Ming the Merciless

Charles B. Middleton

While most of the B film baddies and supporting players are forgotten by the current generation of film viewers, there's one actor from that period and genre who is probably remembered.  It's none other than Charles Middleton, and his most famous role was that of 'Ming the Merciless' in the three FLASH GORDON serials which starred Buster Crabbe.

The Kentucky born Middleton began his Hollywood screen career in the 1920s.  Apparently because of his chiseled looks, snear and booming voice, he wound up typecast in genuinely evil or maniacal roles such as over zealous preachers ... shyster lawyers ... the town leader whippin' up a lynch mob ... a sinister lawman or judge ... or the conniving and vicious boss of an orphanage, reform school, et al.

Middleton did do some low-budget westerns, and he even played an occasional good guy, such as his role as 'Buck Peters' in the first Hoppy film, HOP-A-LONG CASSIDY (Paramount, 1935).  

By Chuck Anderson

To six decades' worth of filmgoers, Kentucky-born character actor Charles B. Middleton was Ming the Merciless, the megalomaniac ruler of the planet Mongo in three 1930s serials based on Alex Raymond's comic strip Flash Gordon. Beginning his career in circuses and carnivals in the South, Middleton worked in vaudeville and stock companies before his 1927 entree into films. With his hatchet face, bad teeth, and rolling-toned voice, Middleton was ideally cast as stern judges, cruel orphanage officials, backwater sheriffs, and small town bigots. Outside of his extensive work in serials and Westerns, he was used to best advantage in the films of Laurel and Hardy and Will Rogers. In a far less villainous vein, Charles Middleton was cast as Tom Lincoln, father of the 16th president, in Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940); he also portrayed the Great Emancipator himself on several occasions -- while in 1937's Stand-In, Middleton was hilariously cast as an unsuccessful actor who dresses like Lincoln in hopes of landing a movie role. 

By Hal Erickson
All Movie Guide


Date of birth 
3 October 1879,   
Elizabethtown, Kentucky, USA      

Date of death 
22 April 1949,
Los Angeles, California, USA. 
(heart attack)

Filmography from imdb.com

  1. Deadly Ray from Mars (1966) (TV) .... Ming the Merciless
  2. Nyoka and the Lost Secrets of Hippocrates (1966) (TV) .... Kassib
  3. Peril from the Planet Mongo (1966) (TV) .... Ming the Merciless
  4. Purple Death from Outer Space (1966) (TV) .... Ming the Merciless
    ... aka Purple Death from Outer Space 1940 (1966) (TV) (promotional title)
  5. Spaceship to the Unknown (1966) (TV) .... Ming the Merciless
    Last Bandit, The (1949) .... Circuit Rider
  6. Feudin', Fussin' and A-Fightin' (1948) .... Citizen
  7. Jiggs and Maggie in Court (1948)
  8. Station West (1948) .... Sheriff
  9. Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) (uncredited) .... Wrecker
  10. Jack Armstrong (1947) (uncredited) .... Jason Grood
  11. Wyoming (1947) (uncredited) .... Doctor
  12. Road to Rio (1947) (uncredited) .... Farmer
  13. Unconquered (1947) (uncredited) .... Mulligan
  14. Pretender, The (1947) .... William the butler
  15. Welcome Stranger (1947) (uncredited) .... Farmer Pinkett
  16. Sea of Grass, The (1947) (uncredited) .... Charley
  17. Killers, The (1946) (uncredited) .... Farmer Brown
    ... aka Man Alone, A (1946)
  18. Spook Busters (1946) .... Mr. Stiles
  19. How Doooo You Do!!! (1946) .... Sheriff
  20. Captain Kidd (1945) (uncredited)
  21. Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (1945) .... Kurt Jensen
  22. Strangler of the Swamp (1945) .... Ferryman Douglas
  23. Who's Guilty? (1945) .... Patton/Walter Calvert
  24. Northwest Trail (1945) .... Pierre
  25. Black Arrow (1944) .... Ton Whitney
  26. Desert Hawk, The (1944) .... Koda Bey
  27. Town Went Wild, The (1944) .... District Attorney
  28. Kismet (1944) (uncredited) .... The Miser
    ... aka Oriental Dream (1944) (USA: reissue title)
  29. Batman, The (1943) (uncredited) .... Ken Colton
    ... aka Batman (1943)
    ... aka Evening with Batman and Robin (1966/I) (USA: reissue title)
  30. Black Raven, The (1943) .... Sheriff
  31. Oklahoma Outlaws (1943) .... Henchman
  32. Wagon Wheels West (1943) .... Phineas Hook
  33. Boobs in the Night (1943)
  34. Hangmen Also Die (1943) (uncredited) .... Patriot
    ... aka Lest We Forget (1943)
  35. Spook Louder (1943) (uncredited) .... Mr. Graves' Butler
  36. Two Weeks to Live (1943) .... Kelton
  37. Perils of Nyoka (1942) .... Cassib
    ... aka Nyoka and the Lost Secrets of Hippocrates (1942)
    ... aka Nyoka and the Tigermen (1952) (USA: reissue title)
  38. Sing Your Worries Away (1942) (uncredited) .... The Judge
  39. Mystery of Marie Roget (1942) .... Curator at the Zoo
    ... aka Phantom of Paris (1942)
  40. Tombstone, the Town Too Tough To Die (1942) (uncredited)
  41. Men of San Quentin (1942) .... Saunderson
  42. Belle Starr (1941) .... Carpetbagger
    ... aka Belle Starr, the Bandit Queen (1941)
  43. Stick to Your Guns (1941) .... Long Ben
  44. Wild Bill Hickok Rides (1941) (uncredited) .... Claim Jumper
  45. Wild Geese Calling (1941) .... Doctor
  46. Jungle Man (1941) .... Fr. Jim Graham
  47. Shepherd of the Hills, The (1941) (uncredited) .... Blacksmith
  48. Sergeant York (1941) (uncredited) .... Mountaineer
  49. Brigham Young - Frontiersman (1940) (uncredited) .... Henchman
    ... aka Brigham Young (1940)
    ... aka Brigham Young - Frontiersman (1940) (UK)
  50. Charlie Chan's Murder Cruise (1940) .... Jeremiah Walters
  51. Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940) .... Emperor Ming
    ... aka Perils from the Planet Mongo (1940) (USA: recut version)
    ... aka Purple Death from Outer Space (1940) (USA: recut version)
    ... aka Space Soldiers Conquer the Universe (1955) (USA: TV title)
  52. Island of Doomed Men (1940) .... Capt. Cort
  53. Rangers of Fortune (1940) .... Man
  54. Santa Fe Trail (1940) .... Gentry
  55. Shooting High (1940) .... Hod Carson
  56. Thou Shalt Not Kill (1940) .... Lars Olsen
  57. Chad Hanna (1940) .... Sheriff
  58. Gold Rush Maisie (1940) .... Hog Keeper
  59. Women in Hiding (1940) (uncredited) .... Bit Part
  60. Virginia City (1940) .... Jefferson Davis
  61. Grapes of Wrath, The (1940) .... Leader
  62. Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940) .... Tom Lincoln
    ... aka Spirit of the People (1940) (UK)
    $1000 a Touchdown (1939) .... Stage Manager
  63. Captain Fury (1939) .... Mergon
  64. Cowboys from Texas, The (1939) .... 'Kansas' Jones
  65. Strange Case of Dr. Meade (1939) .... Lacey
  66. Way Down South (1939) .... Cass
  67. Allegheny Uprising (1939) .... Doctor Stokes
    ... aka First Rebel, The (1940) (UK)
  68. Flying Deuces, The (1939) (uncredited) .... Commandant
    ... aka Flying Aces (1939)
  69. Blackmail (1939) (uncredited) .... Southern Deputy
  70. One Against the World (1939) (uncredited) .... Mr. Crumley
  71. Wyoming Outlaw (1939) .... Luke Parker
  72. Daredevils of the Red Circle (1939) .... No. 39013, Harry Crowel
  73. Juarez (1939) (uncredited)
  74. Oklahoma Kid, The (1939) .... Alec Martin
  75. Jesse James (1939) .... Doctor
  76. Dick Tracy Returns (1938) .... Pa Stark
  77. Flaming Frontiers (1938) .... Ace Daggett
  78. Kentucky (1938) .... Southerner
  79. Strange Faces (1938) .... Lincoln
  80. Law West of Tombstone (1938) (uncredited) .... Newspaper Editor
  81. Mars Attacks the World (1938) .... Ming the Merciless
  82. Jezebel (1938) (uncredited) .... Officer
  83. Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938) .... Emperor Ming
    ... aka Deadly Ray From Mars (1938) (USA: recut version)
    ... aka Flash Gordon: Mars Attacks the World (1938) (USA: video title)
    ... aka Space Soldiers' Trip to Mars (1938)
  84. Man Without a Country, The (1937) (uncredited) .... President Lincoln
  85. Stand-In (1937) (uncredited) .... Actor Dressed as Abraham Lincoln
  86. Slave Ship (1937) .... Slave Dealer
  87. Souls at Sea (1937) (uncredited) .... Jury Foreman
  88. Last Train from Madrid, The (1937) (uncredited) .... Warden
  89. Yodelin' Kid From Pine Ridge (1937) .... Autry Sr.
    ... aka Hero of Pine Ridge, The (1937)
  90. Hollywood Cowboy (1937) .... Doc Kramer
    ... aka Wings Over Wyoming (1937)
  91. Two-Gun Law (1937) .... Wolf Larson
  92. We're on the Jury (1937) .... B.J. Martin
  93. Good Earth, The (1937) (uncredited) .... Banker
  94. Career Woman (1936) .... Matt Clay
  95. Flash Gordon (1936/I) .... Ming the Merciless
    ... aka Flash Gordon: Rocketship (1936) (USA: recut version)
    ... aka Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers (1936) (USA: video title)
    ... aka Space Soldiers (1936) (USA: TV title)
    ... aka Spaceship to the Unknown (1936) (USA: recut version)
  96. Flash Gordon (1936/II) .... Ming the Merciless
    ... aka Atomic Rocketship (1936)
    ... aka Rocketship (1936)
  97. Jail Break (1936) .... Dan Stone
    ... aka Murder in the Big House (1936)
  98. Son Comes Home, A (1936) .... Prosecutor
  99. Empty Saddles (1936) .... Cimarron (Cim) White
  100. Ramona (1936) (uncredited) .... American Settler
  101. Texas Rangers, The (1936) (uncredited) .... Lawyer
  102. Show Boat (1936) .... Sheriff Ike Vallon
  103. Road Gang (1936) .... Mine Warden Grayson
    ... aka Injustice (1936) (UK)
  104. Trail of the Lonesome Pine, The (1936) .... Blacksmith
  105. Song of the Saddle (1936) .... Phineas P. Hook
  106. County Chairman, The (1935) .... Riley Cleaver
  107. Miracle Rider, The (1935) .... Zaroff
  108. Red Morning (1935) .... Stanchon
  109. Steamboat 'Round the Bend (1935) (uncredited) .... Fletty Belle's Father
    ... aka Steamboat Bill (1935)
  110. Virginia Judge, The (1935)
  111. Sunset of Power (1935) .... Neil Brannum
  112. Frisco Kid (1935) (uncredited) .... Speaker
  113. Special Agent (1935) (uncredited) .... Commander of Troopers
  114. Hop-Along Cassidy (1935) .... Buck Peters
    ... aka Hopalong Cassidy Enters (1935)
  115. Party Wire (1935) (uncredited) .... Johnson
  116. In Spite of Danger (1935) .... Mr. Merritt
  117. Behold My Wife (1935) .... Juan Storm Cloud
  118. Fixer Uppers, The (1935) .... Pierre Gustave
  119. Square Shooter (1935) .... Jed Miller
  120. David Harum (1934) (uncredited) .... Deacon
  121. Massacre (1934)
  122. Nana (1934) (uncredited) .... Man Announcing Start of the War
    ... aka Lady of the Boulevards (1934) (UK)
  123. St. Louis Kid, The (1934) (uncredited) .... Sheriff
    ... aka Perfect Weekend, A (1934) (UK)
    ... aka Weekend Perfect, A (1934)
  124. When Strangers Meet (1934) .... John Tarman
  125. Broadway Bill (1934) (uncredited) .... Verterinarian
    ... aka Strictly Confidential (1934) (UK)
  126. Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch (1934) .... Bagby
  127. Whom the Gods Destroy (1934) (uncredited) .... Constable Malcolm
  128. Murder at the Vanities (1934) (as Charles B. Middleton) .... Homer Boothby
  129. Last Round-Up, The (1934) .... Sheriff
  130. Lone Cowboy (1934) .... Marshal
  131. Big Executive (1933) .... Sheriff
  132. Bowery, The (1933) .... Detective
  133. Disgraced! (1933) .... District Attorney
  134. Pick-up (1933) .... Mr. Brewster
  135. Road Is Open Again, The (1933) .... Abraham Lincoln
  136. Rockabye (1933) (uncredited) .... D.A
  137. This Day and Age (1933)
  138. Tomorrow at Seven (1933) .... Simons
  139. White Woman (1933) .... Fenton
  140. World Changes, The (1933) (uncredited) .... Sheriff Wild Bill Hickok
  141. Duck Soup (1933) (as Charles B. Middleton) .... Prosecutor
  142. Doctor Bull (1933) (uncredited) .... Mr. Upjohn
  143. Mystic Hour, The (1933) .... Roger Thurston
  144. Sunset Pass (1933)
  145. Destination Unknown (1933) .... Turk
  146. Breach of Promise (1932) .... Hoe Pygmire
  147. Phantom President, The (1932) (uncredited) .... Abe Lincoln
  148. Sign of the Cross, The (1932) .... Tyros
  149. Silver Dollar (1932) .... Jenkins
  150. I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932) (uncredited) .... Train Conductor
    ... aka I Am a Fugitive (1932)
    ... aka I Am a Fugitive from the Chain Gang (1932)
  151. Kongo (1932) (uncredited)
  152. Hell's Highway (1932) .... Matthew the Hermit
  153. Pack Up Your Troubles (1932) .... Welfare Assn. officer
  154. Mystery Ranch (1932) .... Henry Steele
  155. Strange Love of Molly Louvain (1932) .... Captain Slade
    ... aka Molly Louvain (1932)
  156. Hatchet Man, The (1932) .... Lip Hop Fat
    ... aka Honourable Mr. Wong, The (1932) (UK)
  157. High Pressure (1932) .... Mr. Banks
  158. Devil's Cabaret, The (1931) (uncredited) .... Satan
  159. Full of Notions (1931)
  160. Manhattan Parade (1931) .... Sheriff
  161. Safe in Hell (1931) .... Jones
    ... aka Lost Lady, The (1931) (USA)
  162. Ships of Hate (1931) .... Captain Lash
  163. Sob Sister (1931) .... City Editor Baker
    ... aka Blonde Reporter, The (1931) (UK)
  164. Beau Hunks (1931) .... Commandant
    ... aka Beau Chumps (1931) (UK)
  165. House Divided, A (1931) .... Minister
  166. Palmy Days (1931) .... Yolando
  167. Alexander Hamilton (1931) .... Chief Justice John Jay
  168. Caught Plastered (1931) (as Charles B. Middleton) .... Flint
  169. Miracle Woman, The (1931) .... Simpson
  170. American Tragedy, An (1931) (as Charles B. Middleton) .... Jephson, Clyde's Second Attorney
  171. Dangerous Affair, A (1930) .... Tupper
  172. East Is West (1930) .... Dr. Fredericks
  173. Way Out West (1930) .... Buck Rankin
  174. Beau Bandit (1930) .... Lucius Perkins
    Always Faithful (1929)
  175. Welcome Danger (1929) .... John Thorne/The Dragon
  176. Far Call, The (1929) .... Kris Larsen
  177. Show Boat (1929) (uncredited)
  178. Bellamy Trial (1929) .... District Attorney
  179. Farmer's Daughter, The (1928) .... Hiram Flint
  180. Serum of Evil (1922)
    ... aka Evil Dead, The (1922) (USA: new title)
  181. $1,000,000 Reward, The (1920)
  182. Wits vs. Wits (1920) .... Frank Cheny
    Flaming Frontiers (????) (TV) .... Ace Daggett

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