Glenn Strange

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Glenn Strange
Glenn Strange Actor.jpg
Born George Glenn Strange
(1899-08-16)August 16, 1899
Weed, Otero County
New Mexico Territory, USA
Died September 20, 1973(1973-09-20) (aged 74)
Los Angeles, California
Resting place
Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills, California
Occupation Actor; Rancher
Years active 1930–73
Spouse(s)

(1) Flora Hooper Strange
(2) Not known

(3) Minnie Thompson Strange (1937-1973, his death)
Relatives Cousin Rex Allen

Glenn Strange (August 16, 1899 – September 20, 1973) was an American actor who mostly appeared in Western films. He is best remembered for playing Frankenstein's monster in three Universal films during the 1940s and for his role as Sam Noonan, the popular bartender on CBS's Gunsmoke television series. Strange was of Irish and Cherokee descent and was a cousin of the Western film star and narrator Rex Allen.

Life and career[edit]

Strange was born near Alamogordo in tiny Weed in Otero County, northeast of El Paso, Texas, some thirteen years prior to New Mexico gaining statehood. He was born as George Glenn Strange, the fourth child of William Russell Strange and the former Sarah Eliza Byrd. He was an eighth generation grandson of Pocahontas and John Rolfe of Jamestown, Virginia.

Strange grew up in tiny Cross Cut (formerly known as Cross Out) in Brown County (county seat: Brownwood), some fifty miles east of Abilene in West Texas. His father was a bartender and later a rancher. Strange learned by ear how to play the fiddle and guitar. By the time he was twelve, young Glenn was performing at cowboy dances. By 1928, he was on radio in El Paso. He was a young rancher, but in 1930, he came to Hollywood as a member of the radio singing group, Arizona Wranglers. Strange joined the singers after having appeared at a rodeo in Prescott in Yavapai County in central Arizona. Another Strange cousin, Taylor McPeters, or "Cactus Mack" was also part of the Wranglers. Strange's Arizona connection prevailed when he guest starred in the 1958 episode "Chain Gang" of the syndicated western series 26 Men, true stories about the Arizona Rangers.

Strange procured his first motion picture role in 1932 and appeared in hundreds of films during his lifetime. In 1949, he portrayed Butch Cavendish, the "bad guy" responsible for killing all of the Texas Rangers, that is except one, The Lone Ranger - actor Clayton Moore.

Strange appeared twice as Jim Wade on Bill Williams's syndicated western series geared to juvenile audience's The Adventures of Kit Carson. He also appeared twice as 'Blake' in the syndicated western The Cisco Kid. In 1952, he was cast in the role of Chief Black Cloud in the episode "Indian War Party" of the syndicated The Range Rider, starring Jock Mahoney and Dick Jones. In 1954, Strange played Sheriff Billy Rowland in Jim Davis's syndicated western series Stories of the Century. Strange appeared six times in 1956 in multiple roles on Edgar Buchanan's syndicated Judge Roy Bean. In 1958, he had a minor part in an episode of John Payne's The Restless Gun. That same year he played the rancher Pat Cafferty, who faces the threat of anthrax, in the episode "Queen of the Cimarron" of the syndicated western series, Frontier Doctor, starring his cousin Rex Allen.

Strange was cast in five episodes of the ABC western, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, with Hugh O'Brian, and in three segments of the syndicated Annie Oakley, starring Gail Davis and Brad Johnson. In 1959, he appeared in another western syndicated series, Mackenzie's Raiders, in the episode entitled "Apache Boy". Strange first appeared on Gunsmoke in 1959 and assumed several roles on the long-running program before he was permanently cast as the stolid bartender.

Strange was cast twice on Kirby Grant's western aviation adventure series, Sky King, as Rip Owen in "Stage Coach Robbers" (1952) and as Link in "Dead Giveaway" (1958)

Frankenstein's Monster[edit]

Glenn Strange and Boris Karloff in House of Frankenstein.

In 1942, he appeared in The Mad Monster for PRC, a poverty row studio. In 1944, while Strange was being made up for an action film at Universal, make-up artist Jack Pierce noticed Strange's face and size would be appropriate for the role of the Monster. Strange was cast in House of Frankenstein in the role created by Boris Karloff in Frankenstein (1931), coached by Karloff personally after hours together.

Strange recounted a personal anecdote in Ted Newsom's documentary, 100 Years of Horror (1996). On the set of House of Dracula (1945), Lon Chaney, Jr., got him extremely inebriated. In the scene in which the Monster is discovered in a cave, where Strange lay immersed for hours in "faked quicksand" (actually cold mud) waiting for the cameras to roll. As Glenn began to get a serious chill, Chaney recommended that alcohol would keep Strange warm. Strange could barely walk straight after the day's shooting.

Strange played the Monster a third time in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), with Chaney, Jr. and Bela Lugosi. Strange also appeared in character with Lou Costello in a haunted house skit on The Colgate Comedy Hour as well as making a gag publicity appearance as a masked flagpole-sitter for a local Los Angeles TV show in the 1950s. After weeks of the station teasing the public about the sitter's identity, Strange removed his mask and revealed himself as the Frankenstein Monster (actually, yet another mask.) Strange also played a monster in The Bowery Boys horror-comedy Master Minds in 1949, mimicking the brain-transplanted Huntz Hall's frantic comedy movements, with Hall providing his own dubbed voice.

During the wave of monster-related merchandising in the late 1950s and 1960s, it was usually Glenn Strange's iconic image used for the Monster on toys, games and paraphernalia, most often from his appearance in the Abbott & Costello film. In 1969, The New York Times mistakenly published Boris Karloff's obituary with Glenn Strange's picture as the Frankenstein monster.[1]

Physical and family information[edit]

Strange was 6 feet, 5 inches tall and weighed 220 pounds. His first wife was the former Flora Hooper of Duncan, Oklahoma. They had two daughters, Wynema and Juanita. He was married for thirty-six years (1937–1973, his death) to his third wife, the former Minnie Thompson (1911–2004). The couple had two children, Harry Glenn Strange (born 1938) of Klamath Falls, Oregon and Janine Laraine Strange (born 1939).

Death[edit]

Strange died of lung cancer in Los Angeles, California, just after declining health had compelled him to leave his role on Gunsmoke. Strange had from time to time collaborated on various tunes with western actor Eddie Dean, including the opening title song for Dean's Tumbleweed Trail (1942). Dean sang at Strange's funeral service as a final tribute to the actor. Strange was interred at Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery.

In 1975, two years after Strange's death, his Gunsmoke costar Buck Taylor named his third son Cooper Glenn Taylor after his friend Glenn Strange.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gregory William Mank, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff: The Expanded Story of a Haunting Collaboration, McFarland & Co Inc, 2009, ISBN 0-7864-3480-5, page 610

External links[edit]