York, in films since 1933 with an uncredited role in Roman Scandals, was a stuntman and bit player in more than 100 films until his death in 1952. While largely uncredited, York often appeared as a tough (Sworn Enemy, 1936; Never Give a Sucker an Even Break, 1941), a minor functionary (a guard in the 1952 James Stewart bio-pic Carbine Williams), and in many Westerns (Trail of the Vigilantes, 1940; Rogue River, 1950; Silver Canyon, 1951). In 1936, York played his most memorable role, "King Kala," ruler of an underwater kingdom of shark-men, in Universal's Flash Gordon serial starring Buster Crabbe in the title role.
On January 24, 1952, the 43-year-old character actor phoned his ex-fiancee, Catherine Moench, from his apartment at 1771 North Sycamore Avenue in Hollywood. During their three hour conversation he repeatedly threatened to kill himself. Alone across town in her Beverly Hills apartment, Moench tried to keep York on the line while attempting to summon outside aid. Finally, Moench heard a gunshot. She notified a friend of York's who raced to his apartment. York was found sprawled on the floor, the phone receiver across his chest, a gun nearby. When authorities arrived, a detective hung up the phone. It instantly rang and after the officer identified himself, Moench responded, "So he did it." York (real name Charles E. Sinsabaugh) is interred in Foyer F of the Abbey of Psalms in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.