Clayton Moore grew up in Chicago, Illinois and although his father wanted him to become a doctor, he had visions of something a little more glamorous. Naturally athletic, he practiced gymnastics during family summer vacations in Canada, eventually joining the trapeze act The Flying Behrs at 19. During the 1934 Chicago World's Fair, Clayton performed in the position of catcher. Playing off his good looks, he was signed by the John Robert Powers modeling agency and enjoyed a print career in NY for several years. But a friend urged him to make the move to Hollywood in 1938 where he entered films as a bit player and stuntman. In 1940, at the suggestion of his agent Edward Small, he changed his first name from Jack to Clayton. Beginning with Perils of Nyoka, he eventually became King of the Serials at Republic Studios appearing in more than cliffhanger star Buster Crabbe. During this period, he also worked in many B westerns earning his acting chops along side Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and interestingly Jay Silverheels. Later in 1942 he entered the military, was stationed in Kingman, Arizona and assigned entertainment duties including the production of training films. While in Arizona, he asked his future wife Sally Allen to marry him; she said "yes" and joined him in Kingman for the balance of his enlistment. After the war, he returned to these supporting roles while concentrating on westerns. His turn as Ghost of Zorro came to the attention of the radio's hugely successful Lone Ranger producer George W. Trendle who was casting the lead role for the new television series. After the interview, Trendle said, "Mr. Moore would you like the role of the Lone Ranger?" Moore replied, "Mr. Trendle, I AM The Lone Ranger." The premiere episode appeared on ABC on September 15, 1949 and was the first western specifically written for the new medium. Although Moore's voice was a natural baritone, Trendle insisted he sound more like the radio actor Brace Beemer, so Moore worked with a voice coach to mimic both the speech pattern and tone. He starred in television's The Lone Ranger from 1949-1952 and 1953-1957. Along with William Boyd ("Hopalong Cassidy"), Moore was one of the most popular TV western stars of the era. Because of a salary dispute, he was replaced by John Hart, for one season. It was during his time away from the TV show that Moore returned to the big screen (as Clay Moore) to continue his movie career with such memorable movies as Radar Men from the Moon and Jungle Drums of Africa. where he co starred with Phyllis Coates, TVs first "Lois Lane". Hired back to the series, at a higher salary, Moore remained as The Lone Ranger until the series ended in 1957, after 169 episodes. He appeared in two color big-screen movies continuations of that character, in The Lone Ranger and The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold. After a lifetime of "B" movie parts, Clayton Moore finally found success in a TV series and continued to make commercials and personal appearances as "The Lone Ranger" for the next three decades. The commercials for Gino's Pizza Rolls and Aqua Velva have become legendary in their own right. At his appearances, he recited The Lone Ranger Creed, which he deeply believed in, and that image was never tarnished by the types of personal scandals that often affected other stars. In 1978 the Wrather Corp., which owned the series and the rights to the title character, obtained a court order to stop Moore from appearing in public as "The Lone Ranger". The company planned to film a new big-screen movie of the popular hero and did not want the public to confuse its new star with the old one. It would be the only screen appearance for Klinton Spilsbury, this "new Lone Ranger". Although the former "Arrow" shirt model appeared rugged and handsome in the "umasked" sequence, his voice projected so poorly it was overdubbed by the more melodious voice of James Keach. The film was one of the biggest flops of the 1980s and The Lone Ranger story wasn't attempted again until 30 years later with Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp as Tonto. Again, however the film flopped without a nod to the original tenets of the integrity of the character. After his death in 1984, Wrather's widow actress Bonita Granville dismissed the lawsuit allowing Moore to continue to appear as the masked man. Moore's legacy to the entertainment industry and western film genre has been cemented with the installation of his legendary mask in the Smithsonian, his star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame and a United States Postage Stamp bearing his image alongside Silver.
Born in Oakland, California, Kenneth Tobey was headed for a law career when he first dabbled in acting at the University of California Little Theater. That experience led to a year and a half of study at New York's Neighborhood Playhouse, where his classmates included Gregory Peck, Eli Wallach and Tony Randall. Throughout the 1940s Tobey acted on Broadway and in stock; he made his film debut in a 1943 short, "The Man on the Ferry." He made his Hollywood film bow in a Hopalong Cassidy Western, and has since appeared in scores of features and on numerous TV series. He even had his own series, Whirlybirds, in which he played an adventurous helicopter pilot.
|George 'Gabby' Hayes
American character actor, the most famous of Western-movie sidekicks of the 1930s and 1940s. He was born May 7, 1885, the third of seven children, in the Hayes Hotel (owned by his father) in the tiny hamlet of Stannards, New York, on the outskirts of Wellsville, New York. Hayes was the son of hotelier and oil-production manager Clark Hayes, and grew up in Stannards. As a young man, George Hayes worked in a circus and played semi-pro baseball while a teenager. He ran away from home at 17, in 1902, and joined a touring stock company. He married Olive Ireland in 1914 and the pair became quite successful on the vaudeville circuit. Retired in his 40s, he lost much of his money in the 1929 stock market crash and was forced to return to work. Although he had made his film debut in a single appearance prior to the crash, it was not until his wife convinced him to move to California and he met producer Trem Carr that he began working steadily in the medium. He played scores of roles in Westerns and non-Westerns alike, finally in the mid-1930s settling in to an almost exclusively Western career. He gained fame as Hopalong Cassidy's sidekick Windy Halliday in many films between 1936-39. Leaving the Cassidy films in a salary dispute, he was legally precluded from using the "Windy" nickname, and so took on the sobriquet "Gabby", and was so billed from about 1940. One of the few sidekicks to land on the annual list of Top Ten Western Boxoffice Stars, he did so repeatedly. In his early films, he alternated between whiskered comic-relief sidekicks and clean-shaven bad guys, but by the later 1930s, he worked almost exclusively as a Western sidekick to stars such as John Wayne, Roy Rogers, and Randolph Scott. After his last film, in 1950, he starred as the host of a network television show devoted to stories of the Old West for children, The Gabby Hayes Show. Offstage an elegant and well-appointed connoisseur and man-about-town, Hayes devoted the final years of his life to his investments. He died of cardiovascular disease in Burbank, California, on February 9, 1969.
A child star in such classics as Randolph Scott's Return of the Bad Men and the Loretta Young / William Holden / Robert Mitchum film Rachel and the Stranger, was born in Los Angeles California on December 18, 1936, to Jeanie Ellen Dickson and John William Gray, aka Bill Gray. Bill Gray was a business manager for many celebrities in the motion picture industry. Young Gary's career began as a result of two of his Dad's clients - Bert Wheeler (of Wheeler and Woolsey fame) and Jack Benny both telling Bill, "You ought to put Gary in pictures", and that is exactly what happened. Gary was signed to Screen Children's Guild and was registered at Central Casting. At the age of three-and-a-half, Gary Gray made his film debut in A Woman's Face with Joan Crawford. Following quickly with Sun Valley Serenade as a war orphan, publicity stated that Gray was going to be placed under contract to Harry "Pop" Sherman, and be featured in the next Hopalong Cassidy western. Although this never materialized (Sherman and Cassidy soon left Paramount and went over to United Artists), Gary did continue to appear in a wide range of pictures. His big break came when he landed the role of Young Johnny in RKO's all-star big-budget western Return of the Bad Men. Before this smash hit was released, Gary beat Bobby Driscoll to the part of Young Davey in the frontier epic, Rachel and the Stranger.
In 1950, he played the son of Nancy Reagan and James Whitmore in the classic, The Next Voice You Hear.... His performance in that film led to a term contract at Metro, where he starred with the original Lassie in the Technicolor The Painted Hills. After completing the latter, he spent more of this time attending public school. He graduated from Van Nuys High in the San Fernando Valley, where he lettered in varsity diving and gymnastics. He then attended Valley College, majoring in theater arts. Throughout the fifties Gary continued to work doing mainly television - guesting on many popular series. Gary always loved Westerns and owned horses. Returning to features, Gary appeared in the Universal-International color western Wild Heritage. He made his last film, the cult western Terror at Black Falls with House Peters Jr. and Peter Mamakos.
In 1960, Gary started a swimming pool maintenance and repair business. On January 28, 1961, Gary married Jean Charlene Bean. They had four daughters and 19 grandchildren. For the last twenty-five years of his thirty-eight years in the swimming pool industry, he worked for two of the major international manufacturers of swimming pool equipment as territory, regional, and national sales manager. Gary was a sought-after speaker and educator for the "National Spa and Pool Institute" as well as by the "Independent Pool and Spa Service Association." Gary retired from the swimming pool industry in July, 1999. Gary collected tapes of his movies and television programs, as well as stills, posters, and lobby cards from his career. He enjoyed time with his grandchildren, and on the golf course. Beginning in the mid-90s, Gary was a frequent guest at film festivals throughout the United States. He enjoyed visiting with his fans, and relating many interesting stories from his lengthy career. He died of cancer in 2006.
Not much is known about the early life of ruggedly handsome cowboy actor Tom Keene, born George Duryea in Rochester, New York. However, he arrived in Hollywood in the late 1920s after college studies at Columbia and Carnegie Tech and immediately made some impact as the lead of The Godless Girl. Known for his sharp, pleasant looks and fitness, he was given the new name of Tom Keene and began appearing in a series of RKO "Poverty Row" Westerns in the early 1930s. Unlike other sagebrush stars of the time, such as Lash La Rue or William Boyd ("Hopalong Cassidy"), Tom's heroes took on different names and appearances -- wearing both black and white western outfits and hats -- and his characters were not two-fisted men by nature. As a result, he remained a second-string, less identifiable Western star for the duration of his career. In addition, Tom purposely returned to the stage and even appeared in lesser roles but better quality films from time to time in order to avoid the typical Western stereotype. Inevitably, however, he would return to the minor studios such as Monogram and Republic Studios in cowboy garb in need of work. In 1944, Tom changed his name once again to Richard Powers in the last juncture of his career, which couldn't have helped. He moved steadily down the credits line in pictures, appearing as villains on occasion. He retired in the late 1950s and focused on real estate and the insurance business. Tom died of cancer in 1963, and left a wife and stepson.
Radiant to a tee, well-coiffed and well-dressed Barbara Britton looked like she stepped out of a magazine when she entered into our homes daily as the 'Revlon Girl' on 50s and 60s TV. She sparkled with the best of them and managed to capture that "perfect wife/perfect mother" image with, well, perfect poise and perfect grace. Co-starring opposite some of Hollywood's most durable leading men, including Randolph Scott (multiple times), Joel McCrea, Gene Autry, Jeff Chandler and John Hodiak, it's rather a shame Barbara was rather obtusely used in Hollywood films, but thankfully her beauty and glamour, if not her obvious talent, would save the day and put the finishing touches on a well-rounded career.
It all began for sunny, hazel-eyed blonde Barbara Maureen Brantingham in equally sunny Long Beach, California on September 26, 1920 (1919 is incorrect, according to her son and several other sources). Attending Polytechnic High School, Barbara eventually taught Sunday school and majored in speech at Long Beach City College with designs of becoming a speech and drama teacher. Her interest in acting, however, quickly took hold and she decided, against the wishes of her ultra-conservative parents, to pursue the local stage. Barbara's own personal 'Hollywood' story unfolded when, as a Pasadena Tournament of Roses parade representative of Long Beach, she was seen on the front pages of the newspaper, scouted out and signed by Paramount movie agents.
The surname Britton was a cherished family name and Barbara picked it as her stage moniker when Paramount complained that Brantingham was "too long to fit on a marquee." She made her film debut with Secrets of the Wasteland, a Hopalong Cassidy western, and continued in bit parts for a time before finding modest but showier roles in such fare as Louisiana Purchase, So Proudly We Hail! and Till We Meet Again. She eventually earned higher visibility as a lead and second femme lead but was underserved for most of her film career, confined as a pretty, altruistic, genteel young thing in such durable but male-oriented films as The Great John L., The Virginian, The Return of Monte Cristo, Albuquerque, and Champagne for Caesar.
Barbara wisely turned to the stage and TV in the 1950s, making her TV debut on an episode of "Robert Montgomery Presents" in 1950 and her Broadway debut co-starring in the short-lived Peggy Wood comedy "Getting Married" the following year.
After co-starring a couple of seasons with Richard Denning on the TV program Mr. & Mrs. North, Barbara earned major attention as Revlon's lovely pitchwoman and remained on view in that capacity for 12 years. She appeared in Revlon commercials live for a number of programs, including "The $64,000 Question," "The $64,000 Challenge," "Revlon's Big Party" and "The Ed Sullivan Show." In between Barbara graced several of the top dramatic shows of the day, and co-starred intermittently in such "B" films as The Bandit Queen, The Raiders, Bwana Devil, Dragonfly Squadron and Night Freight before ending her movie run with The Spoilers opposite Jeff Chandler and Rory Calhoun.
Various Broadway shows included "Wake Up, Darling (1956), "How to Make a Man" (1961), and "Me and Thee" (1965). Other stage credits on the dinner theatre and summer stock circuits include "Last of the Red Hot Lovers", "Mary, Mary," "Barefoot in the Park" and "No, No, Nanette." As time passed, more and more would be devoted to raising her family. Only occasionally seen in the 1970, Barbara sometimes appeared with her two children in such regional shows as "Best of Friends," "Forty Carats" and "A Roomful of Roses".
Married in 1945 to Eugene Czukor, a naturopathic physician at the time, he later became a psychiatrist when the family moved to New York City (Manhattan) in 1957. The couple raised two children -- son Theodore (Ted or Theo) who appeared on the Canadian Shakespearean stage and later became a yoga instructor, and daughter Christina who grew up to become a model, actress, opera singer, music therapist and romance novelist. Both used the surname Britton in their respective performance careers. Sadly, two other children born to Barbara and husband Eugene, a girl and a boy, died at the hospital shortly after birth.
One of Barbara's last roles was as a regular on the daytime soap One Life to Live in 1979. Her enjoyment on this show was short-lived as the vivacious actress was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer not long after. She died in January of 1980 at age 59.
Andy Clyde's more than 40-year film career started on the vaudeville stages and music halls in his native Scotland in the 1920s. He made his way to Hollywood and began as an extra in Mack Sennett comedies, but he was soon moved up to featured player, usually the sidekick or second banana to the lead. He had his own series of well-received comedy shorts at Educational Pictures in the mid-1930s, and began a long association with Columbia Pictures, where he made his own series of comedy shorts over the next 20 years. He is best remembered, however, for his many roles as the comedy-relief sidekick in scores of westerns, usually paired with William Boyd in the "Hopalong Cassidy" series as California Carson or with Whip Wilson in a lower-budgeted series of westerns at Monogram playing "Winks" (for some reason, his character in each entry of the series was called Winks, but often had a different last name). He played the grizzled, grungy, scruffy marshal, deputy or just plain old cowboy, usually with several days growth of beard and a sloppy, mismatched wardrobe (in real life he was exactly the opposite, being a slick, clean-shaven and sharp dresser). His last film, Pardon My Nightshirt, also brought an end to his Columbia shorts series. He had regular parts in such TV series as No Time for Sergeants and The Real McCoys. He died in 1967, age 75, in Hollywood, still working.
Jennifer, born Elizabeth Marshall, was the daughter of film star Jack Holt and Margaret Wood Holt; she had an older half-sister from her mothers' previous marriage, named Imogene and a brother, Charles John Holt III, nicknamed Tim Holt. She would later change her name to Jennifer for professional reasons. The granddaughter of industrialist Henry Morton Stanley Wood of St. Paul, Minnesota, the owner of American Hoist & Derrick, known world-wide for their steam shovels, emigrated from England. Her paternal grandmother was the great-granddaughter of John Marshall, Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court 1801-1835. Her grandfather, the first John Charles Holt, was an Episcopal minister also of Virginia.
The Holt family lived in Beverly Hills, California and had a ranch in Fresno. When she was seven-years-old, Jennifer went to Belgium with her governess "Mademoiselle", where the year-long visit lasted for two-and-a-half years. By 1931, on her return, her parents had separated and she joined her mother and Imogene in Scarsdale, New York briefly before moving with them to Santiago, Chile. Upon returning to California, Jennifer attended The Bishop School in La Jolla and, after years of separation, she was able to reestablish a relationship with her brother; in fact, her first date was with Hal Roach Jr., Tim's roommate from Culver Military Academy.
Jennifer studied acting with Russian actress and teacher Maria Ouspenskaya her first year out of high school. She also studied music and wanted to be a singer. Later, she studied and performed at the Peterborough Players in New Hampshire for a year, appeared in productions of "The Babbitt", "The Far Off Hills" and "Our Town", supervised by playwright Thornton Wilder.
Finding few opportunities on Broadway, Jennifer returned to Hollywood. While visiting her brother Tim at a rodeo in Reno, Nevada, she met Jerry Colonna's agent, Bruce Geer, who was able to negotiate a deal with producer Harry Sherman of Colonna's services for a part in the Hopalong Cassidy film Stick to Your Guns, she was billed as "Jacqueline Holt". Following its release, she signed a six-year contract with Universal Pictures using the professional name of "Jennifer Holt". In her film career, she starred with William Boyd (Hopalong Cassidy), Russell Hayden, Rod Cameron, Johnny Mack Brown, Tex Ritter, Eddie Dean and Lash La Rue.
In her later years, Jennifer attended events like the Raleigh Western Film Fair 1989 and Sierra Film Festival in Lone Pine, California 1992.
She died on a visit in Dorset, England, UK at age 77.
Tall, provocative actress Joan Woodbury was born Joanne Woodbury in Los Angeles on December 17, 1915. Of Danish, English and Indian heritage, she was educated for seven years in a convent. Trained in dance, she was already performing in her mid-teens by the time she graduated from Hollywood High School. A solo dancer at one point with the Agua Caliente dance company, she broke into films at age 19, her exotic beauty being her "in" to the picture business. For many years she was relegated to atmospheric bit parts as assorted dancing girls, barmaids, secretaries and the like. Once she progressed to co-starring roles, her characters often provided a foreign allure (Hispanic, French, Asian) playing femmes with such desirous names as Lolita, Dolores and Toto. Seldom rising above "B" and "C" features, she nevertheless churned out a feisty score of ladies and girlfriends for about a decade and a half (1934-1949).
She appeared in a number of "Charlie Chan" entries of the 1930s, particularly Charlie Chan on Broadway wherein she turned heads performing a very sultry dance routine. A resilient western player as well, she appeared opposite a number of cowboy heroes including William Boyd [Hopalong Cassidy], Roy Rogers and Johnny Mack Brown among others. Her her first co-starring role, in fact, came opposite sagebrush star Tim McCoy (in a dual role) in Bulldog Courage. One of her finest moments in the limelight has to be her titular role in the Columbia serial Brenda Starr, Reporter, in which she gave a fine, spirited performance as the intrepid heroine.
After retiring from films in the 1960s, she became a stage producer and director of grand and light operas for the Redlands (California) Bowl. Married twice--to actor/producer Henry Wilcoxon and then actor Ray Mitchell--she and her second husband subsequently co-founded the Palm Springs-based Valley Players Guild, staging plays that featured other veteran performers. She died of a respiratory ailment in 1989 and was survived by three children from her first marriage to Wilcoxon.
|The King's Men
The King's Men quartet was comprised of Ken Darby, arranger & bass; Rad Robinson baritone; Jon Dodson, lead tenor; Bud Linn, top tenor. Formed in Hollywood in 1929, they took their name from a radio sponsor named King. Their first engagement was as a singing foursome in the Paramount film Sweetie." This led to other films and radio contracts. When the The Boswell Sisters left Los Angeles station KFWB in 1932, the The King's Men replaced them for two years.
They achieved national prominence on radio and records as a feature of the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. They sang with Paul Whiteman's Orchestra from 1934 until 1937. Whiteman also acted as their agent, and encouraged their musical activities outside his organization. They subsequently appeared on other broadcasts, including the Rudy Vallee program. They were heard, and sometimes seen, in many feature films, including Sweetie, (My Sweeter than Sweet), Hollywood Party (Feelin' High), Let's Go Native (title song), Belle of the Nineties (Troubled Waters), Alexander's Ragtime Band, Murder at the Vanities, (Lovely One) and notably The Wizard of Oz, in which they are the off screen voices for the Lollipop Guild.
After leaving the Whiteman band in 1937, Ken Darby was hired by conductor/composer Herbert Stothart at MGM. Darby's first screen credit was as vocal arranger and supervisor for The Wizard of Oz" in which the The King's Men are the off screen voices for specific Munchkins. Darby was the voice of the Mayor of Munchkin Land, while Robinson's voice was heard as Coroner. Dodson and Linn represented the two boys in the Lollipop Guild. Darby's other MGM films included three MacDonald/Eddy pictures. On screen, The King's Men were best remembered as the singing cowboys in sixteen Hopalong Cassidy films. In the film Honolulu, the The King's Men play the The Marx Brothers on ice skates. Darby was subsequently associated with the Music Department at Walt Disney Studios (Dumbo, Song of the South, Make Mine Music, Pinocchio, So Dear to My Heart, Bambi.
For fifteen years The King's Men were regulars on the "Fibber McGee and Molly" broadcasts, and made records with Marian and 'Jim Jordan (I)' qv. The King's Men quartet was the basis for the Ken Darby Singers, featured on John Charles Thomas "Westinghouse Broadcasts" and on many Decca phonograph records, such as Bing Crosby's original recording of "White Christmas." Darby went on to win three Academy Awards (The King and I, Porgy and Bess, Camelot) as Associate Musical Supervisor with Alfred Newman and André Previn. The The King's Men and their families remained lifelong friends.
American light leading man, primarily of Westerns, James Ellison was born James Ellison Smith in Guthrie Center, Iowa, in 1910. He grew up on a ranch in Valier, Montana, where he learned the skills that would stand him in good stead as a movie cowboy. His family moved to Los Angeles when he was a young man, and it was there that he first became interested in the theatre. He studied at the Pasadena Playhouse briefly, traveled to New York (and by some accounts played some minor roles in productions of the visiting Moscow Art Theatre, probably as a supernumerary), then returned to California where he was spotted by a Warner Bros. talent scout at a production of the Beverly Hills Little Theatre. He played a number of bit parts for Warners and MGM before landing the plum part of Hopalong Cassidy's sidekick Johnny Nelson in 1935. Ellison played Nelson for eight films before being plucked by Cecil B. DeMille for the role of Buffalo Bill Cody in De Mille's epic Western The Plainsman opposite Gary Cooper. De Mille reportedly hated Ellison's performance and wanted to ensure that Ellison never had as good a part in quite as good a film ever again. In the late 1930s and 1940s Ellison did follow up with quite a number of romantic leads in a wide variety of films, from musicals and light mysteries, with such co-stars as Maureen O'Hara (They Met in Argentina) and Ginger Rogers (Vivacious Lady) to the cult horror classic I Walked with a Zombie. In 1950 Ellison returned to the "B" western, this time as the lead (along with his Hopalong replacement Russell Hayden) in a series of 11 westerns featuring them as two frontier lawmen, Lucky (Hayden) and Shamrock (Ellison). With the demise of the "B" western in the late 1950s, Ellison retired from movies and became a successful real estate broker. He died in 1993, as the result of a fall in which he broke his neck, at the age of 83.
The daughter of a clergyman and a mother, who was an accomplished painter of portraits and landscapes, Stella Dorothy Sabiston spent her formative years in her home state of Alabama. She had three siblings, all of whom died relatively young. She attended the University of Alabama, but always harbored ambitions of becoming an actress. In the early 1920s, the curly-haired brunette abandoned her studies and ran away to New York (as Dorothy Sebastian), where she took up acrobatic dancing at the prestigious Ned Wayburn academy. By the time she took elocution lessons to get rid of her noticeable southern drawl, Dorothy had her first failed marriage (1920-24) behind her. Living in a cheap apartment, and after several rejections, she landed her first job in show business as a chorus girl in "George White's Scandals" in June 1924. The show opened at the Apollo Theatre and ran for 198 performances, closing in December. Sometime prior to that, according to recollections of fellow cast member and friend Louise Brooks, Dorothy struck up a somewhat personal connection with then-British cabinet minister Lord Beaverbrook. Their meeting took place during a party at the Ritz Hotel in an apartment owned by producer Otto Kahn, at which several Scandals girls and Hollywood producers were present. The end result was an MGM contract for Dorothy.
She showed promise in her first film, Sackcloth and Scarlet, starring Alice Terry. Much to her chagrin, as her career went on she was often cast as vamps or, at least, disreputable or hard-boiled "other women" in films like Hell's Island. On occasion she played nice girls, for instance in A Woman of Affairs, with Greta Garbo. Then there were 'friends of the heroine' roles, which included her major successes, Our Dancing Daughters with Joan Crawford, and Spite Marriage with Buster Keaton(to whom she was romantically linked at the time). At the end of her five-year contract with MGM she asked for a raise (her weekly salary amounted to $1,000 per week), but was refused. Out of a contract, her film career faltered after several "Poverty Row" productions at Tiffany and, finally, a leading role in the (for her) ironically titled They Never Come Back. Thereafter, like so many other actors who bucked the studio system or simply failed to make the grade as major stars, she was relegated to minor supporting roles (though some of them were in A-grade pictures like The Women and Reap the Wild Wind, which starred Ray Milland and John Wayne).
Sadly, Dorothy Sebastian grabbed the headlines not always as a result of her profession: the three-times-married actress was involved in several well-publicized court cases over tax evasion (1929), acrimonious divorce proceedings from ex-husband William Boyd (of 'Hopalong Cassidy' fame) (1936), a drunk driving charge after a party at Keaton's house in November 1938 (naively suggesting that a meal of spaghetti and garlic had been responsible for "retaining the intoxicating odor of the wine") and a charge by a San Diego hotel of not paying a $100 account, which was later dismissed (she eventually countersued the hotel for defamation of character and was awarded $10,000). During the war years Dorothy worked as an X-ray technician at a defense plant, Bohn Aluminium & Brass, but continued to act in small parts. She met her third husband at this time, the aircraft technician Herman Shapiro. Dorothy had a brief scene with Gloria Grahame in It's a Wonderful Life, but it ended up on the cutting room floor. After being ill for some time, Dorothy died of cancer in August 1957 at the Motion Picture Country House, Woodland Hills. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard.
|Clara Kimball Young
Clara Kimball Young was born Clarisa Kimball on September 6, 1890, to Edward Kimball and the former Mrs. E.M. Kimball, traveling stock company actors with the Holden Co. Though she claimed Chicago as her birthplace, there are no records of her being born in Cook County--which includes Chicago--and she may have been born on one of her parents' tours. Her parents lived in Benton Harbor, Michigan, where her birth name Clarisa changed from the 1890 census to Clairee in the one of 1900, though she once claimed her birth name was Edith.
Young Clarisa Kimball made her professional debut as an actress at the advanced age of three, touring with the Holden Co. with her parents and playing child parts in the company's repertoire. After attending Chicago's St. Francis Xavier Academy, she joined another traveling stock company that took her out west. She married actor James Young, and sometime between 1909 and 1912 they were both hired by the Vitagraph Co. Though she was making $75 a week in the stock company, she accepted Vitragraph's offer of an annual contract paying her $25 a week, as it was steady employment.
In addition to her husband, who was hired as an actor but eventually became one of the company's best directors, Vitagraph hired her parents. The studio, which had been formed at the end of the 19th century as the International Novelty Company by English vaudevillians Albert E. Smith, J. Stuart Blackton and Ronald A. Reader, was a family-friendly company. In addition to the Youngs, it also employed the sisters Norma Talmadge and Constance Talmadge, the Sidney Drew family, and Maurice Costello and his daughters Dolores Costello and Helene Costello.
Though Clara made dozens of films at Vitagraph, few of them survive. In her early films she was quite charming, and these showcased her natural personality better than did her later dramas. A tall, dark-haired, full-figured gal who was a popular type in the early 20th century, Clara played both conventional leading ladies and light comedy I(at which she excelled). She quickly became a top star at Vitagraph, ranking 17th in a 1913 popularity poll of stars that was topped by Kalem's Alice Joyce.
Clara would soon knock Joyce off her perch atop the popularity charts. When Vitagraph supplemented its normal output of one- and two-reelers in 1914 and '15 with several longer feature films, it paired Young and the equally popular 'Earle Williams' as her leading man. One of their first collaborations, My Official Wife--a potboiler in the then-popular Russian aristocracy genre, propelled Young and Williams to the top rank of stardom in the polls. The movie, helmed by her husband, made him a major director.
Into this "Garden of Eden" arrived a serpent in the guise of producer Lewis J. Selznick, the vice president of the new World Film Corp., who signed Young to a personal contract in 1914 and proceeded to change her image into that of an unbridled sexpot. In that year's Lola (aka "Without a Soul"), which was directed by her husband, she played a decent woman who dies and is resurrected, unfortunately lacking a soul (like many producers before and since). Transformed into a "vamp", the heartless Lola sets out to destroy men, resulting in Clara conquering the box office with another huge hit that cemented her reputation as a superstar. Simultaneously, Selznick was destroying the equanimity of his leading lady's home life, leading her husband to remark ruefully to Mabel Normand, "[W]here I made my mistake was in ever inviting that fellow to the house."
In 1916 James Young filed a lawsuit against Selznick for alienation of affections, to which Selznick riposted that the marriage was troubled before he had arrived on the scene. Clara filed charges against her husband, charging cruelty, though eventually it was James Young who obtained a divorce on grounds of desertion on April 8, 1919 (bBy then the Selznick-Kimball Young relationship was on the rocks and in the courts, and there was another correspondent to the divorce).
After playing two man-eating vamps, Clara settled into a series of roles as the traditional hapless heroine whose travails are resolved with a conventional happy ending. She did, however, get to assay the title roles in Camille and Trilby with more tragic results, and she got to play some more decadent Russian hussies in Hearts in Exile and The Yellow Passport.
Screenwriter Frances Marion, her longtime friend, reported that Clara was bored with her roles at World Film and resentful about Selznick's control over her private life. Like many a movie mogul before and since, Selznick was determined to create a public image for his star that matched the roles she played, that of a gloomy tragedienne.
Selznick was an ambitious man who had a habit of alienating his business partners (a trait that would trigger the failure of his last company in 1923). He was ousted as general manager of World Film in February 1916. Three months later he left formed the Clara Kimball Young Film Corp. to produce films for her with himself as president, and Selznick Productions Inc., to distribute both her films and those of independent production companies. Now with exclusive control of her career, Selznick seemed determined to turn her back into the sexpot he made her when he produced her first movie at World. Leaving behind the five-reelers, he launched her in seven-reel extravaganzas, dressed in fashionable wardrobe and parrying risqué subject matter in The Common Law, The Foolish Virgin, The Price She Paid and The Easiest Way.
She had a falling-out with Selznick after the initial series of four films for the company named for her--but controlled by him--apparently due to the salaciousness of the subject matter and his complete control over her life and career. At this time she became associated with Detroit-based movie exhibitor Harry Garson, with whom she entered into a personal relationship, as she had earlier with Selznick. In February 1917 a knife-wielding James Young attacked Garson as he exited New York City's Astor Theater with his wife.
It was Garson, anxious to make the leap from exhibition to production that former exhibitors like Louis B. Mayer had accomplished, who apparently encouraged her legal campaign to become emancipated from Selznick. She filed a lawsuit against him in June 1917, charging the president of Clara Kimball Young Film Corp. with fraud. She alleged that Selznick had set up dummy corporations to hide profits and had elected himself president of her production company while not allowing her any input into its management. Publicly denying the charge, Selznick obtained an injunction forbidding her to appear in movies produced by any other company. Selznick counter-charged that Young was under the influence of Garson and planned to make films with him as director for her new lover's Garson Productions.
The ball now in her court, Clara announced to the press her plans to take complete control of her career, artistically and financially, by forming her own company. Bristling over her former mentor's turning her into a public sexpot, she announced that she would no longer make pictures that flouted the mores of the censorship boards. In the legal round robin that their troubles degenerated into, Selznick then sued Garson to keep Garson Productions from doing business with Selznick Enterprises, which had a contract to release Clara Kimball Young films. For his part, Garson claimed that Clara's contract with Selznick was broken due to the failure of Selznick's companies to produce and deliver her movies.
The machinations of Selznick nemesis Adolph Zukor, who would later force him into bankruptcy and out of the business in 1923, came into play. Zukor helped finance the formation of the C.K.Y. Film Corp. in August 1917, while secretly acquiring a 50% stake in Selznick's company. Zukor temporarily left Selznick in charge of the renamed Select Pictures Corp., which would release films produced by Young with her own C.K.Y. Film. Corp.
Clara, her parents and her "business manager" Garson moved to California in early 1918, and in June of that year they announced plans to build a studio. To build a stock company for this new studio, Garson hired Blanche Sweet and director Marshall Neilan, and named himself a producer. The output of C.K.Y. Film Corp. continued Selznick's practice of outfitting Clara in fancy duds, but the length of the "features" was cut back to five reels. Intended for an adult audience, the films starring Clara featured female characters who could think for themselves and make their own decisions--ironically a case of wishful thinking for this woman who had had not one but two Svengalis in her life within a short period. She did branch out beyond her Selznick-construed vamp image, though, and appeared in a few comedies, including Cheating Cheaters, which was hailed for its ingenious plot and wonderful supporting performances. Unfortunately, none of the movies produced by C.K.Y Film Corp. have survived.
Conflict with Selznick reared its ugly head again in 1919, when C.K.Y. posted a legal notice as an advertisement in the January 11th issue of "Moving Picture World". In it, Clara declared, "I have this day served notice upon the C.K.Y. Film Corporation of the termination of all contract relations between that company and myself, because of several flagrant violations of the terms of the agreement under which motion pictures has been produced for distribution through the Select Pictures Corporation." The ad also stated that "Cheating Cheaters" would be the last film for the C.K.Y. Film Corp. Declaring themselves independent producers, C.K.Y. and Garson began shooting The Better Wife.
Another legal donnybrook between Trilby and her penultimate Svengali ensued. Selznick claimed that C.K.Y. was under contract to the C.K.Y. Film Corp. until August 21, 1921, and that Select Pictures owned C.K.Y. Film. "The Better Wife" wound up being released by Select Pictures in July 1919, the same month that Equity Pictures Corp. was created to distribute Clara Kimball Young films produced by Garson Productions. Launching their first independent feature, Eyes of Youth, Young placed another advertisement declaring she had her own independent production company. Equity got off to a strong start, as "Eyes of Youth" proved to be a huge hit, her biggest box-office smash since "My Official Wife" made her the top female star in motion pictures back in 1914. Arguably the best film she ever made, "Eyes of Youth" sported fashionable gowns and a first-rate supporting cast, including featured player Rudolph Valentino in his pre-superstar days, and featured high-quality production values. The film was heavily advertised, which paid off at the box office. Her success was short-lived, however, as Selznick launched another legal battle against her and Equity Pictures. His threats to sue exhibitors who showed "Eyes of Youth" forced many canceled bookings, causing Equity Pictures to ultimately sustain a loss despite its healthy box-office intake.
After the qualified success of "Eyes of Youth," Harry Garson decided he wanted to direct. An uninspired director whose control over the medium seemed to deteriorate with experience, he helmed Young's next nine films. The movies, with weaker scripts, turned out badly and the productions were hampered by a lack of capital. The decline of the quality of their films became so blatant that critics scored Garson and Young for the bad direction of her last two films. Young was always mature-looking, even in her youth, and the films contained characters who were supposed to be possessed of a youthful quality now alien to the actress. She had grown old on-screen, violating one of cinema's strongest taboos that still is in effect for actresses.
The "Roaring Twenties" proved her demise. The quality of her films had deteriorated to the point that her 1921 film, Hush was released on a "states rights" basis rather than as a road show, a sure sign of the waning appeal of the woman who was once the #1 female star in America. Exhibitors would not pay top dollar for her films, and the income from them was sure to drop, as under the "tates Rights" model, exhibitors could show a movie as many times as they wanted within their territory for a contracted period and would only have to pay the initial exhibition fee to the production company, instead of the usual system in which the studio got a percentage of the entire box office.
The financial fortunes of Equity took a hit when the courts held for Selznick, ruling that he was owed $25,000 for each of her next ten films. In addition to fighting Selznick's legal barrage, she was subjected to lawsuits by the Harriman National Bank and Fine Arts Film Corp. The fan magazine "Moving Picture World"' in a case of paid-for editorial content, featured many stories attesting to Young's continued popularity, sometimes accompanied with personal appeals from her to her fans to continue showing their support. By the time Equity released her last two films for the company, What No Man Knows and The Worldly Madonna, her films had degenerated into the cheap, rushed look of what were known as "Poverty Row" productions. Equity Pictures and Garson Productions ceased to be functioning entities in 1922.
Paramount Pictures head Adolph Zukor reportedly offered Young a Paramount contract if she would promise to keep Harry Garson out of her career, but she refused and signed with Commonwealth Pictures Corp., owned by Samuel Zierler, who allowed her to bring along her favorite director, Garson. Samuel Zierler Photoplay Corp. was to be the producer of her films, which would be distributed by Commonwealth in the state of New York and by Metro Pictures in all other territories.
Times, however, were changing. Boyish figures on women became the rage during the Twenties, and Young had a figure from the late Victorian era, which combined with the mature appearance made her look older than she actually was, and in fact she came across as matronly. It was the time of jazz babies and flaming youth, and a more naturalistic style of acting that damned more florid players as Young as "old-fashioned." Furthermore, by the 1920s the movie industry was becoming more vertically and horizontally integrated. The days of the entrepreneur were through; until 'Burt Lancaster (I)' became a successful independent star-producer after World War II, Charles Chaplin proved to be the last movie star to form and run his own successful production company. Creating new companies to produce and distribute one's films, as Young did, was a difficult process to undertake in the best of times, and the early 1920s saw a decline at the box office due to a postwar recession and an over-expansion of production that did in C.K.Y.'s nemesis, Lewis J. Selznick himself. It was a Sisyphean task Young had set for herself, hampered by a rolling stone named Harry Garson.
Garson was only to direct one film for Zierler, The Hands of Nara, an out-and-out debacle. He was booted upstairs as producer, and experienced directors were assigned to her films, such as the far more capable King Vidor. Trying to turn around the trajectory of a falling star is difficult, and the uneven quality of her new films hurt her, as did changing tastes. Critics and exhibitors, already derisive of an aging star playing young, began carping about overacting. "Variety," the show business bible, published a sort of pre-mortem, commenting on how deeply Young's star had gone into eclipse in just two years due to bad movies. A Wife's Romance was the last of her films released by Metro, though she would make one more silent picture, the independently produced Lying Wives. Young tried the novel career move of playing a villain, opposite Madge Kennedy's heroine, but the film fared badly with the critics, and the silent film career of Clara Kimball Young was over.
The rest of the Roaring Twenties were spent in vaudeville and cashing in on her former stardom with personal appearances. She eventually ditched Harry Garson and married Dr. Arthur Fauman in 1928. With the advent of sound, RKO Pictures brought her out of retirement for a featured comic role in Kept Husbands, but her attempt to rejuvenate her career was hampered by a public perception that she was a "has-been". She segued over to Poverty Row for lead roles in and Mother and Sonfor low-rent Monogram Pictures and Women Go on Forever for Tiffany Productions, a producer primarily of cheap "hoss operas" and for introducing James Whale to Hollywood with Journey's End. This was the apogee of her career trajectory in talkies, being reduced to bit parts in Poverty Row productions and appearances as an extra in productions at the "major" studios. Her claim to fame at this stage of her career was her appearance in the classic The Three Stooges short Ants in the Pantry.
Her husband Arthur died in 1937, one of a series of personal misfortunes that Young suffered in the 1930s. Her comeback was derailed by bad publicity, as the press chronicled the sad state she had sunk into, the former top box-office star reduced to bit parts and extra work. They had built her up, and now they tore her down, as Hollywood did love its clichés, this one the great star now has-been reduced to the career gutter, a morality play for the masses who read movie magazines.
Young began appearing in westerns, appearing with William Boyd in his "Hopalong Cassidy" series, and productions with Gene Autry and Richard Dix. She even appeared on the radio, but her attempts to make a go of it ultimately failed. Years later she quipped that "during the Depression I had half a mind to take up a tin cup and beg for alms." She announced her retirement in 1941, declaring, "I've been working since I was two years old, I think I deserve the chance to quit and just enjoy life."
Her last film work was in 1941, in bottom-of-the-barrel PRC's Mr. Celebrity (a.k.a. "Turf Boy"), in which she appeared as herself with another silent-screen-star/has-been, Francis X. Bushman. During the early days of television broadcasting, the major studios' embargo on selling films to TV and a lack of programming meant that many TV stations began airing silent movies to fill air time. Young's surviving silents began to be showcased, giving her a new notoriety. Once again in the public eye, she was interviewed and went on the personal appearance circuit again, this time attending film conventions. In 1956 CBS hired her as the Hollywood correspondent for the original The Johnny Carson Show that ran for a single season in 1955-56.
At the dawn of the 1960s, Young battled poor health and had to retire to the Motion Picture Home. Frances Marion, the Oscar-winning screenwriter who had remained her friend, said that Young told her, "I was worn out from the long journey, but I have found my way home."
Clara Kimball Young died on October 15, 1960, and was interred at the Grand View Memorial Park in Glendale, California, after a funeral attended by several hundred friends.
A petite and extremely lovely blonde "B" film actress who eventually deserted her career in favor of standing by her man (cowboy icon William Boyd, aka, "Hopalong Cassidy"), Grace Bradley spent the rest of her life in his shadow and devoting herself to her husband's career. Bill's Hoppy was the longest span of any fictional character played by the same actor. Following his death in 1972, she spent a good deal of her time keeping his good name and image in tact.
The former film lead and second lead was born in Brooklyn on September 21, 1913, and initially studied to be a concert pianist. At age 15 she played Carnegie Hall, representing the state of New York in one of its annual competitions for up-and-coming pianists. The accomplished pianist also took advantage of her budding loveliness by modeling full time and taking singing/dancing lessons on the sly. She went on to act, sing, and dance on the Broadway stage in the musicals "Strike Me Pink" and "The Little Show". While performing at the Paradise nightclub in Manhattan in 1933, the dancer was "discovered" by a Paramount Pictures director and signed for films.
Heading west, she often came off as an assertive "bad girl" or femme-fatale at Paramount with such fun, party-girl names as Goldie, Trixie, Flossie, Lily and Sadie. Her first full-length movie was as a second lead in the Bing Crosby/Jack Oakie musical comedy Too Much Harmony, in which she sang and danced to the feisty tune "Cradle Me With a Hotcha Lullaby". She subsequently appeared in the W.C. Fields classic Six of a Kind; the Richard Arlen pictures Come On, Marines! and She Made Her Bed; the Claudette Colbert/Fred MacMurray comedy The Gilded Lily, and had the female lead opposite Bruce Cabot in Redhead. Appearing secondary in the Bing Crosby/Ethel Merman version of Anything Goes, her musical talents were tapped into with the films The Cat's-Paw, Stolen Harmony, Old Man Rhythm, Sitting on the Moon and Wake Up and Live. Elsewhere, various "B" male co-stars would include Wallace Ford, Lee Tracy, Jack Haley, John Boles, Robert Livingston, Jack Holt and Robert Armstrong.
Grace was doing quite well in her modest career in 1937 when she happened to cross paths with Bill Boyd, who became (literally) her "Prince Charming on a big white horse". She had harbored a long-time school-girl crush on the man and she was instantly smitten upon their first meeting. He was 42 and she 23. Their courtship was fast and furious. He asked her to marry him within a few days and they were married three weeks later on June 5th. Boyd had already been married four times, none lasting any longer than six years. Grace would become the fifth (and last) Mrs. William Boyd in a marriage that would last 35 years. The couple had no children together; Bill had one child from his third marriage.
Grace continued on with her cinematic career for a time. She appeared in the mystery Romance on the Run with Donald Woods; enjoyed top billing in the "B" crimer The Invisible Killer; supported heavy-duty singers Allan Jones and Susanna Foster in the musical romance The Hard-Boiled Canary; and provided decorative diversion in the Jack London adventure Sign of the Wolf opposite Michael Whalen. Her last three pictures had the actress co-starring as Sadie McGuerin and mingling with cab company owners William Bendix and Joe Sawyer in the Hal Roach full-length comedies Brooklyn Orchid, Two Mugs from Brooklyn, and Taxi, Mister. She then retired completely.
By 1944, Boyd's movie career had faltered and the couple sought the purchasing rights to his old movies and the identifiable Hoppy character. Selling their Malibu ranch home and moving to a Hollywood apartment, the risk paid off. By 1946 he had formed his own production company and began churning out new Hopalong Cassidy films and serials. They took the character to episodic TV in 1948 and he became a heroic hit all over again. "Hoppymania" burst onto the American scene with hundreds of products bearing his name and likeness becoming instant collectible items (lunch boxes, tee shirts, toy guns, etc.).
William Lawrence Boyd retired from show business in 1953 quite wealthy. He and his wife then moved to Palm Desert, California. In 1968, Bill had surgery to remove a tumor from a lymph gland and, from that point on, refused all requests for interviews and photographs. Suffering from Parkinson's disease, he died of heart failure in Laguna Beach in 1972 at age 77. Grace went on to spend the last decades of her life devoting herself to volunteer work at the Laguna Beach hospital where her husband lived out his final days. She later withstood legal battles that stemmed from copyright infringements, but enjoyed appearing occasionally at Hopalong Cassidy tributes. The definitive biography Hopalong Cassidy - An American Legend was co-authored by Grace and Michael Cochran in 2008.
Grace Bradley Boyd died of complications from old age at age 97 on her birthday, and was interred next to her husband at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Clendale, California.
Born Russell September 16, 1903 in Los Angeles, California to Frank and Bertha Harlan, who hailed from Iowa and Missouri. Russell was raised in Los Angeles along with his younger brother Richard (b. 1911). His paternal grandmother Sarah J. Harlan also lived with the family.
Harlan started in the film industry as an actor and stuntman, and by the early 1930s was working behind the camera as an assistant. His first work as lead cinematographer was in 1937, when he filmed four "Hopalong Cassidy" westerns for Harry Sherman Productions. Harlan had a career as a cinematographer that spanned some thirty-three years from 1937 to 1970. He was nominated six times for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, including two in 1962 for his work on Hatari! and To Kill a Mockingbird.
Russell was married to Willette Marion Gregg (1914-1963). They had three children together.
Russell Harlan died February 28, 1974 in Newport Beach, California and was laid to rest in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Glendale, California.
French-born (Paris) George Archainbaud got his start in show business as an actor and stage manager in France. Emigrating to the US in 1915, he got work as an assistant director to fellow French expatriate Emile Chautard at William A. Brady's World Film Co. in Fort Lee, NJ. His directorial debut came in 1917 with As Man Made Her. Archainbaud turned into a prolific director in both films and television, turning out more than 100 features over the next 35 years and numerous TV series episodes.
Although a good amount of his feature-film output was fairly routine, there was some first-rate work scattered among them, such as The Lost Squadron, a gritty and dark tale of a group of former World War I aviators who find work as stunt fliers in war movies. It was a critical and financial success, earning accolades from critics for its exciting flying sequences.
The genre most associated with Archainbaud, however, is westerns. In the 1940s he turned out some fast-paced, exciting westerns, such as The Kansan and several entries in the Hopalong Cassidy series. When cowboy star Gene Autry went to television to star in his own series, he brought Archainbaud along with him and he became the principal director on the show and other Autry-produced series, such as Buffalo Bill, Jr., Annie Oakley and The Adventures of Champion.
Jon Dodson's association with The King's Men quartet was his primary profession, beginning in 1930. From 1934 to 1937 The King's Men ('Ken Darby', Arranger & Bass; Rad Robinson, Baritone; Jon Dodson, Lead Tenor; Bud Linn, Top Tenor) were a feature of the Paul Whiteman Orchestra on RCA records and the Kraft Music Hall. They subsequently appeared with many other orchestra leaders, including Rudy Vallee. They were heard, and sometimes seen, in many feature films, including Sweetie (My Sweeter than Sweet), Hollywood Party (Feelin' High), Let's Go Native (title song), Belle of the Nineties (Troubled Waters), Alexander's Ragtime Band, Murder at the Vanities, (Lovely One) and notably The Wizard of Oz, in which they are the off screen voices for the Lollipop Guild. On screen they were remembered as the singing cowboys of the Hopalong Cassidy films. In the costume party scene of the film Honolulu the King's Men play the Marx Brothers (Dodson plays Chico). For a few years they were associated with the Music Department at Disney Studios, and are heard in Make Mine Music and Pinocchio. The quartet was a regular featured on the long-running radio show "Fibber McGee & Molly." The King's Men group was the basis for the Ken Darby Singers, featured on John Charles Thomas' "Westinghouse Broadcasts" and on many Decca phonograph records, such as Bing Crosby's original recording of "White Christmas."
A lifelong singer, Bud Linn's association with the King's Men quartet was his primary profession, beginning in 1930. From 1934 to 1937 The King's Men (Ken Darby, Arranger & Bass; Rad Robinson Baritone; Jon Dodson, Lead Tenor; Bud Linn, Top Tenor) were a feature of the Paul Whiteman Orchestra on RCA records and the Kraft Music Hall. They subsequently appeared with many other orchestra leaders, including Rudy Vallee. They were heard, and sometimes seen, in many feature films, including "Sweetie" (My Sweeter than Sweet), "Hollywood Party" (Feelin' High) "Let's Go Native" (title song), "Belle of the Nineties" (Troubled Waters), "Alexander's Ragtime Band," "Murder at the Vanities" (Lovely One) and notably "The Wizard of Oz," in which they are the off screen voices for the Lollipop Guild. On screen they were remembered as the singing cowboys of the Hopalong Cassidy films. In the costume party scene of the film "Honolulu," the King's Men play the Marx Brothers (Mr. Linn played Harpo). For a few years they were associated with the Music Department at Disney Studios (Make Mine Music, Pinocchio). The King's Men group was the basis for the Ken Darby Singers, featured on John Charles Thomas' "Westinghouse Broadcasts" and on many Decca phonograph records, such as Bing Crosby's original recording of "White Christmas." When Bud Linn was not singing he was the first Director for the YMCA in Thousand Oaks, California.
American actor best known for a short string of Hopalong Cassidy Westerns in the 1940s in which he played Cassidy's youthful sidekick Johnny Travers. Kirby was born William B. George in Missouri. He began acting in films in 1942 when he was cast to replace Russell Hayden in the Cassidy films. He served briefly as an aviation cadet in the U.S. Army Air Forces during the Second World War, though his screen appearances remained continuous throughout the war and afterward for several years. In 1949, he reverted, more or less, to his real name, Bill George, for the rest of his career. He left acting in 1957 and died at 44. He was buried in the Los Angeles National Cemetery.
Rad Robinson's association with The King's Men quartet was his primary profession, beginning in 1930. From 1934 to 1937 The King's Men (Ken Darby, Arranger & Bass; Rad Robinson, Baritone; Jon Dodson, Lead Tenor; Bud Linn, Top Tenor, were a feature of the Paul Whiteman Orchestra on RCA records and the Kraft Music Hall. They subsequently appeared with many other orchestra leaders, including Rudy Vallee. They were heard, and sometimes seen, in many feature films, including Sweetie (My Sweeter than Sweet), Hollywood Party (Feelin' High), Let's Go Native (title song), Belle of the Nineties (Troubled Waters), Alexander's Ragtime Band, Murder at the Vanities, (Lovely One) and notably The Wizard of Oz, in which they are the off screen voices for the Lollipop Guild. On screen they were remembered as the singing cowboys of the Hopalong Cassidy films. In the costume party scene of the film Honolulu the King's Men play the Marx Brothers (Robinson plays the wavy-haired Groucho). For a few years they were associated with the Music Department at Disney Studios (Make Mine Music, Pinocchio, and on the long-running radio show "Fibber McGee & Molly." The King's Men group was the basis for the Ken Darby Singers, featured on John Charles Thomas' "Westinghouse Broadcasts" and on many Decca phonograph records, such as Bing Crosby's original recording of "White Christmas." When not singing, Mr. Robinson was the entertainment contractor for the five Howard Hughes hotels, based in Las Vegas.
Former propman Howard Bretherton was one of the legion of unknown directors who made the films--mostly westerns--that generations of kids trudged to see at the Saturday afternoon matinées. Bretherton's long career as an action/western director began in the late 1920s and ended more than 25 years later. In between he ground out scores of cowboy flicks, action/adventure yarns, serials, and just about anything anyone would hire him for. He made films the way "B" picture producers wanted them made--fast, with a minimum of fuss and within budget. The fact that Bretherton was also an editor--a skill he passed on to his son, David Bretherton, who was an editor for more than 40 years--who could cut "in the camera" must have added to his desirability in the eyes of producers. Bretherton was one of the directors of the long-running "Hopalong Cassidy" series, and also spent a lot of time at Warner Bros. cranking out many of that studio's gritty little action pictures. Unlike many of his fellow "B" directors who turned to series television toward the end of their careers, Bretherton stayed mostly in features until his retirement in 1952, with only the occasional venture into episodic TV.
Ted Wells was a second echelon western hero at Universal during 1920s silents and he also made several low budget westerns for poverty-row producers William Pizor and Robert J. Horner. During those silents, Wells used his own name as well as "Pawnee Bill, Jr.". When sound arrived, he found himself relegated to bit/support roles as well as doubling and stunt work. Wells re-connected with Robert J. Horner in the mid 1930s. The collaboration resulted in Wells doing hero duty in a pair of bottom-of-the-barrel sagebrush yarns, "The Phantom Cowboy (Aywon, 1935)" and the lost/missing "Defying the Law (Aywon, 1935)".Film Daily announced that Wells was signed to star in eight films for Horner but only two were actually made. Ted Wells returned to bits and supporting roles in westerns and serials and he wound up as the frequent double for William Boyd in the Hopalong Cassidy films circa late 1930s through 1944.
Obituary: Virginia E. Califano(Virginia Belmont) Virginia Califano, 92, passed away on May 6, 2014 at her home in Hollywood, CA. The daughter of Ernestine and Henry Schupp, she was born on September, 20, 1921, in New York City. She graduated from UCLA where she studied Italian. Virginia enjoyed a successful movie and stage career in the 1940s and 1950s in the heyday of Hollywood-made westerns and traveling roadshows. Her stage name was Virginia Belmont. She co-starred in westerns with Jimmy Wakely, Johnny Mack Brown, and William Boyd (Hopalong Cassidy). A beautiful woman, she traveled throughout the United States as one of Director Samuel Goldwyn's "Goldwyn Girls." In 1941, she married Hollywood restaurateur Albert Califano, a native-born Italian and later naturalized U.S. citizen. He was very instrumental in fostering her career in Hollywood. They subsequently moved to Rome, Italy, where Virginia starred in several popular Italian movies, and Albert was a correspondent for the "Hollywood Reporter." Fluent in Italian, she transitioned quickly into an expanded and successful acting career in Italy. Following her retirement in the late 50s, she joined United Airlines in Sales and Reservations. She was employed by United for 28 years. She and Albert traveled the world. She is survived by her sister, June Schaefer of Livermore, CA, her daughter-in-law Katharine Turner of San Jose, CA, and several nephews and nieces. She was pre-deceased by her husband, Albert, their two children, Diane and Robert, and her brother, George Schupp. She will be interred at Mt. Hope Cemetery in a family plot in San Diego, CA.
Edith Johnson's combination of luck and beauty ensured her a Hollywood career. The luck occurred because of her growing up in Rochester, New York, the home of the Eastman Kodak Co. Her beauty resulted in her being appointed by Kodak as "The Kodak Girl," with her face appearing in virtually all of the newspapers and magazines of the day in Kodak advertisements, leading her to be called "the most photographed girl in the world"--and all before she finished college. Her celebrity resulted in her being offered a film contract by the Selig Co., which she accepted as soon as she graduated from Vassar. Her first few films were with actor William Duncan, whom she eventually married, and after several more films for Selig, she jumped ship to Universal in 1916. Her two-year stay there ended when she moved to Vitagraph. She began making serials with her husband, who both starred in and directed them, for Vitagraph and then Universal again. The films were enormously successful, but Duncan and Johnson chafed under the heavy-handed administration at Universal, and they retired after their last film for the studio, 1924's "Wolves of the North." They had a vaudeville act together for a while, then settled down to the task of raising their family. Duncan took on several film roles later in life, most notably as Hopalong Cassidy's sidekick "Buck Peters", but his wife had no desire to return to films, and didn't. She outlived her husband by eight years, and died in 1969.
|Clarence E. Mulford
The man who created the famous Western character Hopalong Cassidy, Clarence Mulford was born in Streator, IL, in 1883 to a distinguished family that could trace its lineage in this country back to 1643, and in fact more than 20 Mulfords fought in the American Revolution.
After graduating college he took a job with the "Municipal Journal and Engineer" newspaper in New York and began to write stories on the side. His first story was published in "Metropolitan" magazine, and then "Outing" magazine began publishing a string of his "Bar 20" short stories, with the iconic Hopalong Cassidy character. He has said that his first Western books ere written using data about the American West, but that his later books were written using information he gathered from his extensive traveling throughout the American West. He kept a card file of data about the West that contained more than 17,000 cards, covering everything from fur trapping and cattle drives to the Pony Express and the freight-wagon industry.
For many years Mulford was very unhappy with the way his character of Hopalong Cassidy was portrayed in the films made from his books. In the novels Cassidy is a grubby, irritable, foul-mouthed, crusty old coot; in the films he was turned into a clean-cut, articulate, courtly, distinguished-looking gentleman, as played by William Boyd. Eventually he came to terms with the disparity, and even finally decided to meet with Boyd, which he had steadfastly refused to do, and the two actually hit it off.
Mulford died in Portland, Maine, on May 10, 1956. He had suffered smoke damage to his lungs in a fire in 1947, died from complications after surgery to repair that damage.
|L. Wolfe Gilbert
Songwriter ("Green Eyes", "Waiting for the Robert E. Lee", "Ramona", "The Peanut Vendor"), author and publisher who came to the US in 1887 and was educated in local public schools, and then became a singer in amateur-night contests, and later a vaudeville and cafe entertainer. He toured with John L. Sullivan. Coming to Hollywood in 1929, he wrote for films, and the Eddie Cantor radio show, then made many apppearances on radio and television, and formed his own publishing firm in California. He joined ASCAP in 1924, and was an ASCAP director between 1941-1944 and again in 1953. His musical collaborators included Lewis Muir, Mabel Wayne, Abel Baer, Ben Oakland, Jay Gorney, Nat Shilkret, Richard Fall, and Anatole Friedland. His other popular-song compositions include "Mama Don't Want No Peas and Rice and Coconut Oil", "Shades of Night", "La Golondrina", "Lucky Lindy", "Don't Wake Me Up, Let Me Dream", "My Little Dream Girl", "Hitchy Koo", "Mammy Jinny's Jubilee", "My Sweet Adair", "Take Me to That Swanee Shore", "My Own Iona", "Jeannine, I Dream of Lilac Time", "Mama Inez", "Oh Katharina", "I Miss My Swiss", "Marta", "By Heck", "Hopalong Cassidy March", "Chimes of Spring", "My Mother's Eyes", "Down Yonder", "Maria My Own (Maria La O)", "Lily of the Valley", "The Right Kind of Man", "If You Believed in Me", "Forever and a Day", "African Lament (Lamento Africano)", "Here Comes My Daddy Now", "Are You From Heaven?", "I Love You - That's One Thing I Know", "In the Land of Make Believe", "No One Can Take Your Place", "Astronaut of Space", I Laughed at Love", "A-Weepin' and a-Wailin' Song" and "Chiquita".
American producer of low-budget Westerns whose chief claim to fame is introduction of the character Hopalong Cassidy to the screen. Sherman was originally an exhibitor. In 1914, he distributed the film The Birth of a Nation in the western United States and parlayed the connections he made into a position as a studio producer. In 1935, he formed Harry Sherman Productions to produce films based on Clarence Mulford's Hopalong Cassidy character. He made over fifty Cassidy films, as well as dozens of other pictures, most of them Westerns as well. Like John Ford, Sherman had his own stock company of players, many of whom graduated to real stardom from their beginnings with Pop Sherman. Among them: 'George 'Gabby' Hayes' Victor Jory, Lee J. Cobb, 'Richard Dix', George Reeves, Robert Mitchum, and Albert Dekker. Sherman produced his films on the cheap, then released them through prestigious companies such as United Artists and Paramount. His daughters 'Lynne Sherman' and Teddi Sherman were actors in his films, and Teddi Sherman went on to a respected career as a screenwriter, mainly of Westerns.
E.R. "Ernie" Hickson grew up in Columbus, Ohio, where he was born on September 2, 1892, and began acting in high school, where he excelled at set design. He joined a theater troupe as a set designer and traveled throughout the United States with them. Reaching the West Coast in 1922, he sought employment in the movie business, earning his first (and only) credit as a screenwriter on "Western Days" (1924). The film was directed by John Ford's older brother, Francis Ford, who also had a co-starring role in the silent horse-opera.
Hickson's future was settled when he was hired by Trem Carr Productions in 1931. The production company belonged to B-movie impresario Trem Carr, an Illinois native who abandoned an early construction career for the movies in the mid-1920s. Carr subsequently entered into a partnership with W. Ray Johnston, another Midwest native, who distributed Carr's films through his Rayart Pictures Corp.
Carr and Johnston formed Syndicate Pictures in 1928, with Johnston as president and Carr as vice president. Syndicate specialized in low-budget B-Westerns, some of which starred Tom Tyler. Its first offering, The Chinatown Mystery, featured Hickson's old mentor Francis Ford in an acting role. After turning out 14 pictures over three years, Syndicate was reorganized as Monogram Pictures in 1931, again with Johnston as president and Carr as production chief.
Carr took out a five-year lease on land in Placerita Canyon near Santa Clarita, CA, to shoot his westerns. A filming site frequently used by cowboy stars William S. Hart, Tom Mix and Harry Carey, Placerita Canyon had first been used as a location by Carr in 1926. Hickson, Carr's artistic director and set designer, built the sets at the location. A talented craftsman, Hickson was also a western history buff and collector. His knowledge of the Old West and his collection of Western memorabilia enhanced the verisimilitude of Carr's horse-operas. Using vintage lumber, Hickson built a western street with complete buildings featuring interiors rather than just facades.
Producer Paul Malvern worked at the location after he learned the business from Carr as a production manager. Hickson designed the sets for some of the low-budget oaters Malvern made for his Lone Star Productions, which were released through Monogram. Both the Monogram and Lone Star movies used writer-director Robert N. Bradbury, who frequently cast his son Bob Steele as the lead. The movies made at the canyon set made Steele a star in the B-Western movie genre and are available on DVD.
Another future star who got his start in a Lone Star production filmed at Placerita Canyon was Bob Steele's Glendale High School buddy Marion Morrison, who would go on to fame at Republic Pictures as John Wayne. Wayne appeared in many productions shot at the ranch from 1933 to 1935. Bill Bradbury, Steele's twin brother, dubbed Wayne's singing voice when he appeared as "Singing Sandy," the original singing movie cowboy. Stuntman Yakima Canutt, who lived in the area, was employed by the unit, as was George 'Gabby' Hayes.
Monogram had amassed a considerable film-processing debt at Consolidated Film Laboratories, which was owned by Herbert J. Yates. Knowing that Carr and Johnston wanted to expand their operation, and finding a novel way by which they could discharge the debt he owed them, Yates convinced another poverty-row producer, Mascot Pictures' Nat Levine, the creator of the singing cowboy genre, to join him in forming a new studio, to be called Republic Pictures Corp. The company was incorporated in 1935 through the merger of M.H. Hoffman's Liberty Pictures, Monogram Pictures, Levine's Mascot Pictures and Malvern's Lone Star Productions. Johnston was appointed president but Yates was actually in control. Johnston, who feuded with Yates from the beginning, was soon replaced by the more pliable Levine, who had brought Msscot, and future Republic, star Gene Autry to the new studio.
Autry's first movie lead was Tumbling Tumbleweeds, which was shot primarily on the Placerita Canyon lot. By 1938 Autry was a big enough star to command $6,000 for the first two pictures and $10,000 for subsequent pictures in his annual contract. Johnston, who had had enough of Herbert Yates, left Republic in 1937 to restart his old studio as Monogram Productions Inc,, while Carr and Malvern had departed for Universal. Levine had been bought out for $1 million, which he lost at the racetrack within six weeks.
Hickson had acquired 10 acres of land to the west of the lot, and in 1936, upon the expiration of Carr's lease, it was decided to move the sets to a new location on Hickson's property. He used a team of horses to move the western buildings down a dirt road to the current location of Melody Ranch at Oak Creek and Placerita Canyon roads. The new set was approximately a half-mile from its former location. At the new lot Hickson created a self-contained western town with nine permanent homes, a bunkhouse and corrals for the crew and the wranglers and their horses, and a restaurant. He acquired more land and eventually expanded to 110 acres. In addition to the main street the lot featured a country schoolhouse, an Indian village, a Mexican street complete with hacienda, a pioneer settlement featuring a log cabin, a stage relay post, a trading post and an old-time store that could double as a drug store, general store or hardware store. There were also barns and corrals for the animals and to serve as sets. The production facilities provided to film crews included power, lights and cable. Hickson also supplied the producers with props to dress the sets.
In 1940 Carr had returned to Monogram as a studio executive. The Hickson ranch, now known as Monogram Ranch, served as Monogram's "home" studio, though other production companies, including Paramount, RKO and Republic, rented the facilities. Thirty movies were shot at the ranch in 91 working days during 1940, requiring 14,400 hours of set preparation and involving 7,000 movie company employees. The stars shooting there that year included William Boyd as Hopalong Cassidy, singing cowboy Tex Ritter and John Wayne.
Sightseers were allowed to visit the ranch on Sundays, and 5,000 made the pilgrimage that year. In 1941 Hickson officially renamed the lot "Placeritos Ranch" after the local canyon. The lot was also used for shooting pictures other than westerns, including the Boris Karloff horror film The Ape. The outdoors work for nine Monogram films featuring Bela Lugosi were shot at the ranch from 1941 to 1944.
Westerns continued to be the bread and butter at Monogram, however, and low-budget horse-operas were churned out with Buck Jones, Tim McCoy, Ken Maynard and Hoot Gibson. Former A-list actor Johnny Mack Brown was signed by Monogram in 1943 and made over 60 pictures in 10 years at Hickson's movie ranch. Brown became one of the top 10 money-making western stars at Monogram. Despite all this activity, though, Monogram's days were numbered.
After Trem Carr died in 1946, Steve Broidy took over and formed Allied Artists as a subsidiary to distribute the studio's more prestigious pictures. Low-budget production was terminated in 1952, and Monogram ceased to exist in 1953 when Broidy renamed the studio Allied Artists. By 1964 Allied Artists had left the West Coast for New York City.
Hickson himself died on January 22, 1952, but his ranch survived him and the death of the B-Western genre. Gene Autry, who had gone on to break the movie exhibitors' Top 10 list of biggest-box office attractions and was a multi-millionaire from his own Flying A Productions, radio show, traveling road show and top-10 recording career, bought the property from Hickson's widow, Bess, exactly a year later, on Jan. 22, 1953.
Autry renamed the property Melody Ranch, after one of his best-selling songs, and continued to run the property as a movie-making location. Two of Flying A's own television shows, Annie Oakley with Gail Davis and Buffalo Bill, Jr. with Dickie Jones, were filmed there, as was CBS' long-running Western TV series Gunsmoke. The ranch also served as a pasture for Autry's famous movie horse, Champion.
Autry had planned to erect a western museum on the ranch to house his collection of Western artifacts, but a fire burned down part of the property on August 28, 1962. None of the ranch's employees or its horses were hurt, but many priceless artifacts were lost. Aury did eventually open his museum, called The Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage, in 1988 in Los Angeles' Griffith Park.
Among the films shot at Placerita Ranch/Monogram Ranch/Melody Ranch were My Little Chickadee with Mae West and W.C. Fields, Wichita with Joel McCrea and Last Man Standing with Bruce Willis. The ranch is now owned by Andre and Renaud Veluzat, who bought it in 1990 and continue to offer its facilities to production crews. HBO's series Deadwood is shot there. in 2004 the Santa Clarita Planning Commission approved plans for building a 45-foot-tall, 16,000-square-foot sound-stage at the ranch.
|Jo Jo La Savio
Joseph "JoJo" La Savio was a talented child actor and was a guest star in a "Hopalong Cassidy" film. But he did not stay in the spotlight for long, he began to concentrate on his studies at school, he attended Eagle Rock High School where he soon met his future wife. He fathered 3 children. Now he is living comfortably with his wife in La Crescenta, California, and has 5 grandchildren.
Composer, songwriter ("Do I Worry?"), director, author and publicist who came to Hollywood after high school in 1937. He was an assistant film director, and a writer of special material for orchestras, musicals and films (including "Hopalong Cassidy"). During World War II, he produced shows for the US Air Force. By 1948, he was in radio and television production; the next year, he became a publicist, and was with Rogers and Cowan since 1960. Joining ASCAP in 1943, his chief musical collaborators included his father Rubey Cowan, Bobby Worth, and Sidney Miller. His other popular-song compositions include "Be Young Again", "I Give You a Smile for a Smile", "Taps 'Til Reveille", "Who Are You?", "What's This", "Listen to Me Sing", "I Realize Now", and "A Cowgirl Dreams On".
Benjamin J. Pitti (aka Binnie Petti and Benny Petti) was born on September 4, 1892 in St. Louis Missouri and passed away on July 26, 1955 in Culver City, Californa. He married Ethel R. De Botto in 1915. They had two sons, Carl Pitti (1916-2003), who became an actor and stuntman, and Paul Pitti (1924-2012). Bennie Pitti started his show business career circa 1910 with the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show, and later performed with the Pawnee Bill show, Al G. Barnes Circus, and others. He was a knife thrower, bronco rider, trick roper and bullwhip expert, and his first film appearance was in the Tom Mix film "The Cowboy Millionaire (Selig Polyscope, 1909). Bennie later became a friend, business associate, and chauffeur to Will Rogers. In 1953, Ben bought Will Rogers Jr.'s ranch in Baldwin Hills, California. Subsequently, all three Pitti families moved there. Ben and son Carl worked with Will Rogers Jr. on two feature films, "The Story of Will Rogers" (Warners, 1952) and "The Boy From Oklahoma" (Warners, 1954). In the early 1950s, Ben was with a traveling show, in threatres, that starred Hopalong Cassidy sidekick Rand Brooks. He was seldom credited and many of his film roles. at the present time, were in B-westerns and Columbia short subjects (primarily The Three Stooges,as Moe Howard's stunt double and henchman roles))and are shown, on site, under a look-alike actor named Barney Beasley; some of those, pending corrections, include "Fighting Through (1934)", "Blue Steel (1934), "Blazing Frontier (1943)", 'Klondike Kate (144) and many others.
Cajan Lee was born Wanda Juanita Lee on April 4, 1925 in Arkansas, USA. She moved to California as a teenager to attend The Pasadena Playhouse. She was an actor and model, known for Hopalong Cassidy (1952) and Auntie Mame (1958). She died on March 21, 1993 in Hermosa Beach, California, USA.