Williams in the 1920s. He called himself "The Ham What Am," and performed occasionally in blackface. Flippen attained the most coveted booking in vaudeville, headlining at the Palace Theatre in New York, not once but six times between March 1926 and February 1931.
At one time he was also a radio announcer for New York Yankees games and was one of the first game show announcers. Between 1924 and 1929, Flippen recorded more than thirty songs for Columbia, Perfect and Brunswick.
His first film, the 1928 Warner Brothers short subject "The Ham What Am", captures his vaudeville performance, and there are other shorts in the 1930s, but his film career started in earnest in 1947.
Flippen also appeared on television, including a 1960 guest-starring role as Gabe Jethrow in the episode "Four Came Quietly" on the CBS westernseries Johnny Ringo, starring Don Durant. In 1962, he guest starred on the ABC drama series Bus Stop as Mike Carmody in "Verdict of 12" andFollow the Sun as Fallon in "The Last of the Big Spenders." He also appeared on ABC's The Untouchables as Al Morrisey in "You Can't Pick the Number" (1959) and as Big Joe Holvak in "Fall Guy" (1962).
In the 1962-1963 season, Flippen was cast as Chief Petty Officer Homer Nelson on the NBC sitcom Ensign O'Toole, with Dean Jones in the starring role. He also guest starred on CBS's The Dick Van Dyke Show in its first season, playing Rob Petrie's former mentor Happy Spangler. In 1964, he appeared as Owney in an episode of CBS's Gunsmoke with James Arness. In 1963, he guest starred on Bonanza. He appeared four times on NBC'sThe Virginian in the 1960s; in 1966, he appeared on the ABC comedy western The Rounders. In 1967, he and Tom Tryon guest starred in the episode "Charade of Justice" of the NBC western series The Road West.
Later in life, Flippen continued acting although he used a wheelchair after an amputation. He was married for twenty-five years to screenwriter Ruth Brooks Flippen.
Flippen died February 3, 1971 during surgery from an aneurysm caused by a swollen artery, one month before his 72nd birthday. He was interred in a crypt in the Corridor of Memories section at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles near the grave of Marilyn Monroe.