The family moved from Colorado to New York before moving to Los Angeles in the early 1900s. Al eventually joined the U.S. Navy as a yeoman before entering the motion picture business as an actor in 1913.
He eventually became an assistant superintendent of the Selig Motion Picture Company. Then in 1915, he and a bank cashier were charged for contributing to the delinquency of a high school student named Isabel L. Keep. After the studio quietly settled the scandal, Blake returned to acting.
He worked as an actor in the advertising business for the Amusement Program Company. When the U.S. entered WWI in 1917, he declared himself ineligible for the draft by claiming that he had a personal disability: a stiff index finger on his right hand.
Blake didn’t serve, and as the 1910s came to a close, his acting roles became fewer. He ended his known screen career by appearing in three classic Charlie Chaplin films: A Dog’s Life (1918), Shoulder Arms (1918), and Sunnyside (1919).
Blake either married twice…or he fudged his personal history. Despite the fact that he had claimed that he was married in 1917, records show that he married in 192o — when he was 33. His new wife was a 14-year-old named Edwyna Charlotte Eklund. In 1930, the couple lived at 4610 Clinton Ave.
In June of 1941 (in the months leading up to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor), the FBI raided Tachiba’s house where they found more than a “truckload” of top secret information. G-men arrested Kino, Tachibana and Blake and charged them with “conspiracy to obtain national defense information to be used for the injury of the United States and to the advantage of a foreign power.” After the FBI discovered that Blake worked counter-intelligence for the U.S. Navy, he was released and called a “hero.” Tachibana was eventually released, too, after the Japanese Consul paid a $50,000 bail. Kono, who could not afford his $25,000 bail remained in jail.
Then came the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December of that year. Kono was immediately picked up and interned in a Japanese camp in Indiana. In 1943, Blake told a California State Senate fact finding committee that he had tried to warn government officials that the Japanese were planning to attack Pearl Harbor. “I brought back fake papers fixed up by the FBI,” he said. “Then I informed a certain government agency that I thought the Japs were going to attack Pearl Harbor. I was told I was crazy. The man I spoke to said it would be like gangsters attacking a police station.”
Blake’s role as a “spy” didn’t resurrect his failing acting career. In 1942, he listed himself as unemployed until Paramount hired him to coach Barbara Britton as a live mannequin in a store window in Young and Willing (1943). Although it’s not clear what Blake did in the 1950s, he frequently visited the backroom of Hody’s restaurant on the corner of Hollywood and Vine to mix and mingle with other veteran entertainers. By 1960, he was part of the old-timers “Comedy Club.” He also told people that he was the oldest living silent movie actor.
Al D. Blake died on November 6, 1966 at the age of 79.