Monday, September 21, 2020

Rondo Hatton: The Tragic Life of "THE CREEPER!"


This is the story of Rondo Hatton whose tragic acromegaly made him into a memorable CULT "B" Thriller-Horror actor.




A Strange Early Biography of Contradicting Facts

Rondo was born on April 22, 1894 in Hagerstown, Maryland, and was the oldest child of Stewart Price Hatton and Emily Lee Hatton.

However, some biographies drop Rondo's father's last name and call him Stewart Pric. Which causes some confusion. Rondo's father was also known as "Stewart P. Hatton", which makes sense, and "Stewart R. Hatton", but I couldn't find out what the "R" might have stood for. 

While some biographies change Rondo's mother's middle name and she becomes Emily Zarrring Hatton, not Emily Lee Hatton. Could her maiden name have been Emily Lee Zarring? To compound the problem is that Rondo's grandmother, on his mother's side, is listed on all the genealogy charts as just "Mary E". However, it's obvious that Lee, sounds like "E". 

What is agreed open is that both of Rondo's parents were teachers born in Missouri and had come to Hagerstown to work at the private women's "Kee Mar College". It was in the college's hospital that Rondo had been born.

Rondo's younger brother was named for their father as Stewart Price Hatton, Jr. and he was born in Hickory, North Carolina in 1899. This is also agreed upon and took place during one of their parents many changes of Town and State.

We know Stewart Price Hatton, Jr. passed away, but as to where becomes another confused problem. Apparently, his death certificate list the year as 1911 and in Charles Town, West Virginia, during another of those family moves. However, many biographies of Rondo Hatton disagree and state the year was 1912 and the location was Tampa, Florida. After the family made another move so that the brothers father could join the family business located there.  

The problem here is that some biographies of Rondo state that with his brother and mother. The three moved to the home of his maternal grandmother in Tampa after his father's death in 1912. Which is still a further problem, as according to some death records, his father didn't die until 1946 in Tampa. Could biographers have confused senior and junior? Could his mother have divorced senior? I could not locate any answers to these probable questions.

Again, what is confirmed is that it was in Tampa, that Rondo attended Hillsborough High School for his Senior year.



He was also very popular with his classmates and during his Senior year was voted the "Handsomest Boy" of his class


                                               Above Rondo Hatton's High School Yearbook Photo.

After graduation, in 1913, a couple of sites mention Rondo attending the "University of Florida" in Gainsville, but I could not confirm that. What is confirmed is that Rondo Hatton joined the "Florida National Guard" considering a Military career and that took him to the Mexican Border with General Pershing pursuig Pancho Villa. That pursuit began on on March 15, 1916. Which would imply Rondo Hatton never finished college, if he had attended at all?

When President Woodrow Wilson finally decided that America needed to enter the First World War. Wilson would place General Pershing in command of the "American Expeditionary Force", on May 10, 1917, and shortly afterwards Rondo Hatton would find himself in France. In one of the battles Hatton was exposed to poison mustard gas, hospitalized with a lung injury, and medically discharged from the service with a pension. Indicating that he was probably a career soldier at the time.

Back in the United States, Rondo went to work for "The Tampa Tribune" as a Sports writer and in 1926 married Elizabeth Immell Jones. A year later he was cast in the non-credited role of a "Slave" in Universal Pictures version of Harriett Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" filmed around Tampa. However, Rondo's acromegaly had been developing and was started to show. 

(For Universal International Pictures Science Fiction movie fans. The picture "Tarantula", from 1955, shows a Hollywood version of  acromegaly as the disease that "Professor Gerald Deemer", portrayed by Leo G. Carroll, is artificially given and previously his two assistants.)

ACROMEGALY is a disease that results from somebody having an excess of growth hormones after the growth plates, which are in the bones of a child or adolescent to make their bones grow to adult size, have closed and stopped growing. As a result of acromegaly, the growth does not stop, and will result in deformity of a person's hands and feet and in some cases, as with Rondo Hatton, also the forehead, jaw and nose. Normally, the disease is caused by a brain tumor, but in Rondo's case the doctors thought the onset was his exposure to poison gas during the war.

In 1930 Elizabeth and Rondo Hatton divorced. It is believed that Elizabeth could not watch his body change, because of his acromegaly.

The Road to Hollywood

Earlier in 1930, Rondo was covering a motion picture shoot for "The Tampa Tribune". This was director Henry King's "Hell Harbor" and he was able to speak to the director. After the interview, King offered Hatton the small, non-credited, role of a "Dance Hall Bouncer", because of his looks. Below is a still of 33 years old Rondo Hatton in "Hell Harbor".



In 1931 director William A. "Wild Bill" Wellman came to Tampa to film "Safe In Hell" and in another non-credited role, of a "Jury Member", was Hatton. In 1934 Rondo Hatton married Mabel Housh----





A Hollywood Character Actor

Two years after their marriage, Rondo and Mabel Hatton moved to Hollywood, California. He had decided to pursue a career as a character actor. On June 6, 1936 Rondo Hatton was seen in the non-credited role of a "Bar Proprietor" in the forgotten motion picture, "Wolves of the Sea".  What other work Rondo was doing between movie roles is unknown, but it is possible he was working as a sports reporter on a local newspaper. What Mabel was doing for income is also unknown, but Rondo's next two feature films were "A" List pictures.

Henry King was the director of "In Old Chicago", January 6, 1938, starring Tyrone Power, Alice Faye and Don Ameche. It's the Hollywood version of the "O'Leary Family" and "The Chicago Fire". King cast Rondo Hatton in his first officially credited role as "Rondo" with 20th billing.


                                                 Above Tyrone Power and Rondo Hatton

Rondo's next motion picture, also directed by Henry King, was "Alexander's Ragtime Band", released May 24, 1938. Again this motion picture starred Power, Faye and Ameche and his role of a "Barfly" was back to being non-on-screen-credited.

Rondo Hatton was the "Convict Sitting on the Floor" in producer-director Hal Roach's "Captain Fury" released May 26, 1939. 

On December 29, 1939, RKO Pictures released their production of Victor Hugo's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame". Charles Laughton was "Quasimodo" and in only her 4th motion picture and 4th billed, was Maureen O'Hara as "Esmeralda". Between the two actors were the future Sir Cedric Hardwicke as "Frollo" and Thomas Mitchell as "Clopin". Look to the scenes in the "Ugly Man Contest" and one of the contestants is Rondo Hatton. Who would loose to a heavily made-up Charles Laughton.



Above upper right is the head of Rondo Hatton. Below is a picture of Charles Laughton as "Quasimodo".



In 1939's "The Big Guy", Hatton was a "Convict", and in 1940's "Moon Over Burma", he was a "Sailor".

Rondo Hatton's features were getting worse from the acromegaly, but still Mabel and Rondo kept going together. She had known what he looked like when she married him and what would continue to happen to her husband's body, but she also truly loved him and only his death separated the two.

In 1940 the character actor was also in "Chad Hanna", released Christmas Day, and starring Henry Fonda, Dorothy Lamour and Linda Darnell. His non-screen-credited role was described as a "Canvasman" for the circus setting.

Rondo's next three motion pictures had him as an extra in groups and were all in 1942. They included the forgotten "It Happened in Flatbush", followed by the All-Star "A" list anthology feature "Tales of Manhattan" and the forgotten "Sin Town".

Based upon author W. Somerset Maugham's novel and starring George Sanders and Herbert Marshall was "The Moon and Sixpence", released October 27, 1942. The novel was loosely based upon the life of painter Paul Gauguin and Rondo Hatton portrayed a "Leper".

William A. "Wild Bill" Wellman's classic version of novelist Walter Van Tilburg Clark's "The Ox-Bow Incident", released May 21, 1943, put the actor as part of a lynch mob. The film starred Henry Fonda and Dana Andrews. Rondo was "Gabe Hart". 


                     Above Hatton is barely seen leaning against the tree in the background.

Republic Pictures released their Comedy-Crime-Musical "Sleepy Lagoon" on September 5, 1943. In the feature Rondo Hatton portrayed "The Hunchback". I could not locate a still of him from the motion picture, but the choice of title was not a good one for Los Angeles County where the studio was located within.

One-year prior, on August 2, 1942, in the City of Commerce, the murder of Jose Gallardo Diaz took place at a local swimming hole known as "Sleepy Lagoon". This would be followed, from June 3 to 8, 1943, by what became known as "The Zoot Suit Riots". The riots were related to the findings in the murder of Diaz.



"Johnny Doesn't Live Here Anymore" was a Comedy-War-Romance released July 8, 1944. and is interesting for its stars. These were, Simone Simon who had starred in producer Val Lewton's 1942 "Cat People" and 1944's "Curse of the Cat People", James Ellison who co-starred with William Boyd in several "Hopalong Cassidy" features, 1942's "The Undying Monster" and Val Lewton's 1943 "I Walked with a Zombie". Additionally, at 8th billing, was another actor who played a bad guy in a "Hopalong Cassidy" Western and was six motion pictures away from becoming a star named Robert Mitchum. Rondo Hatton portrayed the non-on-screen-credited character of "Graves". 

Rondo Hatton was about to meet "Sherlock Holmes" and for the first time become--


THE CREEPER 

In 1939 20th Century Fox acquired the rights to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's character "Sherlock Holmes" and made two period pieces. The first picture was "The Hound of the Baskerville's" and it starred Richard Greene as "Sir Henry Baskerville", Basil Rathbone as "Sherlock Holmes" and 4th billed Nigel Bruce as "Dr. Watson". The second feature was "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" and now starred Basil Rathbone as "Holmes". The studio moved Nigel Bruce to 2nd billing as "Watson". 

My article "Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES on the Motion Picture and Television Screens 1914 to 2016" may be read at:

http://www.bewaretheblog.com/2017/12/sir-arthur-conan-doyles-hound-of_13.html

At the start of the Second World War Universal Pictures acquired the rights to "Sherlock Holmes", moved the setting to 1942 London and cast Rathbone and Bruce as "Holmes" and "Watson" in "Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror". Which was the first of twelve mystery films through 1946. In 1943 the pair had a cameo appearance, in character, in the musical-comedy "Crazy House" starring comedians Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson. Which is not part of the series.

Skipping "Crazy House" was the 7th feature in the Rathbone-Bruce series----

THE PEARL OF DEATH released August 1, 1944

 



Above Nigel Bruce and Basil Rathbone as "Dr. Watson"and "Sherlock Holmes".

Rathbone and Bruce's supporting cast:



Dennis Hoey, a series regular for six of the films, is back in his role of Conan Doyle's "Inspector Lestrade". Among Hoey's other work is the overlooked 1935 British film "The Mystery of the Mary Celeste" starring Bela Lugosi, 1941's "A Yank in the R.A.F." starring Tyrone Power and 1943's "Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman" featuring Lon Chaney and Bela Lugosi.



                                      Above Dennis Hoey, Nigel Bruce and Basil Rathbone     

Evelyn Ankers portrayed "Naomi Drake", Universal Pictures contract actress Ankers had been seen in 1941's "The Wolfman" and the same years "Abbot and Costello in Hold That Ghost", 1942's "The Ghost of Frankenstein", 1943's "Son of Dracula" and 1944's "The Invisible Man's Revenge".

Ankers had also already appeared in a different role with Rathbone and Bruce in the first picture of the series, 1942's "Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror".



Miles Mander portrayed "Giles Conover". In 1939 character actor Mander's had been "Cardinal Richeieu" in "The Three Musketeers" and then, the same year, "Aramis" in "The Man in the Iron Mask". Along with "King Henry VI" in "The Tower of London" starring Basil Rathbone as "Richard III".


Ian Wolfe portrayed "Amos Hodder". In 1935 Wolfe was in both the Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi "The Raven" and the Peter Lorre and Colin Clive "Mad Love". The same year found the actor in the Charles Laughton and Clark Gable's "Mutiny on the Bounty". In 1939 he was in the Humphrey Bogart Horror movie "The Return of Dr. X" and in 1942 was in Alfred Hitchcock's "Saboteur".


                                 Above Nigel Bruce, Ian Wolf, Evelyn Ankers and Basil Rathbone

Charles Francis portrayed "Digby". Francis would only appear in nine motion pictures including the Rathbone and Bruce "The Scarlet Claw".



                                 Above Nigel Bruce, Charles Francis, Dennis Hoey and Basil Rathbone

Rondo Hatton portrayed "The Hoxton Creeper". "The Creeper" has an unusual way of killing people, picking them up and breaking their backs in two, and that technique is what "Sherlock Holmes" uses to zeroes in on him.


The plot of the story has master criminal "Giles Conover" steal the famous "Borgia Pearl" from the "Royal Regent Museum" and "Holmes" and "Watson" going after him. When "Conover" is caught the pearl is nowhere to be seen and has to be let loose.

"Giles Conover's" associate is the "Hoxton Creeper". An elderly colonel is found dead with his back broken and pieces of smashed china around the body. Almost immediately is another murder of an elderly lady, her back broken, and china smashed around the body and then a third murder takes place. Holmes now deducts that the pearl was hidden in a china bust of Napoleon, one of six, sold to different people.


"The Creeper" arrives at the next person's home, but it is "Sherlock Holmes" in disguise he meets.


Overpowered by "The Creeper", but talking to him all the time. "Sherlock Holmes" convinces him that "Giles Conover" will double cross "The Hoxton Creeper" and the killer leaves to confront "Conover".




"Holmes" and "Watson" arrive at "Conover's" in time to see "The Creeper"" kill him. When he turns toward the two arrivals. "Sherlock Holmes" kills him. The story ends with the arrival of the police and "Holmes" breaking open the final bust of Napoleon to reveal the "Borgia Pearl".


Rondo Hatton's next role was in the Bob Hope, Virginia Mayo and Walter Brennan 1944 comedy "The Princess and the Pirate". According to the official cast listing he portrayed "Gorilla". I could not locate, if that was a pirate's name or he was wearing a gorilla suit.

"The Jungle Captive", released June 29, 1945, was actually the third film from Universal Pictures, in what could be called a trilogy. The first was "Captive Wild Women", released June 4, 1943, in which John Carradine's mad scientist transforms a gorilla into a women, named "Paula Dupree", portrayed by actress Acquanetta. The second film was "Jungle Women", released July 7, 1944, again with actress Acquanetta portraying "Paula Dupree". Both films starred Evelyn Ankers, but in the first film her name was "Beth Colman" and in the second she was "Beth Mason".

Neither Evelyn Ankers or Acquanetta were in this picture, but the character of "Paula Depree" was portrayed by Vicky Lane. This was Lane's six on-screen appearance starting with a short subject in 1942. Her 7th and final appearance would be 11 years later on television in 1956. 

 


Otto Kruger portrayed biochemist "Mr. Stendahl". Kruger started out on Broadway in 1915 the same year he appeared in his first feature film. Otto Kruger became a supporting actor and prior to this feature was seen in the Wallace Beery and Jackie Cooper 1934 version of Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island" and co-starred with Gloria Holden in 1936's "Dracula's Daughter". In 1940 he was in Hitchcock's "Saboteur" and in 1944 co-starred with Dick Powell, Claire Trevor and Anne Shirley in Raymond Chandler's "Murder My Sweet".


                                                 Above Vicky Lane and Otto Kruger.

Amelita Ward portrayed "Ann Forrester". Contract actress Ward would appear in 21 forgotten low budget features between 1943 and 1949,

Phil Brown portrayed "Don Young". Brown's first motion picture was in 1941 and prior to this he was in the Lon Chaney and Evelyn Ankers 1944 "Weird Woman". While in 1958 Phil Brown was in Hammer Films World War 2 picture "The Camp on Blood Island". As a character actor in later years Brown portrayed "Luke Skywalker's Uncle Owen" in 1977's "Star Wars" and a "State Senator" in 1978's "Superman" 


                                                 Above Phil Brown and Amelita Ward.

Jerome Cowan portrayed "Detective W.L. Harrigan". Some of Cowan's films include the Gene Autry, Jimmy Durante and Ann Miller 1940 musical "Melody Ranch", John Huston's 1941 "The Maltese Falcon" and another 1941 Humphrey Bogart feature "High Sierra". He was the "District Attorney" fighting John Payne's defense of "Santa Claus" in 1947's original "Miracle on 34th Street".


Rondo Hattan portrayed "Moloch the Brute". 



The story opens in the laboratory of biochemist "Mr. Stenochdahl" as his two assistants, "Ann Forester" and "Don Young", watch him bring a dead rabbit back to life.


What the two do not know is "Mr. Stendahl's" sinister plan as they observe. He's having "Moloch" show up at the local morgue to claim the body of the dead "Ape Woman". Checking "Moloch's" credentials only results in one dead morgue attendant. "Moloch" now leaves the scene in an ambulance with "Paula Dupree's" corpse inside. Outside of town he removes the corpse, pushes the ambulance off a cliff, and carries the body to a deserted house and will be met by "Mr. Sendahl".


The plan is to take "Ann's" blood and use it to bring "Paula Depree" back to life as a beautiful woman.
Meanwhile, the police are investigating the morgue attendants murder and have found the ambulance.

"Stendahl" now has "Moloch" abduct "Ann" and bring her to his secret laboratory to transfer her blood into the Ape Woman.






Reference is made to the original scientist played by John Carradine, "Dr. Walters", on a tape in the possession of a "Dr. Fletcher", played by J. Carrol Naish in the second feature. "Fletcher" is still alive, but never seen and is killed, off camera, by "Moloch".






"Don" working with the police has found his way to the deserted house and sees "Moloch" wearing the fraternity pin he gave "Ann". He is captured and taken to "Mr. Stendahl".


"Don Young" is tied to chair as "Stendahl" prepares to transfer "Ann's" brain into "Paula Depree". "Don" explains to "Moloch" that the operation will end with "Ann's" death and the henchman turns on "Mr. Stendahl", but is killed by "Stendahl". What is unseen by everyone is that the gun fire caused the Ape Woman to revert to her ape form and she breaks loose and kills "Stendahl".



As the ape women goes for "Ann" the police arrive and she is killed once more.




Today, most of my readers probably don't know Universal Pictures made Cliffhanger Serials. Such as the "Flash Gordon" series of the 1930's and early 1940's. One such 13 Chapter Serial, at a running time of Three hours and forty-one minutes, had a role for Rondo Hatton. In "The Royal Mounted Rides Again", released October 23, 1945, Hatton portrayed 18th billed "Bull Andrews".

While the critics called this Cliffhanger one of the weakest, if not the weakest.

Billed at 5th and 6th on the official cast list are Milburn Stone. Who became "Doc" on television's "Gunsmoke" and Robert Armstrong. Who portrayed "Carl Denham" in 1933's "King Kong" and "Son of Kong".

My article "ROBERT ARMSTRONG: It Wasn't All "The Eighth Wonder of the World", Brat and "Joe"!" can be read at:

http://www.bewaretheblog.com/2020/08/robert-armstrong-it-wasnt-all-eighth.html

Buried even deeper without on-screen credit was Paul Birch from Roger Corman's 1955 "The Day the World Ended" and "Not of this Earth".

My article "PAUL BIRCH: Roger Corman's Intergalactic Vampire" can be found at:

http://www.bewaretheblog.com/2018/04/paul-birch-roger-cormans-intergalactic.html



On February 2, 1946 Rondo Hatton passed away. Around Christmas of 1945 Rondo had suffered the first of a series of heart attacks caused by his acromegaly. The body of Rondo Hatton was transferred from Los Angeles to Tampa, Florida, and was buried in the "American Legion Cemetery".


                                           Above the head stone on Rondo Hatton's grave.


AFTER DEATH! RONDO HATTON'S LAST THREE MOTION PICTURES.


THE SPIDER WOMEN STRIKES BACK released March 22, 1946 



The motion picture was supposed to start a series of Horror-Thrillers for Universal Studios about the title character, but did so badly that this was the only feature shot. 

Gale Sondergaard portrayed "Zenobia Dollard, the Spider Woman". Sondergaard had portrayed the title character in Universal Pictures 1944 "The Spider Woman" going up against Basil Rathbone's "Sherlock Holmes" and Nigel Bruce's "Dr. Watson". However, that characters name was "Andrea Speeding" and has no relation to this character.

Some of Sondergaard's films include 1937's  "The Life of Emile Zola" co-starring with Paul Muni, 1939's "Juarez" starring Bette Davis and Paul Muni and 1940's "The Mark of Zorro" starring Tyrone Power and Linda Darnell. Sondergaard appeared in two Comedy-Horror entries, 1939's "The Cat and the Canary" starring Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard and 1941's "The Black Cat" starring Basil Rathbone and Broderick Crawford. She was also seen in 1944's "The Invisible Man's Revenge".





Brenda Joyce portrayed "Jean Kingsley". Joyce had replaced Maureen O'Sullivan as "Jane" in MGM's "Tarzan Franchise" starring Johnny Weissmuller. She would appear in five of those pictures between 1945 and 1949.  

Kirby Grant portrayed "Hal Wentley". Grant started out as a "B" Cowboy actor and was also a professional singer and had his own band. In fact the band and Grant appeared in one of his feature films, but it was on television as "Sky King", from 1952 to 1959, that he is remembered for by my generation.

My article "The Mystery of 'Sky King's Dog': Remembering the Dog Stars of 1950's Television" can be read at:

http://www.bewaretheblog.com/2015/05/the-mystery-of-sky-kings-dog.html


                                                    Above Brenda Joyce and Kirby Grant

Milburn Stone portrayed "Mr. Moore". As I mentioned above Stone would become a regular on television's "Gunsmoke", but at this time he had a variety of  "B" picture roles including the aforementioned 1944 "Jungle Woman" and 1945's "The Frozen Ghost" co-starring with Lon Chaney and Evelyn Ankers. 




Rondo Hatton portrayed "Mario the Monster Man". Universal Pictures publicity billed Hatton as:

                          THE MONSTER WITHOUT MAKE-UP


The plot sounds far better than the final film. Some critics blame the casting of the smaller acting roles, but whatever the public didn't like the film.

A young women, "Jean Kingsley", comes to a small town to be the secretary for a "Blind Woman". In actuality the blind woman can see and is harvesting the blood of her secretaries to mix with a strong spider venom to create an extreme "Death Serum". While "Jean" sleeps her blood is taken by her employer and with the help of "The Spider Woman's" deformed house servant.








The whole idea behind creating the vampiric plant is to take its blossoms to local cattle ranches and plant them near the live stock. The blossoms bloom, the livestock eats them, and dies without any clues as to why. This then puts the owners out of business and the "Spider Woman" buys up their land.

"Hal Wentley", described as an "Old Beau" of "Jean's", goes out to "Zenobia's" house to see her. This will eventually lead to "Jean's" rescue and the death of "Zenobia" and "Mario the Monster Man" as the house burns down around them.

As I said the original plan was to have the two believed to have perished in the fire, but return for the next installment in the Universal Pictures series.

However, "The Creeper" returned in----

HOUSE OF HORRORS released February 22, 1946


Like "The Spider Woman", this was to be the first of a series of motion pictures featuring Rondo Hatton as "The Creeper". It was filmed with the next feature I will mention in 1945, but with his death the series never was made. Also, the title is misleading as this is more a Murder Mystery-Thriller than a Horror story as it was publicized as.

Bill Goodwin portrayed "Police Lieutenant Larry Brooks". Character actor Goodwin was in a variety of roles including the 1942 World War 2 flag-waver "Wake Island". He wasn't in Alfred Hitchcock's Sabotage", but Hitch's 1945 "Spellbound".


                                  Above Robert Lowery, Joan  Fulton and on the right Bill Goodwin

Robert Lowery portrayed "Steven Morrow". Lowery had 33 non-screen-credited roles out of his first 40 between 1936 and 1939. Two of his credited roles during 1939 were in Peter Lorre's "Mr. Moto On Danger Island" and Sidney Toler's "Charlie Chan in Reno". His 42nd role was in John Ford's "Drums Along the Mohawk" also in 1939. In 1945 Lowery was in "The Monster and the Ape" and in 1949 he became the second actor to portray "Bruce Wayne aka: Batman" in the Chapter Serial "Batman and Robin".

Virginia Grey portrayed "Joan Medford". Grey started acting in 1927 and was a supporting actress in both "A" and "B" motion pictures. Her work included the Clark Gable, Myrna Loy and Spencer Tracy 1938 "Test Pilot", the 1939 "The Women" starring Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell, 1942's "Tarzan's New York Adventure" starring Johnny Weissmueller and Maureen O'Sullivan and she would be seen in the 1948 Science Fiction film "Unknown Island" co-starring with Richard Denning.


                                         Above Robert Lowery and Virginia Grey

Martin Kosleck portrayed "Marcel De Lange". Kosleck started his acting in his native Germany, but left as Hitler came to power. Which is interesting as Kosleck is best known for his portrayal of "Joseph Goebbels" in 1944's "The Hitler Gang". Among his other work are Alfred Hitchcock's 1940 "Foreign Correspondent",  1944's "The Mummy's Curse", 1945's "The Frozen Ghost", 1946's "The She-Wolf of London". With the advent of television Martin Kosleck became a popular villain.




                                              
Alan Napier portrayed "F. Holmes Harmon". Napier had started film acting in 1930 and in 1940 was seen in both "The Invisible Man Returns" and "The House of the Seven Gables". He had an non-on-screen-credited role in producer Val Lewton's 1942 "Cat People" and was in the classic 1944 ghost story "The Uninvited". However, most of my readers may know Alan Napier as "Alfred" on televisions camp classic "Batman" from 1966 to 1968.



  Above Virginia Grey and Alan Napier

Joan Fulton (Joan Shawlee)  portrayed "Stella McNally". As Fulton, Shawlee's first 20 on-screen appearances occurred between 1945 and 1950. In 1950 for "Prehistoric Women", the actress started using her real name. To further change her appearance the comedic Joan Shawlee changed her hair color from brunette, to blonde to red head. She appeared in two Billy Wilder comedies, 1959's "Some Like It Hot" and 1960's "The Apartment".





Rondo Hatton portrayed "The Creeper".




Film Critic George H. Spires stated in his newspaper review, quoted in the book "Universal Horrors", page 530, published first in 1990 and reissued 2007, that Rondo Hatton's: 
Neanderthal features suffice without the aid of make up [...] and his ape-like appearance on the screen brings a gasp to the audience
Rondo might have liked that, if he had been alive. 

The story opens with struggling sculptor "Marcel De Lange" about to commit suicide at the river, but he finds a madman known as "The Creeper" drowning and rescues him forming a strange friendship.





"Marcel" takes the deformed man into his care and makes "The Creeper" the subject of his next work.





Art critics start to denigrate "De Lange's" work. 




Reading the newspaper "Marcel" discovers his new friend is a murderer and makes the comment that art critic "F. Holmes Harmon" needs to die and "The Creeper" carries out the murder.


Before the murder, art critic and newspaper columnist "Joan Medford" had attempted to stop "Harmon" from publishing his article. While her boyfriend painter "Steven Morrow" is under suspicion by the police, because his work was criticized by "Harmon". He is interviewed by "Lieutenant Larry Brooks" and not arrested for the moment.

Then---


"Joan Medford" decides to interview "Marcel De Lange" whom "Harmon" spoke about. She goes to his studio and meets "Marcel" and is shown a sketch of his model. "Joan" will return to "Marcel's" studio to steal the sketch later.



"Joan" goes back to the newspaper and does some research and gets her publisher to print a story about whom she thinks is the killer.




"Marcel" is concerned about the newspaper article and the missing sketch. "The Creeper" reveals he saw "Joan" take it. "Marcel" sends "The Creeper" to kill "Joan" at "Steven's" studio believing she is there. Instead, "The Creeper" kills the model, "Stella", who is waiting for "Steven's" return to continue the portrait,





Now "Larry Brooks" arrives and finds "Stella's" body. Now, believing "Steven" is the killer and may be with "Joan" at the newspaper goes there.



Meanwhile, "Joan" goes back to "Marcel's" to confront him. While "Steven" goes to the newspaper and sees the printers proof of the newspaper on her desk and figures out where she's going. Shortly, afterwards, "Lieutenant Larry Brooks" also arrives and comes to the same conclusion.


Now "Marcel" orders "The Creeper" to kill "Joan", but he goes for "De Lange" instead and kills him.




"The Creeper" now turns on "Joan" as "Steven" starts to pound on the locked door. "Larry Brooks" arrives and the two men break the door in and "Brooks" shoots and kills "The Creeper.

Rondo Hatton's final motion picture was ---


THE BRUTE MAN released October 1, 1946



There is a "Legend" a round the making of "The Brute Man". The picture was shot at the end of the 1940's Horror period for "Universal Pictures" and was to be their last entry after Rondo Hatton passed away. At the time the studio was preparing to merge with "International Pictures". An independent film company that made movies and released them through other distributors such as RKO and Universal.

According to "The Legend", Universal Pictures decided to stop releasing "B" pictures and sold "The Brute Man" to "Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC)" for $125,000 1946 dollars. Which as of this writing would be equal to $1,666,141 2020 dollars.

The problem with the above "Legend" is that starting in 1947 the studio continued with "B" Westerns such as "The Vigilantes Return" and 1948's "Black Bart" through the 1950's. In 1949 the first of ten "B" movies about "Ma and Pa Kettle" began and there would be the "Francis the Talking Mule" series among other "B" titles.

The official cast listing had Rondo Hatton as "Hal Moffat" aka: "The Brute Man" aka: "The Creeper" in first position, but on the above poster he was listed with 6th billing just as "The Brute Man". Yet, the actual movie listed him as:




Tom Neal portrayed "Clifford Scott". Neal had been in the classic Film-Noir 1945's "Detour". In 1945 he portrayed an American agent who gets surgery to make him look Japanese in "First Yank in Tokyo". In 1949 he starred in the Colombia Picture Cliffhanger "Bruce Gentry, Daredevil of the Skies".


Jane Adams portrayed "Helen Paige". Adams appeared mainly in "B" Westerns, but was the female hunchback in 1945's "House of Dracula".



Jan Wiley portrayed "Virginia Rodgers Scott". Among her other films are 1941's "Citizen Kane", 1942's "The Strange Case of Dr. RX", the same years "The Living Ghost" and 1946's "The She-Wolf of London". 


                                           Above Tom Neal and Jan Wiley

Peter Whitley portrayed "Police Lieutenant Gates". The character actor was seen in both 1943's "Action in the North Atlantic" starring Humphrey Bogart and Raymond Massey and "Destination Tokyo" starring Cary Grant and John Garfield, 

Donald MacBride portrayed "Police Captain M. J. Donelly". MacBride started appearing in motion  pictures in 1914. He was in director John Huston's 1941 "High Sierra" starring Ida Lupino and Humphrey Bogart. He was in director Robert Siodmak's Film-Noir version of Ernest Hemmingway's "The Killers", in 1946, starring an unknown Burt Lancaster and co-starring Ava Gardner.

I could not locate images of either actor from this motion picture.


The police are investigating a series of murders committed by "The Creeper". "The Creeper" murders "Professor Cushman", played by the future "Perry White" on televisions "The Adventures of Superman" and then approaches "Joan Bemis", played by Janelle Johnson the mother of Mickey Dolenz of the singing group "The Monkees", and identifies himself as "Hal Moffat" and she screams hysterically until "The Creeper" kills her.


As the police arrive, "The Creeper" is able to escape and goes to the home of blind pianist "Helen Paige". Not able to see him, "Helen" has no idea of how he looks. As the searching police reach her apartment, he leaves through a bedroom window.

The following day a note is placed under the door of grocer "Mr. Haskins", played by Oscar O'Shea, and he prepares the order and has delivery boy "Jimmy", played by Jack Parker, take them to an address at the docks. Which happens to be the hideout of "The Creeper" and the boy becomes to curious and is killed.



The two police officers get a missing persons call from "Mr. Haskins" and go to the docks to investigate and find the missing boys body. They also find an old newspaper clipping about three college kids, "Hal Moffet", "Clifford Scott" and "Virginia Rodgers".

The police now visit the wealthy married couple of "Clifford" and "Virginia" and are told that "Hal" was a very handsome football star back in college. Both "Clifford" and "Hal" competed for "Virginia". One day "Clifford" deliberately gave "Hal" the wrong answers to a chemistry exam being given by "Professor Cushman". "Hal" was asked to remain after school and perform some chemistry experiments as punishment.

While working on one he sees "Virginia" and "Clifford" pass the window and tossed the chemical experiment at the window and the contents splashed back into his face disfiguring him. Based upon what the two detectives are saying, "Clifford' believes "The Creeper" is really "Hal" and he killed "Cushing" and "Joan", because he also blames them for what he did to himself.

"Hal" goes to a pawnshop to buy a broach for "Helen" and kills the pawnbroker in a fight with him. He next goes to "Helen's" house and discovers she's blind and needs $3,000 for surgery on her eyes. When "Helen" attempts to touch "Hal's" face he turns and leaves.


"Hal" goes to "Clifford" and "Virginia's" to demand money.


"Clifford" draws a gun on "Hal" and shoots him twice in the stomach, but "The Creeper" manages to strangle him to death.




"Hal" then takes "Virginia's" jewels. He brings them to "Helen", but the girl is more concerned about his injuries. "Hal" is able to leave before she discovers those injuries are the result of gunshots. 

The following day "Helen" takes the jewelry to an appraiser, who realizes they're stolen. The police are called and "Helen" is taken in, but after learning "Hal's" a murder. She helps the police catch "The Creeper" in a trap.



"The Creeper" comes into "Helen's" apartment and is about to strangle him, but the police are there and capture "Hal". Afterwards, they arrange for "Helen" to have her operation.




The movie is as bad as it sounds.



There are several movies, comic books and television shows that over the years have paid tribute to Rondo Hatton and this continues. 

The Walt Disney Company 1991 motion picture "The Rocketeer", which was already a homage to Republic Pictures "Rocket Man", was one.




Above Republics "Rocket Man" used between 1949 and 1952 in three serials. Below Walt Disney's "Rocketeer".


"The Rocketeer" has a character named "Tiny Ron" who is an obviously homage to Rondo Hatton.



The BBC in October 2001 did an episode of "Dr. Who" entitled "The Wedding of River Song". Actor Mark Gatiss portrayed "Gantok". A character whose appearance through prosthetics is attributed to a "Rondo Haxton". Which of course needs some knowledge of "Sherlock Holmes and the Pearl of Death" to make the connection.



Go to Stephen King's "The Dark Tower Volume VII" and  you'll find a character he describes as looking like:

like Rondo Hatton, a film actor from the 1930s, who suffered from acromegaly and got work playing monsters and psychopaths..

Then there's the fan voted "Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award" started in 2002 and also known as either the "Rondo Award", or just the "Rondo".


https://rondoaward.com/rondo/rondos.html


Below the winner of the "Favorite Horror Host" at the 16th awards was "Svengoolie". 



A Good CREEPER Never Dies!







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