Below Morris Ankrum in 1951's "Flight to Mars".
For those of my readers who are strictly interested in Morris Ankrum's Science Fiction and Horror Film's. I will go into those years 1950-1958 in detail splitting these motion pictures from his other work during this period. So of course you can go straight to the section about these films, or you can take my journey of discovery on this actor's outstanding career as a solid supporting mainly Western character actor.
THE BEGINNINGS FROM 1896 TO AUGUST 1941
I could find only basic information about Morris Ankrum's early life. He was born August 27, 1896 in Danville, Illinois, but I could not locate the names of his parents. Now when it comes to what his birth name was it becomes slightly interesting. On some sites it was Stephen Morris Nussbaum. While others had Morris Winslow Ankrum. As I could not locate a copy of his birth certificate it is possible there was confusion over some of the stage names he used early in his life. One being Stephen Ankrum, because he was born with the last name of Nussbaum, but would legally change it,
Although his early life and education in Danville seems blank. We know that at some point Morris Nussbaum came to Los Angeles and attended the University of Southern California and obtained a law degree. After graduating from USC he is next seen as an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of California at Berkeley. While during his Berkeley period a change in direction in his life occurred and he became involved with the drama department. Nussbaum would move once again to the Los Angeles area where he began teaching dramatics at the famous "Pasadena Playhouse". Also sometime during this part of his life he married a Gillian Gilbert, but that is all we know about Gilbert. What were the dates of their marriage? How did it end are unknowns.
As early as 1923 Morris Nussbaum started appearing in Broadway Productions along with plays at the Pasadena Playhouse and other Los Angeles venues. His stage acting would continue into 1939 even after he was now acting in motion pictures.
On June 16, 1933 MGM released the motion picture "Reunion in Vienna" starring John Barrymore and Diana Wynyard. This film is the uncredited role of a musician was Morris Nissbaim's first film role.
According to the Turner Classic Movies website he was listed on the MGM roles as Morris Nussbaus which could have been a typo. TCM doesn't even list his name as an uncredited Washington correspondent for his second film appearance in Fox's 1934 "Stand Up and Cheer" which was Shirley Temple's breakthrough motion picture.
At some point Morris and his student at the Pasadena Playhouse Joan Natalia Wheeler fell in love and would marry on August 16, 1935. I will let her describe some of their life together.
The following is from the:
"Oral history interview with Joan Ankrum, 1997 November 5-1998 February 4, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution"
This interview was part of a series of oral interviews with recognized role models for women. She was both an actress and a patron of the arts and would found the prominent art world "Ankrum Gallery" in Los Angeles I am interested only in Joan Ankrum's references to her marriage with Morris, but my reader can find the whole interview at the link below:
We come to another conundrum in the life of actor Morris Ankrum. According to some sites the two were married until his death in 1964, but say that because of Ankrum's domineering personality the two divorced. It can't be both and I believe based upon statements in the "Oral History" that it was the former.
As for motion pictures we were still not at Morris Ankrum when Stephen Morris received his first screen credit in the western "Hopalong Cassidy Returns" for Parmount pictures playing "Blackie".
The film was released October 16, 1936 ten years to the day before I was born.
Thus began a small career in "B" westerns for a total of 17 movies. Most of which starred William Boyd as "Hoppy" ending on August 8, 1941 in the Hopalong Cassidy feature "Wide Open Town". During this period for the film "Knights of the Range" February 23, 1940 Stephen Morris became Morris Ankrum in screen credit, but had to have changed his last name prior to his wedding with Joan. Why the change I have no idea and can find no reference.
Also during this period Morris Ankrum appeared in two non-westerns, or at least one was partly a non-western. That movie was "Buck Benny Rides Again" starring comedian Jack Benny playing himself attempting to prove he can be a cowboy. In the Jack Benny feature the role of the "second outlaw" was played by "Morri" Ankrem. The other motion picture was 1941's "Cheers for Miss Bishop" A drama about a school teacher who raises her cousin Amy's daughter after she dies in childbirth. The drama becomes tighter over this as Amy had stolen Bishop's fiance and he is the girl's father. Morris Ankrum had another uncredited role as a college professor in that feature.
THE SUPPORTING ACTOR OCTOBER 31, 1941 TO AUGUST 11, 1949
Now truly began a period of acting and refining his craft as a supporting player in a variety of roles . A refinement in craft that the teacher would eventually pass on to his students such as Robert Preston, Barbara Rush, Raymond Burr, Earl Holliman and Gene Hackman.
October 31, 1941 found Morris Ankrum playing an assistant district attorney in the motion picture "I Wake Up Screaming" starring Betty Grable, Victor Mature and Carol Landis. Mature is accused of killing Grable, but with the help of her younger sister Landis attempts to clear himself as the two fall in love.
His very next film found Morris Ankrum as "Big John Morgan", The head of a gang who are holding up stage coaches and robbing banks to hamper the local Cattlemen's association. This 60 minute western "Road Agent" was released on December 19, 1941.
"Road Agent" was followed during this period by another 66 motion pictures. In 24 of the 66 motion pictures the actor received no on screen credit and in one motion picture 1948's "Alias a Gentlemen" all of Ankrum's scenes were deleted.
One of the movies Morris Ankrum's did receive deserved screen credit was the 1942 Ginger Rodger's film "Roxie Hart". This was the second filmed version of the 1927 Broadway play "Chicago". The first was silent. In 1975 Broadway musical "Chicago" kept the play's title as did the 2002 motion picture.
Another interesting appearance also in 1942 was in the ensemble motion picture "Tales of Manhattan", This was about a black formal tail coat that is passed to five different owners in unrelated stories. In the Edgar G. Robinson sequence Morris Ankrum had his first role as a judge. A part many viewers of television's "Perry Mason" would remember him for.
Later in 1942 Morris Ankrum would play United States Senator Jefferson Davis the future President of the Confederate States of America in the motion picture "Tennessee Johnson", This picture was about Andrew Johnson the 17th President of the United States and stared Van Johnson, Lionel Barrymore and Ruth Hussey. Using the actual recorded words of Jefferson Davis actor Morris Ankrum's gives a very moving speech as David explains why he is leaving the U.S. Senate to lead the newly formed Confederate States. This bio pic is very good, but this one scene is worth the price of admission as they would say.
One of those non-screen credited roles was as "The Caliph's Messenger" in the 1944 non-musical version of "Kismet" starring Ronald Coleman and Marlene Dietrich. Other non-screen credited actors in this classic motion picture included Yvonne DeCarlo (Lilly Munster), Charles Middleton (Ming the Merciless in the 1930's "Flash Gordon" serials), Frank Morgan (The Wizard of "The Wizard of Oz") and Nester Pavia ( Lucas the shipper of the "Rita" in "The Creature from the Black Lagoon" and "The Revenge of the Creature". The cast had another 25 other non-screen credited actors.
As you will find out in the section about those 1950's Science Fiction films. Morris Ankrum would play several Army General's, but his first major military role came in Metro-Golden-Meyers' big budgeted version of "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo", The true story about the raid led by James Harold "Jimmy" Doolittle do avenge the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. This motion picture stared Spencer Tracy and Van Johnson and once again Ankrum received no screen credit for playing Fleet Admiral William Frederick Halsey, Jr.
On January 23, 1947 Morris Ankrum had the eighth billing as Eugene Grayson in actor/director Robert Montgomery's version of Raymond Chandler's "Lady in the Lake. The film is very good as was Ankrum in his small role, but for film buffs and lovers of Chandler's Philip Marlowe this is a must see motion picture. To avoid problems with directing himself in the Marlowe role Montgomery used the camera be Phillip Marlowe eyes. While the other actors speak to it and the audience has the perspective of seeing the film as though they are Phillip Marlowe.
Other notable films of this period that Morris Ankrum appeared in where:
"The Postman Always Rings Twice" starring John Garfield and Lana Turner, Once more cast as a judge. "Joan of Arc" starring Ingrid Bergman and Jose Ferrer. In this film Ankrum played Captain Poton de Xaintrailles, The actor was a United States Marshall in "Colorado Territory" starring Joel McCrea and Virigina Mayo.
Morris Ankrum's last two roles for 1949 were in "The Fountainhead" based upon the Ayn Rand novel starring Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal. Along with "Slattery's Hurricane" starring Richard Widmark and Linda Darnell and of course he received no one screen credit.
TELEVISION AND NON-SCIENCE FICTION/HORROR ROLES 1950-1958
As this title indicates the period in Morris Ankrum's career from 1950 through 1958 is divided into two parts. The second part will look at the Science Fiction and Horror films he appeared in. However, to put this period in proper perspective and subtracting those films from the actor's work. He had 198 other performances which break down to 67 motion pictures and 131 television appearances.
Here are just a few of those motion pictures which I also recommend to my readers.
For fun and unintentional laughs. How about 1952's "Son of Ali Baba" starring Bernard Hershel Schwartz. I mean Tony Curtis. Curtis' co-star was Rosetta Jacobs. There I go again I meant to say Piper Laurie. Morris Ankrum plays dear old dad "Ali Baba".
Also in 1952 was Morris Ankrum's first role playing a Native American in "Hiawatha". Playing the title role was a pre-"Ben Casey" Vince Edwards, Fourth billing went to Ankrum as Iagoo. A sign of the times was that this film based upon Longfellow's poem has Hiawatha negotiate peace between his tribe and that of his love Minnehaha. However, the film's release was put on hold because the hero was a pacifist and spoke dialogue that at the time was too close to the Communist "peace line" coming from "Papa Joe" Stalin. Suddenly Native American's were "Commies" in early "Cold War" America.The film was eventually cleared for release with slight changes.
In 1954. Morris Ankrum played the father of the girl "Taza, Son of Cochise" wants to marry. This Universal Studio 3-D movie starred Rock Hudson as Taza and Barbara Rush, fresh from another Universal 3-D movie "It Came from Outer Space", as the girl Oona. Ankrum's Grey Eagle doesn't like Taza and prefers his brother Naiche portrayed by Bart Roberts, before he started using his real name Rex Reason. The idea of the name "Roberts" was to avoid confusion with his look alike older brother actor Rhodes Reason.
Another forgotten, but very good Western was "Drums Across the River" starring Medal of Honor Winner Audie Murphy. He portrays a bigoted young man toward Native American's that finds himself becoming the "Peacekeeper" of the film. Morris Ankrum played Chief Ouray.
This was followed by the Robert Aldrich directed "Apache" starring Burt Lancaster as Native American "Massai". This motion picture co-starring Jean Peters and John McIntire is based upon the true events that happened after Geronimo's last raid. The U.S. Calvary rounded up his Chiefs and other leaders and started to take them across the United States to a Reservation in Florida. Massai escaped captivity and worked his way back home to Arizona and the women he loved in this version of his story. Pursuing Lancaster was an Indian Scout named "Hondo" played by Charles Burchinsky before he changed his last name to Bronson. Morris Ankrum one of his pursuers named Dawson.
Some more Westerns followed and on Christmas Day 1954 Morris Ankram found himself playing a Mexican freedom fighter General Ramirez against Empire Maximilian. The motion picture was "Vera Cruz" and it also starred Burt Lancaster and co-starred Gary Cooper. Besides Ankrum this excellent film directed once more by Robert Aldrich featured Cesar Romero, George Macready, Jack Elam, Ernest Borgnine and Charles Bruchinsky.
The film is described on IMDb as:
During the Mexican Rebellion of 1866, an unsavory group of American adventurers are hired by the forces of Emperor Maximilian to escort a countess to Vera Cruz.
Of course things will change as the picture progresses.
In 1955 what I consider one of the best films about the Alamo was released starring Sterling Hayden as Jim Bowie. The picture was Republic's "The Last Command" the movie John Wayne originally wanted to make. Playing William Barret "Buck" Travis was Richard Carlson. The film also had the best Davy Crockett ever in an Alamo film Arthur Hunnicutt. J. Carroll Nash was a suburb Santa Anna and Morris Ankrum had one of those non-screen credited roles as Santa Anna's Military Governor of San Antonio Juan Bradburn.
Also in 1955 Victor Mature starred as "Chief Crazy Horse" with Morris Ankrum playing another Sioux Chief named "Red Cloud". What makes "Chief Crazy Horse" an interesting motion picture for the year it was made. Is that the film attempts to tell its story entirely from the Indian point of view including the "Little Big Horn" massacre.
As you can tell Hollywood had a tendency to use non-Native American actors in their portrayals of the race. Although there were times back in the silent era and into the 1940's when Native American's were utilized, if you're interested this link will take you to my article on "Native American's Hollywood Style".
I want to switch to Morris Ankrum's television work.
On June 14, 1951 on the police drama "Racket Squad", which starred Reed Hadley, Morris Ankrum entered the world of television in an episode entitled "The Case of the Slightly Used Car". Afterwards Ankrum was back playing a Judge in an episode of "Amos and Andy" titled "The Gun". Amos and Andy was the only non-white program on television. This show about two black men and their families was a regular radio hit, but Amos and Andy were played by white men on radio. The television show basically had an all black cast, but still was stereo typed. The NAACP filed legal action against CBS for having the show on the air and this was a major contributor to its cancellation. Even though in the First Season it was the #13 show in the country and the #25 during the Second Season for a total of 78 episodes.
Morris Ankrum appeared in two episodes of a Christian television series called 'Family Theater". In one he was King Herod. In another he was Peter. Below is Ankrum as Herod.
Morris Ankrum also appeared in 4 episodes in a forgotten television show from 1953 "Cowboy G-Men". In one of those episodes he played a judge once more as in an episode of "The Loretta Young Show". Then his past caught up with him as Ankrum appeared in two episodes of William Boyd's "Hopalong Cassidy Show" in 1953. In 1955 he appeared in an episode of Hugh O'Brien's television show "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp". Along with episodes of the Civil War drama "The Grey Ghost", "The Adventures of Jim Bowie", "Tales of the Texas Rangers", "Have Gun Will Travel" and even six episodes of "The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin" which was set in Arizona at Fort Apache. Where Morris Ankrum played a General, an Indian Chief and assorted other characters. Keeping his appearances on Western programs was Ward Bond's "Wagon Train", Will Hutchen's "Sugarfoot".
Two non-Western series that the actor appeared on are worth mentioning here. One was only a single episode of 1956's "The Adventures of Fu Manchu" based upon the evil Chinese genius British author Sax Rohmer created in 1912, In this series Fun Manchu is actually the good/bad guy instead of wanting to take over the world, The other is the excellent "Science Fiction Theater" with weekly science fiction stories based on actual scientific fact as known in 1955 and 1956. Morris Ankrum would appear in six of the 78 episodes.
I will mention other television shows Morris Ankrum made appearances on in the last section of this article including a recurring role he became associated with on a very popular television program.
THE FACE OF CLASSIC 1950'S SCIENCE FICTION AND HORROR MOVIES
Calling Morris Ankrum "The Face" of all of those 1950's Science Fiction and Horror films, I watched as a young boy, might seem absurd to some. However, let me first mention five actors always associated with 1950's science fiction and horror pictures. Richard Carlson and Allison Hayes each were only in five movies,. Jeff Morrow and Peter Graves only appeared in four films, Hugh Marlowe was seen in three motions pictures. While Morris Ankrum appeared in fourteen. Even should I drop acting and compare Morris Ankrum to director Roger Corman. Corman's total science fiction and horror output for the years between 1950 through 1958 was eleven. Still three less than Morris Ankrum.
#1---On May 26, 1950 Lippert pictures released "Rocketship X-M" aka: "Expedition Moon" and originally called "Rocketship Expedition Moon"..
The motion picture stars Lloyd Bridges, Osa Massen, John Emery, Hugh O'Brien and Noah Berry, Jr. as the space explorers. Their flight goes wrong and instead of arriving at the Moon. The five find themselves circling Mars and once land on its surface. The film tints red and the explorers discover a dead world destroyed by Atomic war. As the film's "Cold War" message is delivered to the viewer.
However, in the opening and especially the final sequence delivering the pictures closing statement:
A new spaceship, the RX-M-2, begins construction tomorrowIs the project director played by a stoic Morris Ankrum.
#2---On November 11, 1951 American Cinecolor through Monograph Picture Distributing released "Flight to Mars".
The film is about the first expedition to Mars. The spacecraft's crew includes John Litel, Richard Gaines, Virginia Huston and Cameron Mitchell. There ship is damaged in space and they make the decision to crash land on Mars. The Earth crew is approached by five Martians led by the planetary council president Ikron played by Morris Ankrum (See first picture in this article).
On Mars it turns out that the civilization is dying and Ikron wants to repair the Earth spaceship and make duplicates to evacuate the people of the planet to Earth. Actually Ankrum has plans for the conquest of Earth, but there are good Martians who help as one of their scientists Alita played by Marguerite Chapman is falling in love with Earthman Jim Baker played by Arthur Franz.
#3---Based upon a 1932 play "Red Planet" on May 15, 1952 United Artists released "Red Planet Mars".
The movie starred Peter Graves and Andrea King as a husband and wife team in this "Cold War" Science Fiction thriller. Graves' astronomer obtains images of Mars large scale environmental changes are occurring there. Another scientist claims to be picking up radio messages coming from the planet claiming it is a utopia with no chance of nuclear warfare. This will all lead to political unrest and panic especially as the messages become religious in nature.
In this picture Morris Ankrum's appeared as Secretary of Defense Sparks.
#4---On April 22, 1953 every little boys nightmares came true as 20th Century Fox released "Invaders from Mars".
On a stormy night a young boy, Jimmy Hunt, goes to sleep and then is awaken by a strange sound.Looking out of his window he believes he sees a flying saucer not land, but go under the sandpit behind his house. After telling his father who is working on a top secret space project. The father goes out to the sand pit and doesn't return until the next morning. The loving father, Leif Erickson, now starts screaming at his son and starts to hit him. The boy notices a red raised area on his father neck kind of shaped like an "X". So begins "Invaders from Mars" the first movie to show aliens in color.
Next the boys mother, Hilary Brooke, isn't the same as one by one his neighbors including a young girl neighbor become under the control of what? A little McCarthy/Cold War hysteria take over the characters.
The boy has run away from his parents to tell the police, but the chief is also under the unknown power.
At the police station meets a Dr. Pat Blake, M.D. who hears his story, protects him from his parents and takes him to see Dr. Stuart Kelson, Arthur Franz. Dr Kelson puts two and two together and believes the flying saucer may have come from Mars to stop the secret space project. Enter Morris Ankrum in his first Science Fiction Military role as Colonel Fielding.
Will the Martians be stopped?
#5---Columbia Pictures released on July 1, 1956 Ray Harryhausen's classic "Earth vs the Flying Saucers".
Newly married Dr. Russell A. Marvin portrayed by Hugh Marlowe and his ex-secretary Carol played by Joan Taylor are on their way back to "Project Skyhook". They see what appears to be a flying saucer and at the time the tape recorder which was on inadvertently records the sound the saucer made. The stills below are from the colorized version of "Earth vs the Flying Saucer" supervised by stop motion animator Ray Harryhausen.
All of Dr. Marvin's precious "Birds (Satellites)" are being shot down and the next launch is set for the following day. At this point Carol's father Brigadier General John Hanley portrayed by Morris Ankrum arrives, At diner the three discuss the problem of the missing "Birds".
The next day another flying saucer appears and destroys the launch vehicle and other areas of the base. It also takes General Hanley.
General Hanley's memories are removed and his brain wiped clean by the alien invaders.
Dr. Marvin and his wife were in an underground bunker to watch the launch. After the attack on the base the two are trapped within it. The tape recorder is with them and as the power winds down the saucer sounds turn into a message and a warning.
Marvin gets help from the military, but is told not to contact the saucers. In his Washington, D.C. hotel room he ignores that order and makes contact. As he heads for the meeting, Carol gets help to stop him. Along with Marvin's new military liaison Major Hugin follow her husband in another car. A police officer then follows the two cars for speeding and all four people are invited into the flying saucer waiting for Dr. Marvin.
To their shock they hear the voice of Carol's father answering questions and then the aliens reveal the shell that is left of him.
Can Dr. Marvin stop the invasion?
#6---In March of 1957 Columbia Pictures released "Zombies of Mara Tau".
This is an old fashion, non-Walking Dead, Zombie movie featuring the lovely Allison Hayes. One of the more popular 1950's Scream Queen's.
A group of treasure hunters arrive off the African coast in search of a sunken treasure ship. There they meet "Grandmother" Peters played by Majorie Eaton who may know more than she's saying. "Grandmother" relates the story of the original treasure seeking crew finding it, but also the curse associated with it. She informs the new treasurer hunters that the original crew are now Zombies that rise from the sea to kill anyone coming for their treasure. Nobody believes her story.
In the still directly below Majorie Eaton is on the far right, Allison Hayes on the far left and in the middle Autumn Russell,
Morris Ankrum plays Dr. Jonathan Eggert.
The movie is fun as the treasure hunters battle the curse and the Zombie crew. Allison Hayes at one point becomes a Zombie herself and faces the Zombie tribunal and then kills her husband.
#7---Next was a story of a giant energy sucking battery known as "Kronos" released in April 1957 by 20th Century Fox.
This nice entry has a research group tracking what they believe is an asteroid heading for Earth. The group consists of Dr, Leslie Gaskell played by Jeff Morrow, his girl friend photographer Vera Hunter played by Barbara Lawrence and Dr. Arnold Culver portrayed by George O'Hanlon.
However, the asteroid seems to start behaving strangely. From the "asteroid" a strange pulsating light is released that first takes control of a man in a pick up truck and then is passed on to the head of the research project Dr, Hubbell Elliot played by John Emery.
The "asteroid" next crashes into the Pacific Ocean off a Mexican village. When Gaskell, Hunter and Culver go to investigate. The morning after their arrival instead of an "asteroid" there is "Kronos".
Kronos begins to move and is discovered to be some alien storage unit that is sucking up all the Earth's energy.
Kronos is being guided to its targets by the possessed Dr. Elliot. Who keeps trying to fight the thing possessing him.
Enter Morris Ankrum as a psychiatrist who attempts to cure Dr. Elliot of his delusions and ends up being electrocuted by the power controlling his patient.
#8---In June of 1957 Morris Ankrum would have two motion pictures released back to back.
On June 26, 1957 Columbia Pictures released the "Biggest Turkey" of all time "The Giant Claw" aka: "The Mark of the Claw".
This poster for the film is terrific, but its a shame the monster wasn't nearly as exciting. In fact according to star Jeff Morrow none of the cast had seen what it looked like until at a squeak preview and once it appear they all left before the audience noticed them sitting there.
Mitch MacAfee played by Morrow while on a test flight reports a U.F.O. that is not seen on radar. Three planes are scrambled and one is lost. The Air Force is upset over the lost, but this will change when the U.F.O. turns out to be a giant flying bird. Helping MacAfee is mathematician Sally Caldwell played by Marla Corday.
The bird turns out to have come from an Anti-matter Universe and has some protective screen around it to be able to survive in our Universe. It is also laying eggs to keep its species alive.
Enter Lieutenant General Edward Considine and General Van Buskirk. Considine is played by Morris Ankrum and Buskirk by Robert Shayne. Both assigned to find a way to kill the bird.
#9---The second motion picture came out two days later on June 28th from Republic Pictures. Not to be confused with the 1947 movie on the Manhattan Project "The Beginning, or the End" was "The Beginning of the End" from producer/director Bert I. Gordon.
Peggie Castle plays reporter Audrey Aimes who stumbles upon an entire small town in Illinois that has been totally destroyed and not one body can be found. Even the crop fields have been cleaned to below the roots as if a large amount of locust have been there. However, the local police and military say they have no idea what happened. Suspecting something is being covered up she goes to the local Department of Agriculture experimental station.
There she meets Dr. Ed Wainwright portrayed by Peter Graves. Wainwright is experimenting with low levels of radiation to grow giant fruit and plants to help feed the world. He mentions there is nothing at his location which could cause an attack on a small town and the disappearance of 150 people. Causally he mentions that there was a break in by locust a while back.
Wainwright helps Aimes investigate and the discover that those locust who broke into his lab had been inside a giant silo of grain and have mutated to the size of buses. The trail of dead and destroyed communities are heading for Chicago. Enter General John Hanson played by Morris Ankrum and the hunt for the locus is on as Wainwright leads a group to find a way to stop them.
#10---"The Giant from the Unknown" released in March of 1958 starred professional wrestler turned actor Buddy Baer in the title role.
This is the story of a Spanish Conquistador brought back to life from a lightening strike. Buddy Baer's make-up was by Jack Pierce, the 1931 "Frankenstein", the 1932 "The Mummy" and about every Universal Studio classic monster through Lon Chaney, Jr. as "The Wolfman".
Read my blog article on Pierce at:
Ed Kemmer, TV's classic "Space Patrol", stars as Wayne Brooks who is accused of a series of murders being committed by the Giant. For those of my readers who are interested in the early 1950's classic science fiction television series like "Space Patrol" the forerunner of "Star Trek" with Kemmer as the "Grandfather" character of "Captain Kirk". I have a blog article on those at:
Playing Brooks' girlfriend who is attempting to prove his innocence is Sally Fraser as Janet Cleveland.
Morris Ankrum plays Fraser's father Dr. Frederick Cleveland. Cleveland has a theory about suspended animation that explains why "Vargas the Giant" may have come back to life. He also has a passion for Spanish California history and the conquistadors. Playing the small town sheriff is "B-Cowboy" actor Bob Steele.
This is a good little film with a lot going for it by the actors.
#11---Released on July 1, 1958 answered the question for most of us pre-teens and teens "How to Make a Monster". Filmed on the American International Lot about a make-up artist who is fired and goes berserk.
As to "The Ghastly Ghouls In Flaming Color!" That happens at the end of this black and white movie when it turns to color. Unfortunately American International Pictures wanted to make more room and used the fire at the films end to destroy many of the works of Make-Up Artist/Creature Creator Paul Blaisdell.
The motion picture starts with what appears to be a horror sequence between the Teenage Werewolf and Teenage Frankenstein until the director call "cut".
The new owners of American International Pictures, the studio as I said is used without changing its name, decides monsters are out and fires Robert H. Harris's make-up artist Pete Dumond. Another reference too Paul Blaisdell except he didn't go on a murder spree.
Harris uses a special hypnotic make-up to have the two actors who play the Teenage Werewolf, Gary Clarke, and Teenage Frankenstein, Gary Conway, murder for him wearing their make-ups and acting the parts as if real.
Enter Morris Ankrum as Police Captain Hancock to investigate the strange deaths, Ankrum is on the far left with back to camera.
#12---In August United Artists let loose "The Curse of the Faceless Man".
This story about a a gladiator buried alive in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius coming back to life to claim his reincarnated lost love and murder by crushing the skulls of his victims may remind one of Universal Pictures 1932. "The Mummy", or at the least the Lon Chaney, Jr. seres, The film is actually far better than its reputation might indicate.
For those of my readers who have closely read the above poster for this motion picture might be asking where is Morris Ankrum? The answer is he is nowhere to be seen , but his un-credited speaking voice is heard as narrator. So I guess in this one instance he is not the "Face of Classic 1950's Science Fiction and Horror Movies", but it's VOICE!
#13---Morris Ankrum's actual next screen appearance is in a re-edit of a Japanese classic re-titled "Half Human" from September 1958 released by "Distribution Corporation of America".
The above poster for the 1958 English re-edit reads like a typical American Monster on the loose motion picture starring John Carradine.
In 1955 after completing the 1954 allegorical classic about the atom bomb "Gojira". Toho Studios sent director Ishiro Honda and some of that other films cast to the Japanese Alps to make "Jujin Yuki Otoko (Monster Snowman)". The motion picture tells in flashback the story behind a group of students and their professor bringing home the cremated remains of one of the students and how he died.
The group has gone to the Alps for nothing more than a skiing vacation and two go on ahead to a cabin to meet another person as a major storm approaches. The remaining group call the cabin as a lovely young women named Chika arrives. Once the call is answered two things happen at once. Chika unknown to the other immediately leaves and on the phone is heard screams and gunshots and then total silence.
With the police they go to the cabin and find two bodies, but one student is missing. The weather is closing in fast and any idea of a search for the missing student has to be put off for six months.
When the students resume their search for their friend. They meet a group of men lead by a rare animal hunter who sells his finds for the highest price. He already is aware of the 'Mountain Snowman" while the students are not.
Eventually it will be discovered that the "Snowman" has a young son and actually saved their friend from the storm, but he died from his injuries and lack of food. However, the Animal Hunter captures the young snowman as a lure for its father. Eventually the hunter and his crew will be killed out of revenge for killing the young young snowman.
The students will also learn the secret of Chika's village which not only considers the "Snowman" their god and leaves food for it, but keep themselves cut off from civilization and are inbreeding.
It is this last concept that caused a problem for Toho Studio's and the Japanese Government who banned the motion picture. Toho supposedly destroyed all prints. Now enter the American re-edit.
To begin with "Half-Human" has a total running time of 63 minutes, or 25 minutes less than the original Japanese motion picture. Of that 63 minutes just over half is new footage shot with American actors John Carradine, Morris Ankrum, Russell Thorson and Robert Karnes.
This lobby card is a photo shop of a scene that does not exist in either version of the movie, but is sure funny/
Here is a still from the American re-edit with the entire American cast of four.
Basically this movie has Carradine and the other three American actors discussing the story of the students. Although the village is shown all mention of possible inbreeding and most of the footage related to the villagers has been cut out of "Half-Human". Toho was asked to send the dummy of the young Snowman which the doctor played by Ankrum performs an autopsy upon confirming that this creature is a missing link to man and is the title of the re-edited motion picture.
As to the banning and destruction of the motion picture by Toho. Obviously in 1958 a copy had to exist to make the American re-edit. I have a DVD, as do some others, of the original 1955 motion picture with English subtitles. What is interesting is at the top of the film is a running timing track. Could my DVD be a copy of the one sent to make "Half Human" and the timing track was utilized for the cuts made?
#14---The last motion picture that I will mention was released in November of 1958 made by Waverly Production Company through RKO Pictures and distributed by Warner Brothers. This was Jules Verne's "From the Earth to the Moon".
The movie takes place after the American Civil War and Union Gun Manufacturers are trying to figure out a way to stay in business. It is Joseph Cotton's Victor Barbicane who teams up with his ex-Confederate rival Stuyvesant Nicholl portrayed by George Sanders to use Barbicane's explosive "Power X" and Nicholl's metal to build a ship to be shot to the moon and return to earth.
Morris Ankrum has a cameo as President Ulysses S. Grant.
1959 TO THE END SEPTEMBER 1964
I have to go back two years to September 21, 1957 when the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) showed the first episode of "Perry Mason" starring Morris Ankrum's ex-student Raymond Burr. There would be nine seasons of the program and within the first seven seasons Morris Ankrum would appear 22 times as a Judge between 1957 and May 21, 1964.
Morris Ankrum went back to Westerns, but on television. The actor started 1959 off with an episode of "Frontier Marshall", made appearances on Richard Carlson's "Mackenzie's Raiders", "Cimarron City", "Northwest Passage", "Frontier Doctor", "Union Pacific", "Death Valley Days", "Bat Masterson" and "Lawman", Took a one episode break from Westerns on July 4, 1959 with an appearance on Ray Milland's detective show "Markham"and returned to Westerns with another appearance on the Will Hutchen's show "Sugarfoot" ending that year except with his "Perry Mason" Judge appearances. In short Morris Ankrum's career was in a decline.
Besides "Perry Mason" Morris Ankrum appeared between 1960 and 1962 on 10 other television shows. Out of 18 roles 12 were on Westerns such as "Maverick" and "The Rifleman".
Then he made an un-credited screen appearance as a Cardinal in Roger Corman's remake of Universal Studio's 1939 "Tower of London" released October 24, 1962. The remake starred Vincent Price, who was in the 1939 film.
This was followed by another un-credited role in Roger Corman's 1963 "X-the Man with the X-Ray Eyes".
On January 29, 1965 the last filmed appearance of Morris Ankrum was released. The motion picture was "Guns of Diablo" starring Charles Bronson, Susan Oliver and Kurt Russell.
Two things make this an interesting final motion picture for the actor. First of all it's fittingly a Western, but in reality it was nothing more than a consolidation of two episodes of the television series "The Travels of Jamie McPheeters". Originally called "Day of the Dark Deeds" which was televised March 8, 1964 and "The Day of Reckoning" and televised March 15, 1964. Morris Ankrum, played Ray Macklin who only appeared in the second show.
Between the television show and the motion picture on September 2, 1964 actor Morris Ankrum,passed away He was buried in Danville, Illinois.
I mentioned actor Richard Carlson, if you're interested this link will take you my biography of the actor.
I also mentioned actresses Peggie Castle and Allison Hayes who appeared in two of Morris Ankrum's films.. The following link in to my min-biography of Allison Hayes, Peggie Castle and Gloria Talbott.