Wednesday, October 27, 2010
FORGOTTEN ONES: GLENN STRANGE
Glenn Strange is not well remembered today, but he is the actor that took over the Frankenstein role after Boris Karloff retired from it. Glenn Strange was an American actor who appeared mostly in Western films. He is best known for playing the Frankenstein Monster in three Universal films during the 1940s and for his role as Sam Noonan, the bartender on CBS's Gunsmoke television series. Strange was of Irish and Cherokee Indian descent and was a cousin of the Western film star and narrator Rex Allen.
Strange procured his first motion picture role in 1932 and literally appeared in hundreds of films during his lifetime. In 1949, he portrayed Butch Cavendish, who wiped out all of the Texas Rangers, except one, the role of Clayton Moore in The Lone Ranger.
Strange appeared twice as Jim Wade on Bill Williams's syndicated western series geared to juvenile audience's The Adventures of Kit Carson. He also appeared twice as "Blake" in the syndicated western The Cisco Kid. In 1954, he played Sheriff Billy Rowland in Jim Davis's syndicated western series Stories of the Century. Strange appeared six times in 1956 in multiple roles on Edgar Buchanan's syndicated Judge Roy Bean. In 1959, he appeared in another western syndicated series, Mackenzie's Raiders, in the episode entitled "Apache Boy". Strange first appeared on Gunsmoke in 1959 and assumed several roles on the long-running program before he was cast as the bartender.
In 1942, he appeared in The Mad Monster for Producers Releasing Corporation. In 1944, while Glenn was being made up for an action film at Universal, make-up artist Jack Pierce noticed Strange's face and size would be appropriate for the role of the Monster. Strange was cast in House of Frankenstein in the role created by Boris Karloff in the 1931 version of Frankenstein, coached by Karloff personally after hours.
Strange played the Monster a third time in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), with Chaney and Bela Lugosi. Strange also appeared in character with Lou Costello in a haunted house skit on The Colgate Comedy Hour as well as making a gag publicity appearance as a masked flagpole-sitter for a local Los Angeles TV show in the 1950s. After weeks of the station teasing the public about the sitter's identity, Strange removed his mask and revealed himself as the Frankenstein Monster (actually, yet another mask.) Notably, Strange also played an ape-like monster in The Bowery Boys horror-comedy Master Minds in 1949, mimicking Huntz Hall's frantic comedy movements, with Hall providing his own dubbed voice.
Strange died of lung cancer in Los Angeles, California, just after declining health had compelled him to leave his role on Gunsmoke. Strange had from time to time collaborated on various tunes with western actor Eddie Dean, including the opening title song for Dean's Tumbleweed Trail (1942). Dean sang at Strange's funeral service as a final tribute to the actor. Strange was interred at Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery...