Jay C. Flippen (born March 6, 1899, Little Rock, Arkansas – February 3, 1971, Los Angeles, California) is an American gruff-faced actor who often played police officers or weary criminals in many movies of the 1940s/'50s.
Flippen was already an established vaudeville singer and stage actor, after being discovered by famed African-American comedian Bert Williams in the 1920s, before shifting his focus to films. At one time he was a radio announcer for New York Yankees games and was one of the first game show announcers. (Between 1924 and 1929, Flippen recorded over 30 songs for Columbia, Perfect and Brunswick). He called himself "The Ham What Am," and performed occasionally in blackface. He worked quite a few times with director Anthony Mann, also with Nicholas Ray and Stanley Kubrick.
His films include They Live by Night (1948), Winchester '73 with James Stewart (1950), Flying Leathernecks with John Wayne (1951), Bend of the River again with Stewart (1952), The Wild One with Marlon Brando (1953), Thunder Bay again with Stewart (1953), Oklahoma! (1955) (his only singing role), The Far Country again with James Stewart and with Walter Brennan (1955), Strategic Air Command again with Stewart (1955), The Killing (1956), Night Passage again with Stewart and with Audie Murphy (1957), Jet Pilot again with John Wayne (1957), Firecreek again with James Stewart and with Henry Fonda (1968), and Hellfighters (1968) again with John Wayne. He had a cameo role in 1962's How The West Was Won.
Flippen also appeared on television, most notably as Chief Petty Officer Homer Nelson on the 1962–1963 sitcom Ensign O'Toole, starring Dean Jones. He also guest starred on The Dick Van Dyke Show in its first season, playing the role of Rob Petrie's early mentor Happy Spangler. In 1964, he appeared in a episode of CBS's Gunsmoke with James Arness. He played the role of Owney. In 1963, he guest starred on Bonanza. He appeared 4 times on The Virginian in the 1960s; in 1966, he appeared on the ABC comedy western The Rounders. In 1967, he and Tom Tryon appeared in the episode "Charade of Justice" of the NBC western series The Road West.
Later in life, Flippen continued acting even though he used a wheelchair after an amputation. He was married for twenty-five years to screenwriter Ruth Brooks Flippen.
Jay Flippen died, aged 72, from an aneurysm caused by a swollen artery while in surgery. He is buried in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.