Monday, August 9, 2021

Richard Crane: "Rocky Jones, Space Ranger" and "The Alligator People"

It was TuesdayFebruary 23, 1954, when I first watched the, "Orbit Jet X-V-2", blast off into Outer Space with its crew led by "Rocky Jones, Space Ranger", but I'm getting ahead of myself.

His name was Richard Ollie Crane, and he was born on June 6, 1918, in New Castle, Indiana. His father was Otis Ollie Crane and his mother was Edith Oris Dakins Crane. Richard's mother outlived her son by 10-years and his father would outlive, Richard, by nine months.

I could not locate any information about Richard's education, or acting before 1940.

Richard O. Crane
first appeared on-screen, with 12th billing, as "Bob", in "Susan and God", released on June 7, 1940. His first motion picture was directed by George Cukor, and starred, Joan Crawford and Frederick March. The film co-starred, Ruth Hussey, John Carroll, Rita Hayworth, Nigel Bruce and Bruce Cabot. Not a bad group to be with for your first feature film.

Next, came seven motion pictures, without receiving on-screen credit for the roles he played, but they moved Richard Crane to, December 7, 1941. After the Pearl Harbor attack, while other actors were going off to fight either "Nazi Germany", or "Imperial Japan", the young actor remained in Hollywood.

I could not answer my question, as to why 24-years old Richard never joined the military. Perhaps there was a physical problem keeping him out, but fate moves in its strange ways. The actor now found himself in demand, if only, at times, with minor studios, on minor productions. 

Between, 1942's, "This Time for Keeps", with 8th credited billing as "Eustace Andrews", to 1946's, "The Flying Serpent". Where, as a "Radio Announcer", only his voice was heard, Richard Crane had 13 roles without credit, and 9 on-screen credited roles.

I will not bore my reader with all 155 roles Richard Crane performed, but look at the two roles mentioned in this article's title and some related work.

"The Flying Serpent", released on February 1, 1946, starred George Zucco, and contained one of Richard Cranes uncredited roles, as that "Radio Announcer", in one small sequence. He is seen on the lower right of the following still.

I now move forward two years to:

ANGEL ON THE AMAZON aka: DRUMS ALONG THE AMAZON released on November 1, 1948.

This described, adventure, science fiction, feature was Directed by John H. Auer. "B" director, Auer, spent most of his time with low budget World War 2 spy films and crime features. Unlike many "B" directors of the period, John H. Auer, stayed in motion pictures until 1959, before moving to television. When he worked on a episode of television's, "Whirlybirds", starring Kenneth Tobey.

The story was by Earl Felton, who in late 1953, adapted and wrote the screenplay for Walt Disney's, 1954, version of Jules Verne's, "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea".

Lawrence Kimble wrote the actual screenplay and was primarily a "B" crime film writer.

George Brent portrayed "Jim Warburton". Brent had co-starred with Bette Davis in both, 1938's, "Jezebel", and, 1939's, "Dark Victory". George Brent had the ability to be in both "A" and "B" list motion pictures in leading man roles.

Vera Ralston portrayed "Christine Ridgeway". Vera Helena Hruba was a figure skater for Czechoslovakia in the 1936 Olympics and the story, she tells, is that Adolph Hitler wanted her to "Skate for the Swastika" and she replied, that she would rather skate "On the Swastika". Ralston wasn't considered a good actress, but didn't have to worry after 1952. When Vera Helena Hruba, became Mr. Herbert J. Yates, the founder and owner of "Republic Pictures".

Above, George Brent and Vera Ralston, below Ralston with Brian Aherne portraying "Anthony Ridgeway". Aherne had been nominated for the "Best Supporting Oscar", portraying "Emperor Maximillian", in 1939's, "Juarez", starring Paul Muni and Bette Davis, in 1963, the actor played "King Arthur", in the excellent, but overlooked, "Sword of Lancelot".

Above, George Brent with Constance Bennett as "Dr. Karen Lawrence". Bennett's comic timing was showcased as Ghost, "Marion Kerby", opposite Cary Grant, as her husband, in the first "Topper" motion picture. After the Second World War, Bennett coordinated traveling Hollywood shows for the troops in Europe. She did the first from 1946 to 1948, and, second, during the "Berlin Airlift", 1948 through 1949.

Richard Crane was 8th billed as "Johnny MacMahon". Crane had just starred in the 1948, "B" Drama, "Triple Threat", about a trouble causing college football star drafted into the National Football League. He would follow this picture with another "B" Drama, "Dynamite", about a WW2 Vet who works as a dynamiter and falls for the boss's daughter.

Above, Vera Ralston with Richard Crane.

A passenger plane crashes in the Amazon Jungle and the passengers are rescued by a mysterious young woman named "Christine Ridgeway". The pilot, "Jim Wharburton", becomes fascinated with "Christine", who doesn't seem to be what they're all seeing. With her guide, "Paulo", played by Alfonso Bedoya, "Christine Ridgeway" leads the passengers and plane crew to safety and then disappears back into the Amazon jungle.

In Rio de Janeiro, both "Jim" and "Karen" are surprised to find "Christine Ridgeway" dancing with "Johnny MacMahon", The two start to speak to her, but she suddenly goes into a panic. As, "Don Sebastian Ortega", played by Fortunio Bonanova, enters the dance floor. After experiencing this sudden change in the normally well controlled woman, "Wharburton", approaches "Ortega" and learns a secret.

"Ortega" tells the other man that "Christine's" mother killed a sacred panther and then killed herself. Adding to the mystery of "Don Ortega's" story, is the fact that "Christine's" father, "Anthony Ridgeway", just left his daughter in the Amazon jungle and returned to the United States.

Back in the States, "Jim Warburton" tracks down "Christine's" father and asks him about "Ortega's" story. "Ridgeway" corrects the story, explaining that "Christine" is actually his wife, cursed to eternal youth for killing the panther. The story ends with "Warburton" finding out that "Christine Ridgeway" has been committed to a sanitarium under the watchful eyes of "Dr. Karen Lawrence".

On January 18, 1949, was the aforementioned, "Dynamite". 

In 1875, French author Jules Verne, published a sequel to his 1869 serialized novel, "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea". The title of this new work was, "The Mysterious Island", and the setting would confuse any reader of both. The first work takes place in 1866, while the new work takes place during the American Civil War which ended in 1865, but the events of "The Mysterious Island" are supposed to take place several years after the events in "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea".

THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, CAPTAIN HARDING'S FABULOUS ADVENTURES the first Chapter was released on August 23, 1951.

This "Cliff-Hanger" was made during the period, when Sam Katzman ran supreme as a Producer for "Columbia Pictures". Sam brought the audience, Bela Lugosi in 1942's, "The Corpse Vanishes", the "Cliff-Hangers": 1948's, "Superman". 1949's, "Batman and Robin", and 1950''s, "Atom Man vs Superman". Along with Ray Harryhausen's, 1955, "It Came from Beneath the Sea", and 1956's, "Earth vs the Flying Saucers". Sam Katznan also taught his assistant, William Castle, the ropes.

My article, "Superman', Meets 'The Giant Claw' to the Tunes of 'Bill Haley and the Comets': Producer Sam Katzman", may be read at: 

This was a 15-Chapter "Cliff-Hanger" that ran 252-minutes. It was Directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet. Bennet started "B" directing in 1921, and became a "B" Western director, but also directed "Cliff-Hangers" for "Columbia Pictures".

The screenplay was loosely based upon the Jules Verne novel, but added a woman from the planet Mercury. It was written by three men, Lewis Clay, Royal K. Cole, and George H. Plympton. Among their "Cliff-Hangers" are, 1936's, "Flash Gordon", 1940's, "The Green Hornet, 1944's, "Captain America", and 1952's, "Blackhawk".

Richard Crane portrayed "Union Captain Cyrus Harding". Crane had just appeared in a episode of televisions, "Gang Busters", based upon the popular radio program, and followed this "Cliff-Hanger" with two episodes of another television series based upon a radio program, "Boston Blackie".

African-American actor Bernie Hamilton, still calling himself, Bernard Hamilton, portrayed "Neb". This was his third on-screen appearance and over his career, Hamilton would appear in many television series. Such as 1967's, "Tarzan", 1969's, "The Name of the Game", and 1975's, "Starsky and Hutch". Among his film roles are, 1961's, "The Devil at 4 O'clock", starring Spencer Tracy, 1963's, "Captain Sinbad", starring Guy Williams, and 1973's, "Scream Blackula, Scream".

Above left to right, Marshall Reed as "Jack Pencroft", "Bernie Hamilton, and Richard Crane.

Karen Randle portrayed "Rulu of Mercury". Randale was not a leading actress and 10 of her first 12 on-screen appearances were without credit. Karen Randle only appeared in 21 feature films between 1944 and 1952.

Leonard Penn portrayed "Captain Nemo". Penn first appeared on-screen in 1937 and was basically a minor role actor, but starting in 1949, he began to appear in character roles on early television.

Above, left to right, Leonard Penn, Gene Roth as "Pirate Captain Shard", and Richard Crane.

During the siege of Richmond, Virginia, Union Captain "Cyrus Harding", along with sailor, "Jack Pencroft", Pencroft's nephew "Herbert 'Bert' Brown", played by Ralph Hodges, writer "Gideon Spillett", played by Hugh Prosser, "Neb", and a dog, escape from a Confederate prison in a Army Observation Balloon. A storm takes them to an uncharted Volcanic South Pacific Island, that they name "Lincoln Island", in honor of President Abraham Lincoln.

"Captain Hardy" had almost drowned in the ocean, but a mystery man saved his life and disappears.

Over the course of the 15 Chapters, our heroes will encounter four distinct adversaries. One is a local native tribe that worships and sacrifices to the volcano god. Another is a wild man named, "Ayrton", played by Terry Frost, a man exiled to the island years before.

The island is the headquarters of pirates led by "Captain Shard", and there's a strange woman, "Rulu". Who claims to have come from the planet Mercury to mine a unnamed super explosive, found only on the island, so that she can conquer the Earth! 

Added to the above is, of course "Captain Harding's" savior, the mysterious scientific genius, "Captain Nemo", but will our heroes find a way off the "Mysterious Island" and back to civilization before the volcano destroys it all?

Richard Crane appeared ten more times, before the next feature film I want to mention. Among them, the actor portrayed 1930's gangster, "Homer Van Meter", in multiple episodes of the radio-based television series, "Gangbusters", was in a episode of the "Hopalong Cassidy" television program, starring William Boyd, and an episode of the mystery series, known for its twist endings, "The Unexpected".

Then came:

THE NEANDERTHAL MAN released on June 19, 1953.

The motion picture was Directed by German film maker Ewald Andre Dupont. Who came to the United Kingdom as E.A.Dupont. The screenplay was by the co-writers of the, 1951, Cult Science Fiction feature, "The Man from Planet X", Aubrey Wisberg, and, Jack Pollexfen.

Robert Shayne portrayed "Professor Clifford Graves".  Among Shayne's films are, the Bette Davis and Claude Rains, 1944, "Mr. Skeffington", and, the Errol Flynn and Alexis Smith, 1945, "San Antonio". On television, Robert Shayne was "Inspector Henderson", on 1952 to 1958's, "The Adventures of Superman". He was also seen in William Cameron Menzies, Cult Science Fiction movie, 1953's, Invaders from Mars", producer Sam Katzman's, 1957's, "The Giant Claw", and Director Roger Corman's, 1958, "War of the Satellites". 

Joyce Terry portrayed "Jan Groves" the professor's daughter. Between 1944 and 1960, Terry was only seen 10 times on-screen, because she was married to the voice actor, known as "The Man of a Thousand Voices", "Boris Badenov's", Paul Frees.

Above Joyce Terry and Robert Shayne.

Robert Crane portrayed "Dr. Ross Harkness". He had been seen in a episode of the anthology drama, "Your Favorite Story", and followed the picture starring in the Sam Katzman produced, "Columbia Pictures", "Cliff-Hanger", "The Great Adventures of Captain Kidd, King of the Pirates", as a man sent to track the pirate down.

Above, left to right, Tandra Quinn, as the professor's sexy housekeeper, "Celia", Joyce Terry and Richard Crane.

Doris Merrick portrayed "Ruth Marshall". Merrick was a "B" actress in 18 forgotten motion pictures and small roles on 4 early television Westerns. 

There's a future star in this picture. 

Beverly Garland portrayed "Nola Mason, the waitress". Garland would become a regular for Roger Corman and appear in, among others, 1956's, "Gunslinger", 1956's, "It Conquered the World", and, 1956's, "Swamp Women". However, it was the television series, "Decoy", that is truly Beverly Garland's legacy, becoming the first actress to have first billing on a television production. In this case, based upon the files of the New York City Police Department. The story is part of my article, "Four Actresses Challenging TV Stereotyped Women's Roles".  The article is about Beverly Garland, Honor Blackman, Anne Francis and Barbara Stanwyck, and may be read at:

The basic story starts with a report in a small mountain town, as fantastic as it sounds, of a sabretooth tiger hunting in the area. Game Warden, "George Oakes", played by Robert Long, makes a cast of the tiger's footprints and takes it to Los Angeles and Paleontologist "Dr. Ross Harkness". Who at first doesn't believe the story, but is convinced to investigate!

This will lead "Harkness" to "Professor Groves", who has developed a serum that turns house cats into sabretooth tigers. "Groves" uses the serum on himself and becomes the title character.


The primitive, pun intended, make-up was from Harry Thomas. Other of his work including, without credit, Ed Wood's, 1957's, "Plan 9 from Outer Space", the 1958 teen monster rock movie, "Frankenstein's Daughter", and 1958's, "Night of the Blood Beast".

"Dr. Harkness" falls in love with the "Professor Grove's" daughter, but events point to her father being "The Neanderthal Man". "Dr. Harkness" finds photos of "Ceclia" being regressed into a Neanderthal woman.

In the end, "Professor Grove", is attacked by one of his sabretooth tigers, the tiger is killed, and the title character turns back into the professor as he dies.

Theatrical release as a "Cliff-Hanger" in 1953. Television release, first Chapter on July 16, 1955.

On June 8, 1949, "Republic Pictures" released the "Cliff-Hanger", "King of the Rocket Men", that introduced its rocket propelled flying jacket. The title had a double meaning, if you knew that the "King", is really the character of "Jeff King", co-creator of the "Rocket Man" suit.

On January 8, 1952, "Republic Pictures" released the "Cliff-Hanger", "Radar Men from the Moon", and introduced "Commando Cody". On July 16, 1952, "Republic Pictures" released the "Cliff-Hanger", "Zombies of the Stratosphere". Which is known, today, for Leonard Nimoy portraying one of the "Martian Zombies" that want to blow-up the Earth. He's on the left in the following still, but for some unknown reason. The name "Commando Cody", became "Larry Martin", played by Judd Holden.

Which brings me to the "Cliff-Hanger", "Commando Cody, Sky Marshall of the Universe". Which was really a television show forced into being a "Cliff-Hanger".

My in-depth article, "Republic Pictures: THE ROCKET MAN CLIFF HANGERS", that also looks at the Walt Disney Studio's homage to the series. May be read at:

In 1953, "Republic Pictures" wanted in on the lucrative Science Fiction television market with programs like, "Captain Video and His Video Rangers", "Space Patrol", which Gene Roddenberry stated was his inspiration for "Star Trek", "Flash Gordon", and "Tom Corbett, Space Cadet". Along with one of this article's title programs. 

My in-depth article, "Boldly Going Before Kirk and Spock: 1950's TV Science Fiction", may be explored at:

"Republic Pictures" decided, with the use of stock footage from the previous three "Cliff-Hangers", to bring the "Rocket Man" into people's living rooms. However, the studio ran into some form of contract problem and had to make a fourth "Rocket Man Cliff-Hanger", before they could bring the character to television. 

What has resulted is a controversy claiming that "Commando Cody, Sky Marshall of the Universe", is not part of the "Republic Rocket Man Cliff-Hanger" series, but a television program. Many lists of the studio's "Cliff-Hangers", either leave the production completely off, or make a note that it was made as a television program.

I first saw "Commando Cody, Sky Marshall of the Universe", as a 1953, "Cliff-Hanger", at the La Brea Theater, in Los Angeles. The 12 Chapters finally came to "NBC" television, on July 16, 1955. 

The new problem for "Republic Pictures", in 1955, was the television Science Fiction craze had been replaced by television Westerns. At one time, during the 1950's, a viewer could potentially watch 46 Western programs in one week. Director Sam Peckinpah, of 1962's, "Ride the High Country", and 1969's, "The Wild Bunch", was the original creator of "The Rifleman", and created the television series "The Westerner", that had problems with his real-life characters and dialogue. 

Should my reader be having a hard time with the concept of 46 Westerns a week. My article, on just a small amount of the programs, "HI HO SILVER, AWAY: The 1950's When WESTERNS Dominated the Air Waves", can be found at:

There were three actors that appear in all twelve "Cliff-Hanger" Chapters.

Judd Holden portrayed "Commando Cody" and technically had in the, above mentioned 1952 "Cliff-Hanger", "Zombies of the Stratosphere". In 1950, Holden was "Reporter #3", in the Cult Science Fiction thriller, "Rocketship X-M", in 1951, he had the title role in the "Clliff-Hanger", "Captain Video: Master of the Stratosphere", otherwise, Judd Holden was appearing in different small roles in those television Westerns, such as "The Lone Ranger", "The Range Rider", and "Death Valley Days".

Aline Towne portrayed "Joan Gilbert". Towne was a "Cliff-Hanger" and "B" movie heroine. She had been in the 1950, "Cliff-Hanger", "The Invisible Monster", the 1951 "Cliff-Hanger", "Don Daredevil Rides Again", the 1952 "Cliff-Hanger's", "Radar Men from the Moon" as the same "Joan Gilbert", but, in "Zombies of the Stratosphere", like Judd Holden's character, Towne's character was changed to "Sue Davis", go figure.

Above, a publicity still of Judd Holden and Aline Towne.

Gregory Gaye portrayed "The Ruler". Russian born Gaye played many a Nazi villain during World War 2 and played a banker in 1942's, "Casablanca", that is refused help by Humphrey Bogart. His later film work included the, 1950, "Cliff-Hanger", "Flying Disc Man from Mars", 1951's, "The Magic Carpet", starring Lucille Ball and John Agar, the early, radio-based television series, "Terry and the Pirates", and producer Sam Katzman's, 1955, "Creature with the Atom Brain", starring Richard Denning.

Then there was:

Richard Crane, who portrayed "Dick Preston", in nine episodes. The role, for seven-years-old Lloyd, was really "Cool", because "Preston" was "Commando Cody's" rocket ship pilot.

A deadly "Climate Crisis" is affecting the Earth and "Masked Super Scientist", "Commando Cody" is sent to investigate. Among the scientific inventions "Cody" will use, is his "Sonic-powered one-man flying suit with an aero-dynamic helmet" and the "Rocket Ship" he designed and built.

My reader must understand that in the 1950's, the average American really didn't know that much about the other planets, but it led to some great science fiction films. In 1950 was, "Destination Moon", from a story and screenplay by Robert A. Heinlein and 1951 saw a Director Robert Wise's, "The Day the Earth Stood Still", 1953, producer George Pal brought to life, H.G. Wells', "War of the Worlds", in 1956, Hugh Marlowe and Rod Taylor discovered that Earth was a "World Without End", and in 1957, Japanese Toho Studio released the "Earth Defense Force", that came to the United States in 1959, as "The Mysterians".

In this "Cliff-Hanger", the "Space Opera's", the correct term for this type of science fiction writing of the period, villain is "The Ruler", and he comes from Venus. He will use "Venusians" and Earth-men to stop our heroes and carry-out his evil plan for the total destruction of the Earth, but "The Ruler", will meet his end on Mercury. This results through an alliance between "Commando Cody", his assistants "Joan" and "Dick", and the "Mercurians", that live on Mercury. Of course, it will take the entire twelve exciting chapters to obtain that result.

Above, the famous "Republic Pictures" robot made a appearance in 1953's, "Commando Cody, Sky Marshall of the Universe". Even if most of this sequence was stock footage from 1952's, "Zombies of the Stratosphere".

Now, I turn to:

ROCKY JONES, SPACE RANGER as previously stated, the show premiered on February 23, 1954.

Unlike many of the other television "Space Opera's", see my above article link, that broadcast live on California television and was sent to other States by Kinescopes, which degraded over time. "Rocky Jones, Space Ranger", was on film, and for that reason, all the episodes are available on either DVD, or Blu-Ray, today.

The program was completely Directed by Hollingsworth Morse. Morse was strictly a television director and he started out with the forgotten, 1949, children's program, "Puddle Patch Klub. Between 1950 and 1953, Morse worked entirely on both "The Lone Ranger", and, "Sky King".

There were seven writers for the series, Warren Wilson, Arthur Hoerl, Marianne Moser, Fritz Blocki, Francis Rosenwald, Carl K. Hittleman and Bradley Wigor.


Richard Crane portrayed "Rocky Jones". Somebody was thinking out-of-the-box, because to get the role. Richard Crane had to sign a seven-year-contract that required the actor to make annual appearances, in character, at special presentations and school groups. Crane was permitted to appear on other television shows and he supplemented his income that way.


Sally Mansfield portrayed "Vena Ray". Mansfield was strictly a television actress and she would appear only on 20 other programs between 1953and 1965.

Her character of, "Vera Ray", was no dumb blonde, and was the "Orbit Jet's" navigator and translator of the different languages found on other planets in and out of our Solar System. "Vera" was a strong woman you didn't want mad at you.

Scott Beckett portrayed Winky. Beckett had portrayed "Scotty" in Hal Roach's, "Our Gang" comedies.

Below, Beckett in the "Our Gang" comedies.

Beckett would be replaced after 26 episodes, because he was in jail on a concealed weapons charge.

Robert Lyden portrayed "Professor Newton's" ward "Bobby". Lyden's entire on-screen career were ten roles between 1949 and 1957. They included an episode of televisions "Captain Midnight", Natalie Wood's brother in Director John Ford's, "The Searchers", starring John Wayne and Jeffrey Hunter, and his last as the 13-years-old. "Creighton Chaney", in 1957's, "Man of a Thousand Faces", starring James Cagney as "Lon Chaney, Sr.".


Charles Meredith portrayed "Secretary of Space Drake". Prior to becoming a television character actor, Meredith had been seen in motion pictures going back to 1922 and a leading man in Silent Films.

Maurice Cass portrayed "Professor Newton". Immigrating to the United States from Russia in the 1930's, Cass became a character actor with his pimce-nez, for his nearsightedness. 

Ann Robinson portrayed "Queen Juliandra of the planet Herculon. She also portrayed "Juliandra's" evil twin sister, "Noviandra". Both characters are strong women, in fact, most 1950's, science fiction television shows had strong female characters.

If you don't recognize Ann Robinson, above, she portrayed, "Sylvia van Buren", in Producer George Pal's classic 1953 version of H.G. Wells', "War of the Worlds", opposite Gene Barry, below.

Harry Lauter portrayed "Atlansande". Lauter became a familiar face on television and in science fiction motion pictures. Among his television work are, "Cowboy G-Men", "The Range Rider", "Ramar of the Jungle", "The Adventures of Kit Carson", and "Treasury Men in Action". However, those science fiction films include, Stop Motion Animator Ray Harryhaussen's, 1955, "It Came from Beneath the Sea", and, 1956's, "Earth vs the Flying Saucers". Along with, 1955's, "Creature with the Atom Brain", and 1956's, very interesting and overlooked, "The Werewolf".

Other actors making a one-episode appearance included, Tor Johnson, Ed Wood's, 1957, "Plan 9 from Outer Space", Sheb Wooley, televisions Rawhide", Don Megowan, 1956's, "The Creature Walks Among Us". and Judd Holden.

"Rocky Jones" and his team were Earth Bound Interplanetary Police for "The United Worlds of the Solar System". Their assignments were to stop "Interplanetary Bad Guys". In the shows second season, "Rocky and his Crew" were now flying the "Silver Moon XV-3", which looked exactly like the "Orbit Jet XV-2".

Of  course, "Rocky Jones" had to have his futuristic car. In this case it was the specially made, "Grantham Stardust", that is now a car collector item, see the following link:

Like many television programs, there was a club to join, tie-ins to popular products, comic books, and merchandise for parents to buy. The following is a small sample.

About those personal appearances as "Rocky Jones", Richard Crane was appearing with the "Silver Moon XV-3" and cast members, wherever they were told to go. Below, is another product placement, as "XV-3", became the "Silver Cup Bread Rocket", in the State of New York.

Once the program ended, Richard Crane was back to full time television work. He still appeared on "The Long Ranger", made the rounds of the Warner Brothers television Westerns, "Maverick", "Sugarfoot", and "Bronco", and seemed to be a part of the United States Navy with episodes on both 1957's, "Navy Log", and "The Silent Service". Along with the 1958, Alan Ladd, Navy motion picture, "The Deep Six". Crane even was a "Jet Pilot" in a 1957 episode of televisions "Ozzie and Harriet", and again on 1959 televisions, "Steve Canyon".

THE ALIGATOR PEOPLE released on July 16, 1959.

This is still an excellent little Horror film that is a combination of an intelligent screenplay, good Direction, and very good acting.

The film was Directed by Roy Del Ruth. He started out as a writer, in 1915, for Max Sennett and learned his craft by doing a little of everything. Del Ruth actually started Directing in 1916 and over the years his work has included, the Edward G. Robinson, Mary Astor, 1933, comedy crime drama, "The Little Giant", the Maurice Chevalier, Merle Oberon and Ann Southern, 1935, musical comedy, "Folies Bergere de Paris", both the 1941 comedy, "Topper Returns", starring Joan Blondell, and the operetta, "The Chocolate Soldier", starring Nelson Eddy and Rise Stevens. However, the tone of his films changed and in 1954, it was the 3-D version of an Edgar Allan Poe story, "The Phantom of the Rue Morgue", starring Karl Malden and Patricia Medina.

The story was co-written by Orville H. Hampton, 1950's, "Rocketship X-M", 1951's, "The Lost Continent", mostly television until 1959, and besides this picture, 1959's, "The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake", and, "The Atomic Submarine". In 1962, Hampton wrote, "Jack the Giant Killer", followed by the animated programs, "Scooby-Doo", and, "Dynomutt: Dog Wonder".

The other story co-writer was Charles O'Neal. O'Neal wrote producer Val Lewton's, 1943, "The 7th Victim", and the forgotten, but excellent, 1944, "Cry of the Werewolf". He switched to television after this feature.

The actual screenplay was co-written by Orville H. Hampton and Robert M. Fresco. Fresco wrote both the story and screenplay for "Universal International Pictures", 1955, "Tarantula", he also did three stories and scripts, for televisions, "Science Fiction Theatre". Robert M. Fresco is also a contributor to the intelligent 1957 Science Fiction film, "The 27th Day", and again, did the story and screenplay for "Universal International's", 1957, "The Monolith Monsters".

Beverly Garland portrayed the duo role of "Joyce Webster" aka: "Jane Marvin". The year before Garland finished her run on "Decoy". She was appearing in episodes of several major television series and in 1957 she had been in both, Rodger Corman's, "Not of This Earth", and the, Frank Sinatra motion picture, "The Joker is Wild".


Bruce Bennett portrayed "Dr. Eric Lorimer". Bennett under his birth name of Herman Bix starred as "Tarzan", in the 1935, "Cliff-Hanger", "The New Adventures of Tarzan", Over the years he appeared in Humphrey Bogart's, 1943's, "Sahara", the Joan Crawford, 1945, "Mildred Pierce", the Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, 1947, "Dark Passage", and, Director John Huston's, 1948, get the title correct, "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre".

Above, Bruce Bennett on the right, Douglas Kennedy as, "Dr. Wayne MacGregor, is on the left, and Beverly Garland as, "Jane Marvin", is on the psychiatrist couch.

Lon Chaney portrayed "Manon". There's a note on the "Official Cast Listings", that states he is really Lon Chaney, Jr., but is billed without the "Junior". Lon had just been seen in episodes of both "The Red Skelton Hour", and the television Western, "The Texan". Lon Chaney would follow this picture with, three 1959's television show appearances.

My article on the movie career of Lon Chaney, Jr., that includes the story of his father's ghost appearing to people on a bench at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, "Lon Chaney, Jr. 'Of Mice and Werewolves", is available for your enjoyment at: 

George Macready portrayed "Dr. Mark Sinclair". Macready was as close to a leading man villain as a character actor could get. Some of his work includes the forgotten horror movies, 1944's, "The Soul of the Monster", and, 1945's, "The Monster and the Ape", but also the big budgeted, Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford, 1946, "Gilda", the Ray Milland, Maureen O'Sullivan and Charles Laughton, 1948, "The Big Clock", the Humphrey Bogart and John Derek, 1949, "Knock on Any Door", and, 1951's, "The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel", starring James Mason.

Freda Inescort portrayed "Lavinia Hawthorne". Inescort was a Scottish actress, born Freda Wrightman, who had created several on-stage roles for playwright Noel Coward. Among her film work are, 1936's, "Mary of Scotland", starring Katharine Hepburn and Frederick March, the 1940 version of authoress Jane Austin's, "Pride and Prejudice", starring Sir Lawrence Olivier and Greer Garson, and, 1951's, "A Place in the Sun", starring Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, and Shelley Winters.

Richard Crane portrayed "Paul Webster". Crane had just been seen in a episode of televisions "Steve Canyon", and, would follow this feature with a Korean War picture, 1959's, "Battle Flame".

Richard Crane's make-up was by Ben Nye, 1951's, "The Day the Earth Stood Still", 1968's, original "Planet of the Apes", and, Dick Smith, the make-up artist for Producer Dan Curtis' original "Dark Shadows", and for Jack Palance, in Curtis', "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde". Along with 1973's, "The Exorcist", and 1981's, "Scanners".

"Nurse Jane Marvin" has come to psychiatrist "Dr. Eric Lorimer" about her seemingly missing past. Consulting with "Dr. Wayne MacGregor", the two suggest they administer sodium pentothal to possibly release "Jane's" suppressed memories. She agrees, and the drug is administered.

As "Jane Marvin's" suppressed memories come to the surface, she is not "Jane", but the happily newly married "Joyce Webster". On the train going to her honeymoon destination, "Paul", her husband, receives a telegram and goes into a panic over the contents without revealing what it says. At the train's next stop, he tells his wife that he needs to make a phone call. He gets off, the train leaves and "Mrs. Paul Webster" is missing her husband.

"Joyce" hires several private detectives to trace her husband without success, but goes through papers belonging to "Paul" she has found. On one of them is the address to a "Cypress Plantation", "Paul" had used it as a home address on his college entrances paperwork. "Mrs. Webster" takes the next train to the whistle stop of a small town in Louisiana, named "Bayou", located in the swamp land. On the train platform is a box, marked "Radioactive Cobalt", for the plantation and "Manon" has come to pick it up. The odd handyman is asked to drive her to the "Cypress Plantation", and he agrees. "Manon" is also missing a hand that was bitten off by an alligator.

Arriving at the plantation, "Joyce" meets "Lavinia Hawthorne", who calls her a liar by implying that "Paul" once lived at the "Cypress Plantation". Having missed the last train back to town, "Lavina" reluctantly puts "Joyce" up for the night. There's a knock on her room and the maid, "Louann", played by Ruby Goodwin, enters with a dinner tray and advises "Joyce" to leave the troubled plantation. Meanwhile, "Lavinia" informs "Dr. Mark Sinclair", who supposedly runs a clinic for those in the area and is known as "The Swamp Doctor", that "Paul's" wife has arrived.

This will lead "Joyce" into discovering that the kindly, "Dr. Sinclair", has been experimenting on the locals. He is attempting to use "Alligator Hormones", as a means of regenerating lost limbs on humans, as the reptiles, themselves, do. 

"Joyce" sees someone that resembles "Paul" and starts to follow him. "Lavinia" is also following at a distance. In the dark, "Joyce" catches-up to "Paul" and as he turns, and she sees his face.

As "Paul" speaks to "Joyce", the shock of his appearance somewhat wears off, and she takes her husband's hands tenderly. "Lavinia" now reveals herself, apologizes for her treatment of "Joyce" and reveals that "Paul" is her son. 

Later, "Lavinia" encounters "Manon", who has been shooting alligators for revenge over loosing his hand.

Back in the lab, "Paul Webster" climbs onto the table beneath the large radiation gun, because "Dr. Sinclair" has perfected his treatment and can reverse the process now.

However, a drunken "Manon" breaks into the lab and the power is turned to maximum and the process keeping pounding at "Paul Webster", turning him into a true human-alligator hybrid.

"Manon" and the "Paul" start fighting and the handyman gets too close to the cobalt machine and is electrocuted, but that starts a major fire burning throughout the mansion. 

"Joyce" now sees "Paul", who attempts to speak to her, but his voice is now a reptilian sound. He stumbles out of the burning house and heads for the swamp.

In the swamp, "Paul" is attacked by a alligator, as "Joyce" screams, he tosses the alligator aside, but he now finds himself in quicksand. "Joyce" is screaming as "Paul" is caught in quicksand and sinks out of sight.

Switch back to the present and the two psychiatrists, who are finishing reviewing their tape recordings of "Jane Martin". The two agree that "Jane's" amnesia actually is a good thing in her case and decide not to tell their patient about "Joyce Webster".

On November 25, 1959, Richard Crane appeared in the episode, "Asteroid", on the short-lived television series, "Men into Space". Which used real science to predict the future role of the United States Air Force, but he was also seen on episodes of, "Wanted Dead, or Alive", "Stagecoach West", "Shotgun Slade", "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp", and multi-episodes of "Wagon Train". Those shows can give my reader an idea of the power of television Westerns, at the time, see my article at the above link.

Warner Brothers television decided to do to the detective show, what they did to Westerns. One of the most popular was "Hawaiian Eye", featuring Robert Conrad, Connie Stevens and Troy Donohue. Richard Crane appeared in two episodes, but also there was Warner Brothers "Surfside 6".

The show was about a detective agency run out of a houseboat at that title's dock number in Miami Beach. 

Above left to right are, Van Williams as "Kenny Madison", Diane McBain as "Daphne Dutton", Lee Patterson as "Dave Thorne", Margarita Sierra as "Cha Cha O'Brien", and Troy Donahue as "Sandy Winfield II".

Richard Crane portrayed "Police Lieutenant Gene Plehn", for the first 39 episodes of the program, from 1961 through 1962.

THE HOUSE OF THE DAMNED released in March 1963.

The very excellent story was from Harry Spalding, who came up the interesting promise, of taking, William Castle's 1959, "House on Haunted Hill", and have the guests meet Tod Browning's 1932, "Freaks". Spalding had always wondered what happened to the "Side-Show-Freaks", after the circus closed down? This is his answer and the movie starts out one way, gets very creepy as it progresses, and ends with the audience needing a hankie. 

Among Harry Spalding's other films were, 1962's, "The Day Mars Invaded Earth", a very good story idea that was still looking for a budget. The same thing, as writer Henry Cross, was the British, 1964, "The Earth Dies Screaming", and later, Spalding wrote the screenplay for the Walt Disney Company, 1980, "The Watcher in the Woods".

"B" Director Maury Dexter had an interesting group of films besides this one. His work included, the 1962 Western, "Young Guns of Texas", with the interesting cast of, James Mitchum, Robert's son, Jody McCrea, Joel's son, Alana Ladd, Alan's daughter, in the leads. and the 1965, Spaghetti Western, "El proscrito del rio Colorado (The Colorado River Outlaw)", that came to the United States as, "Django the Honorable Killer". Along with the Diane McBain, Sherry Jackson, Patty McCormick and Jeremy Slate biker picture, 1968's, "The Mini-Skirt Mob". 

For this feature film, Maury Dexter is in top form.

Richard Crane portrayed "Joseph Schiller". Crane had just finished his run with "Surfside 6", and would follow this picture with, 1940's, "B" Cowboy star, Lash La Rue, and, a group of one-time actors, that made, 1963's, "Please Don't Touch Me", their only on-screen appearance. Also, this was the only time Richard Crane was billed as Dick Crane.

Merry Anders portrayed "Nancy Campbell". Anders started her on-screen career in 1951 and among her motion pictures are, the Debra Paget, Jeffrey Hunter and Michael Rennie, 1954, "Princess of the Nile", the Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson, 1955, "All That Heaven Knows", the 1957 "B" Western, "The Dalton Girls", 1960's, "Young Jessie James". and, Elvis Presley's, 1965, "Tickle Me". Otherwise, Merry Anders was seen on television shows, but did co-star in the 1957 through 1959, "How to Marry a Millionaire". Which was interesting, because Anders played a "Model", without on-screen credit, in the 1953, original motion picture, "How to Marry a Millionaire", starring Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, and Lauren Bacall.

Above, Merry Anders sits beside Richard Crane.

Ron Foster portrayed "Scott Campbell". Foster would become "Dr. Charles Grant", on the daytime "Soap Opera", "The Guiding Light", from 1991 through 1995. Before this feature he was seen basically on television until 1960, when he played "Doc Barker", in "Ma Barker's Killer Brood".


Above, Merry Anders and Ron Foster.

Above, Richard Kiel as "The Giant". This was right after Kiel made, 1962's. "Eegah: The Name Written in Blood", and 14-years before he first portrayed "Jaws", in 1977's, "The Spy Who Loved Me". 

Ayllene Gibbons portrayed "The Fat Lady". Gibbons only appeared in 13 features and this was her first. Her other small, or uncredited film roles are in pictures such as, 1964's, "My Fair Lady", 1965's, "Young Dillinger", the same years, "Cat Ballow", and the great, 1965, black comedy, "The Loved One".

Erika Peters portrayed "Loy Schiller". Peters was basically a television actress and her total on-screen appearances were 26, but she did appear in the horror film, 1963's, "Monstrosity". Whose title probably best described the feature film about a very old, rich woman, wanting her brain transplanted into the body of a very sexy young woman.

Above, left to right, Erika Peters, Richard Crane, Ron Foster and Merry Anders.

Architect "Scott Campbell" and his wife, "Nancy" decide to use a very old mansion, he has to survey for renovations, as a honeymoon spot.  Apparently, the original owner just disappeared, his estate wants the company "Scott" works for, to determine what can be done with it. Then, "Scott's" boss, "Joseph Schiller" and his wife, "Loy", show-up and things get tense. However, that is nothing compared to what comes next. 

Keys to locked doors appear and disappear, a giant man and a fat woman are seen and disappear. a half man/half beast is spotted, but also disappears. As does a headless woman wandering around the grounds.

Next, "Loy" is kidnapped, but by whom or what?

Richard Crane returned to television and on March 9, 1969, the actor had a massive heart attack and at the age of 50 passed away.

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