Monday, December 20, 2021

DON MEGOWAN: Portraying William Barret Travis and "The Creature from the Black Lagoon"


Whose Don Megowan? IF you're a fan of Walt Disney's "Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier", or "The Creature from the Black Lagoon" trilogy, then you know this actor, or at least his face!

























Before Six Foot 7 Inch Don Megowan appeared for the first time on-screen, uncredited as a "Big Longshoreman at the Union Hall", in the crime film-noir, 1951's, "The Mob", starring Broderick Crawford. He was attending USC on a football scholarship and served in the United States Army during the Second World War.

 



























Above, Don Megowan puts his hand on Broderick Crawford in "The Mob".


Four pictures later, Megowan found himself portraying "Sir Lancelot" in a motion picture both Robert Wagner and Janet Leigh would like to forget, 1954's, "Prince Valiant". Then it was to outer space on the classic television program, "Rocky Jones, Space Ranger", portraying "Poli", in "Blast-Off, Chapter One", August 14, 1954. 

Two more television appearances followed and then:


WALT DISNEY'S "DAVY CROCKETT AT THE ALAMO" on "The Magical World of Disney", February 23, 1955































Above Don Megowan as "William Barret Travis" confronts Fess Parker as "Davy Crockett" in the last episode of the original television mini-series.

My detailed look at the complete series, including Jeff York as "Mike Fink, King of the River", is in "Walt Disney's 'Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier", found at:

http://www.bewaretheblog.com/2016/06/walt-disneys-davy-crockett-king-of-wild_25.html

Also, in 1955, Don Megowan starred in a 26-minute unsold pilot for a submarine Science Fiction television program. Which predates by six years, Irwin Allen's motion picture "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea", and by nine years, his television version that "Captain Fathom" most closely resembles.































Don Megowan portrayed, "Captain Fathom", seen in the center of the following still
























































Above, is an exhausted Kenneth Tobey as "Jack Clyde". Tobey had also been in "Davy Crockett at the Alamo", portraying "Jim Bowie", and would be seen the Ray Harryhausen 1955 classic, "It Came from Beneath the Sea". My article on Kenneth Tobey and the voice actress for the Cocker Spaniel, "Lady", in Walt Disney's original animated "Lady and the Tramp", entitled, My Neighbors Actors Barbara Luddy and Kenneth Tobey", may be read at:

http://www.bewaretheblog.com/2016/10/a-memory-of-my-neighbors-barbara-luddy.html

The plot has "Captain Fathom" and his crew picking up a strong radioactive signal and going to investigate. They find themselves in an unnamed enemy's waters looking at an atomic bomb. While "Fathom" goes out to set an explosive charge that will blow-up the nuclear weapon harmlessly, remember this in 1955 I'm talking about, his submarine is attacked by others of the enemy.

 






























Both Don Megowan and Kenneth Tobey would next find themselves in another Walt Disney production.


WALT DISNEY'S "THE GREAT LOCOMOTIVE CHASE" released on June 8, 1956



In this retelling of the story about the Civil War group known as "Andrews Raiders", who received the first "Congressional Medals of Honors", and the chase of the locomotive the "General", first by the small railroad yard engine the "Yonah", and then the locomotive, the "Texas", is still a very exciting motion picture.


Fess Parker portrayed Union spy, "James J. Andrews".
























Jeffrey Hunter portrayed the Confederate train conductor that spoiled the raid, "William A. Fuller". 




















































Above, Don Megowan portrayed Marion A. Ross", second from the right, Jeff York portrayed "William Campbell", on the far right. At Fess Parker's immediate left is John Lupton portraying "William Pittenger", the survivor who wrote the book the picture is based upon, and on the far left is Dick Sargent as an unnamed member of "Andrews Raiders".




























Above, Kenneth Tobey as "Anthony Murphy", Jeffrey Hunter, and Slim Pickens as "Pete Bracken" the engineer of the "Texas".

My article on the motion picture and the actual raid, "The Andrews Civil War Raid: 'The Great Locomotive Chase' in Motion Pictures", will be found at:

http://www.bewaretheblog.com/2017/08/the-andrews-civil-war-raid-great.html

Megowan followed "The Great Locomotive Chase" buried in the uncredited role of "Henri" in the Bing Crosby and Donald O'Connor 1956, musical, "Anything Goes", but in his next role.

My reader could not miss Don Megowan when:


THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US released on April 26, 1956






This was the third and final installment in "The Creature from the Black Lagoon" trilogy. There was a planned forth, but the lackluster box office of this picture stopped that idea.

The screenplay picks-up were the second, the "Revenge of the Creature", ended in Florida.

Jeff Morrow starred as "Dr. William Barton". Morrow had just been seen in an episode of televisions "Schlitz Playhouse", entitled, "The Finger of God", and would follow this film with the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, 1956, "Pardners", their last as a team. My article, "Jeff Morrow an Icon of 1950's Science Fiction: This Island Earth, KRONOS, and The Giant Claw", is ready to be read at:

http://www.bewaretheblog.com/2016/10/jeff-morrow-exeter-of-metaluna-icon-of.html


Rex Reason portrayed "Dr. Thomas Morgan". Reason was just in the 1956 Western, "Raw Edge", and would follow this feature with an appearance on the television series, "The Millionaire", "The Olivia Granger Story". 

There has always been confusion between Rex and brother Rhodes, my article, "REX AND RHODES REASON: Acting Brothers Often Confused by the Audience", may be read at:

http://www.bewaretheblog.com/2018/10/rex-and-rhodes-reason-acting-brothers.html
































Above, Rex Reason and Jeff Morrow with Don Megowan portraying the "Land Version" of "The Creature from the Black Lagoon".

















































































Above, Don Megowan stares into the sea, the picture originally ended in 1956, when I first saw it, with the air breathing creature walking toward the ocean and instead of the words, "The End", a "Question Mark" is shown, indicating that there was more to come.


THE WEREWOLF released June 13, 1956, on a double bill in Los Angeles with "Earth vs the Flying Saucers". 






This mostly unknown or overlooked "Columbia Pictures" motion picture is on a par with "Universal Pictures", 1941, "The Wolf Man". The picture was directed by actor turned Director Fred F. Sears, 1956's, "Rock Around the Clock", and the "Earth vs the Flying Saucers", 1957's, "The Night the World Exploded", and "The Giant Claw".

Both the story and screenplay were by the writing team of Robert E. Kent, and James B. Gordon, 1956's, "Rock Around the Clock", and the racketeering "Inside Detroit".

Don Megowan portrayed "Sheriff Jack Haines". He would follow this motion picture with an episode of televisions "Warner Brothers Presents", entitled, "Strange World", but other than the names of the cast without the roles they played. There appears to be no on-line plot description.


























Steven Ritch portrayed "Duncan Marsh" aka: "The Werewolf". Ritch was basically a television actor and "B" Western and Drama actor. As a writer, among his work are four episodes on Mike Connors' 1959 television show "Tightrope", and eleven episodes of "Wagon Train".
























Amnesiac "Duncan Marsh" walks into the small town of "Mountaincrest" on a cold-winters night looking for somebody who might know him. What happens next is "Marsh", beautifully played by Ritch, goes into a bar asking that question and is followed out by the town thug, "Joe Mitchell", played by Charles Horvath, who demands money. Instead of money, "Mitchell" is met by the werewolf of the film's title.




Courtesy of uncredited make-up artist Clay Campbell reworking his own make-up from "Columbia Pictures". 1943, "The Return of the Vampire", seen below.






"Mitchell's" death by a "Wild Animal" gets "Sheriff Haines" and his deputy, "Ben Clovey", played by Harry Lauter, both 1955's, "It Came from Beneath the Sea", and "The Creature with the Atom Brain", involved.








Above, left to right, Don Megowan, Joyce Holden as "Amy Standish", Ken Christy as "Dr. Jonas Gilcrist", and Harry Lauter.








What the audience discovers is that "Duncan Marsh" was in an automobile accident and taken to "Dr. Morgan Chambers", played by George Lynn, and "Dr. Emery Forest", played by S. John Launer. The two doctors not only tended to his injuries but experimented on him with their "irradiated wolf serum" they believe will save people; they choose from the unavoidable nuclear holocaust facing mankind. Now, the two must find and kill "Marsh" to protect their work and themselves, instead they will be killed by the werewolf they created.








All of these subplots come together when "Sheriff Haines" meets "Duncan Marsh's" wife, "Helen", played by Eleanore Tanin, and his son, "Chris", played Kim Charney, and they are taken to the tragic "Duncan" in a jail cell, after having been captured in his normal human state.














































As this is a scientifically created werewolf, as will also be seen in 1957's, "I Was a Teenage Werewolf", the full moon is not needed, and the werewolf can be out in sunlight.




































































In the end "Duncan Marsh" afraid of what he will do to his wife and son, jumps off the bridge killing himself.

























Television shows would be a staple of work for Don Megowan and he followed "The Werewolf" with appearances in episodes of, "Warner Brother Presents", "General Electric Theater", and "The Loretta Young Show". 


GUN THE MAN DOWN released on November 15, 1956







I would point three things out on the above poster:

First is the tag line:
starring The Great Star of TV's "GUNSMOKE" JAMES ARNESS

Besides "Gunsmoke", in 1956, James Arness had fifth billing in the motion picture, "The First Traveling Sales Lady", starring Ginger Rodgers, Barry Nelson, and Carol Channing. I would point out that Arness' good friend, John Wayne, turned down the role of "Marshall Matt Dillon" and recommend him for the role.





















Above, James Arness as "Remington 'Rem' Anderson", with a member of the "John Ford Stock Company" and John Wayne acting buddy, Harry Carey, Jr. as "Deputy Sheriff Lee".

Second, this motion picture was co-produced and directed by the unknown, Andrew V. McLagen, the son of Wayne's friend from the "John Ford Stock Company", Victor McLagen. Andrew would go on to direct John Wayne in, 1968's, "The Hellfighters", 1969's, "The Undefeated", 1970's, "Chisum", 1973's, and "Cahill, U.S. Marshall".

Third, is that the motion picture was from "Batjac Productions", co-owned by John Wayne.


Returning to the above poster, that is Don Megowan as "Ralph Farley", that the posse led by James Arness is chasing. 






















James Arness' co-star was Angie Dickinson, who portrayed "Janice". Except for eighth billing in the forgotten 1955 Western, "The Return of Jack Slade", up until this time, small television roles were the actress's main on-screen income. In 1959, director Howard Hawks cast Dickinson in "Rio Bravo", starring John Wayne, and her career got a jump start. She also became the only "Official" female member of her other co-star, Dean Martin's friend Frank Sinatra's "Rat Pack".























The screenplay was by Burt Kennedy, who would go on to write several of Randolph Scott's Westerns including, 1957's, "The Tall T", and 1959's, "Ride Lonesome". Kennedy also wrote the screenplay for the very gritty Henry Fonda 1967 Western, "Welcome to Hard Times", which he also directed. Among his other work as a Director, Burt Kennedy directed, 1966's, "Return of the Seven", the John Wayne and Kirk Douglas, 1967, "The War Wagon", Robert Mitchum's, 1969, "Young Billy Young", Frank Sinatra's, 1970, "Dirty Dingus Magee", and Raquel Welch's 1971, "Hannie Caulder".


The plot is an old one, three men hold-up a bank, but two, "Matt Rankin", played by Robert Wilke, and "Ralph Farley"leave their wounded partner, "Rem Anderson", who serves time in prison and is now seeking revenge.

























Above, left to right, James Arness, Angie Dickinson, Robert Wilkie, and Don Megowan.

Two more television shows later and look for Don Megowan as a "Police Officer" in Jerry Lewis' first motion picture without Dean Martin, 1957's, "The Delicate Delinquent", far right below opposite co-star Darren McGavin.


































The rest of 1957 was made-up of three television shows and playing "Early Man" in Irwin Allen's, all-star 1957, "The Story of Mankind", starring Ronald Coleman. Take a look at the "Who's Who" of Hollywood, on this poster, Irwin Allen was able to put into this, actually boring, motion picture. Of course, Don Megowan didn't make the poster, but is billed thirty-eighth on the official cast listing of forty-nine credited roles, not to overlook nine uncredited roles.








Don't let the title make you think of either a Science Fiction, or Horror movie. The following was a very good "B" crime motion picture.


THE MAN WHO DIED TWICE released on June 6, 1958





Note the movie was in "Naturama", a wide screen rip-off of "CinemaScope" to avoid paying "20th Century Fox" royalties to use their process and name.


Rod Cameron portrayed "William 'Bill' Brennon". Cameron had just starred in the 1958 Crime Horror story, "Escapement", that had just been renamed "The Electronic Monster". He would follow this feature with episodes of his 1956 through 1958, television show, "State Trooper". 

















Vera Ralston portrayed "Lynn Brennon". This was her final film of twenty-seven, besides she was married to Herbert J. Yates, the owner of "Republic Pictures", and didn't need acting roles.






















Don Megowan portrayed "T.J. Brennon". Megowan had just been seen in an episode of televisions "The Silent Service", entitled, "Peto Plucks Some Chickens".





















"Lynn Brennon" learns that her husband of three months, "T.J", has been killed in a car accident. Returning to their apartment, she finds three men fighting on the balcony, one is tossed off it and another shot to death, while the third flees without her seeing what he looks like. 

Next, a pair of Chicago hitmen show-up and seemed to be looking for the same thing as two narcotic detectives that searched her apartment. Added to "Lynn's" confusion is "Bill Brennon", "T.J.'s" brother, a Kansas Police Officer. who received a telegram from his brother asking for help! Bill will learn that everyone is looking for a stash of heroin hidden somewhere in "Lynn" and "T.J's" apartment.

Two more people are killed, "Rak", played by Mike Mazurki, and "Minelli", played by Len Lesser, before everything comes to a climax. The heroin is in a doll out in the open in the apartment and the murderer turns out to "T.J", who was the third man on the balcony and obviously not killed in the car crash. "Bill" and the police arrive to stop his brother from killing "Lynn" and disappearing with the heroin.

























Two "B" Westerns, two Western television series appearances, and the role of the "Pirate with Axe", in director Anthony Quinn's 1958 remake of director Cecil B. DeMille's 1938. "The Buccaneer", would all be followed by:


TALES OF FRANKENSTEIN an unsold 1958 television pilot






German character actor Anton Diffring portrayed "Baron Frankenstein". My readers know him from features such as, Hammer Films 1959, "The Man Who Could Cheat Death", and the Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood, 1968, "Where Eagles Dare", otherwise Diffring appeared on many British television shows not seen in the United States.
































Don Megowan portrayed "The Monster", The actor had just been in an episode of the television series, "Maverick". starring Jack Kelly as "Bart Maverick", entitled, "The Spanish Dancer", featuring Richard Long as "Gentleman Jack Darby". Megowan followed this unsold pilot with another one, 1958's, "Counterspy", with the actor starring as the lead, "David Harding".



 







































































Between 1958's, "Counterspy", and 1959's, "The Jayhawkers!", Don Megowan appeared in eleven episodes of six different television shows. Below is a 1959 newspaper ad for the second of the actor's nine appearances on televisions "Death Valley Days", between 1954 and 1970.































"The Jayhawkers" is set just prior to the Civil War and is about "Luke Darcy", played by Jeff Chandler, who wants to set up the "Independent Republic of Kansas" with him as its leader. The military governor of Kansas makes a deal with a prisoner, and leader of a gang of raiders, "Cam Beeker", played by Fess Parker, if he brings "Darcy" in alive to face justice, "Cam" gets a full pardon.










Above, sixth billed Don Megowan as "China" faces off with Jeff Chandler.

Don Megowan went to Italy to be in a motion picture about building railroads in 1860 Italy:


LA STRADE DEI GIGANTI (THE ROAD OF THE GIANTS) released in Italy on April 8, 1960





This was an Italian, West German and French co-production as many motion pictures of the period were as either "Peplum (Sword and Sandal)", or like this one, "Spaghetti Westerns".

West German actress Hildergard Kneff portrayed the "Duchess of Parma, Maria Louisa di Borbone". Kneff was known to Americans for the Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward, and Ava Garnder, 1952, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro", and the U.K.'s, 1954 version of "Svengali".

Don Megowan portrayed American railroad construction engineer "Clint Farrell". In this picture he helps the "Duchess" build a railroad against strong opposition.










































Megowan appeared on eight different American television series until his next Italian feature film.


IL TERRORE DEI MARI (THE TERROR OF THE SEAS) aka: THE GUNS OF THE BLACK WITCH released in Italy on February 24, 1961










In typical "B" movie fashion going back to Douglas Fairbanks, Sr's., 1926, "The Black Pirate".
Don Megowan portrayed "Jean", one of two brothers, who were absent from their French village when Spanish soldiers attacked and murdered everyone. Now, grown-up, they have become feared pirates out to seek revenge on the Spanish and the man who led the attack.






















































 































Another eight varied television programs later and Don Megowan was in an interesting "Cult Science Fiction" motion picture.


THE CREATION OF THE HUMANOIDS released July 3, 1962





Before I speak to Don Megowan and the film's plot, its production history needs to be addressed. 

According to the digital archive, "The Wayback Machine", the "Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences" lists the completion date of this motion picture as in August 1960, and the movie has that year as a "Copyright Date" on the film. There also appears to have been, based on advertising material, a 1961 showing of the motion picture, but the above 1962 date is the accepted "General Release Date".

The was the last motion picture make-up artist Jack Pierce worked on and reflects the low budget of the production. Pierce created Boris Karloff's make-ups for 1931's, "Frankenstein" and 1932's, "The Mummy", along with Lon Chaney, Jr's, 1941, "The Wolf Man", among others. My article, "Jack P. Pierce the Man Who Created Monsters", is available for reading at:

http://www.bewaretheblog.com/2015/06/jack-p-pierce-man-who-created-monsters.html


The motion picture was produced and directed by Wesley Barry, who started as an actor in 1915.

The original story and screenplay were by Jay Simmons, 1959's, "The Killer Shrews" and "The Giant Gila Monster". Besides this screenplay that was erroneously credited as 1962, he wrote the very good Atomic War aftermath film, 1962's, "Panic in Year Zero", starring Ray Milland, Frankie Avalon and Jean Hagen.

No matter when this little motion picture was made, it used the medium of Science Fiction to get around a 1950's, 1960's, motion picture taboo, racial prejudice. The picture did very well in the "Deep South", compared, for example, to 1964's, "Black Like Me", the true story of white reporter "John Howard Griffin", played by James Whitmore. Who had his skin medically changed to black to see what it was like to be black in the same south and was banned in most Southern States, because of the picture's racial inequality issues!

Don Megowan portrayed "Captain Kenneth Cragis". He had just been in an episode of televisions "77 Sunset Strip", entitled, "Flight from Escondido", and was co-starring with Cameron Mitchell on the 1962 television series, "The Beachcomber".


























Erica Elliott portrayed "Maxine Megan". This was her third of only four on-screen appearances.


























Francis McCann portrayed "Esme Cragis Milos". She had only one other on-screen appearance and that was back in 1951, on the television program of 1940's radio comedian Jerry Colona.





























Don Doolittle portrayed "Dr. Raven". This was his third of four on-screen appearances. 































David Cross portrayed "Pax". This was his final on-screen appearance of nineteen, his others were all on different television programs since 1955.
























The viewing audience is watching a post-nuclear-war society in which the human race is still dying out. The birth rate caused by the lingering radiation has fallen to 1.4 percent.

Mankind has built blue gray, "synthie-skinned", silver eyed, bald, androids to wait upon them, but these "Humanoids" are taking on real human qualities and this is where the racial prejudice allegory comes in. The "Humanoids" routinely have to be recharged at stations they visit and refer to as their "Temples", that are all connected to a computer they call "The Father-Mother". 































"Captain Cragis" belongs to the "Order of Flesh and Blood", a human racist organization opposed to the "Godless, soulless robots" that are acting as if they're "Flesh and Blood" also.



























Adding to the Captain's problem is that his widowed sister, "Esmie", has fallen in love with "Pax", a "Humanoid". At this same time, "Cragis" meets "Maxine", a woman who opposes the "Order", but he's strangely drawn to her and the two fall in love.

At the climax, "Cragis" follows "Maxine" to the laboratory of "Dr. Raven". There, it is revealed that "Maxine" is actually an advanced "Humanoid" with the brain of a deceased human and all the memories and feelings of that person. "Captain Cragis" is ready to report all of this to the "Order of Flesh and Blood", but "Dr. Raven" tells him that he is also one of the advanced "Humanoids" and part of the doctor's work to save the human race.

























"Dr. Raven" now speaks to a possible surgery to permit "Maxine" and "Captain Cragis" to have children, if they agree to let him try it on them.











In the final scene of the picture, "Dr. Raven" walks toward the camera and breaks "The Fourth Wall", the invisible wall that should be where the audience is viewing his laboratory and states that:
Of course, the operation was a success....or you wouldn't be here.


For the next three years Don Megowan appeared on ten different television shows and then became what some film critic called a rip-off the "James Bond Villain Odd-Job" in:


TARZAN AND THE VALLEY OF GOLD released on July 1, 1966






























This is formula Edgar Rice Burroughs "Tarzan" but moved from Africa to Mexico and a hidden Aztec city supposedly covered in gold.

Ex-Pittsburg Steeler, Los Angeles Ram's football player turned actor, Mike Henry portrayed "Tarzan". He would follow this picture with 1967's, "Tarzan and the Big River", and 1968's, "Tarzan and the Jungle Boy".






























David Opatoshu portrayed "Augustus Vinero". Character actor Opatoshu was just in Alfred Hitchcock's 1966's, "Torn Curtain", starring Paul Newman and Julie Andrews, and followed this movie with the 1966, Montgomery Clift, "The Defector".





















Manuel Padilla, Jr. portrayed "Ramel". He had just been in an episode of televisions "Slattery's Hurricane", entitled, "How Impregnable is a Magic Tower", and followed this picture with "Tarzan and the Great River".



















Nancy Kovack portrayed "Sophia Renault". She portrayed "Nellie Bly" in Elvis Presley's 1966, "Frankie and Johnny" and was "Medea" in Ray Harryhausen's 1963's "Jason and the Argonauts".




















Don Megowan portrayed "Mr. Train". 































Above, Don Megowan, Nancy Kovack and David Opatoshu.

The basic plot has "Augustus Vinero" using the boy to lead him and his mercenaries led by "Mr. Train" to the lost Aztec city and enslaving the people to mine the gold. It is up to "Tarzan", who is portrayed as Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote the character as a very intelligent and clear speaking person, to stop him.





















Three more television appearances followed and next, Don Megowan was one of the locals in a bar scene from the true Second World War motion picture story, 1968's,"The Devil's Brigade". starring William Holden. 

Megowan's "Luke Phelen" gives a Canadian soldier, played by Richard Dawson, a hard time, because of the kilt he's wearing. All leading to the bar fight that finally unites the Americans and Canadians into a fighting group in a good old fashion free-for-all.



























SCREAM OF THE WOLF made-for-television and first shown on ABC, January 16, 1974






This was produced and directed by "Dark Shadows" own Dan Curtis. The television screenplay was written by Richard Matheson, author of "I Am Legend" and "The Incredible Shrinking Man". The sixth blog article I ever wrote, "Richard Matheson: The Screenplays and Treatments", will be found at:

http://www.bewaretheblog.com/2015/01/richard-matheson-screenplays-and.html

Local adventure writer and hunter, "John Wetherby", played by Peter Graves, is brought in by the local sheriff to investigate a series of murders by a wild animal. This will lead "Wetherby" to reclusive big game hunter, "Byron Douglas", played by Clint Walker. The question confronting "Wetherby" is, are the locals dealing with a werewolf and is it "Douglas"? Don Megowan portrayed "Byron Douglas'" assistant "Grant".








































































For his next role, Don Megowan had a chance to have fun with his image in Mel Brooks' 1974, "Blazing Saddles", as "Gum Chewer".






















Nine more appearances, eight on television, brought Don Megowan's on-screen career to an end with the made-for-television 1979, "Mrs. R's Daughter", starring Cloris Leachman. Megowan had eleventh billing as "Police Sergeant Larsen", seen below to the right of Leachman and Donald Moffat.
































Two years later, on June 26, 1981, Don Megowan passed away from complications caused by throat cancer.

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