John Harvey Gahan

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John Harvey “Oscar” Gahan
The image of Actor John Harvey “Oscar” Gahan
Born August 20, 1888
Orangeville, Ontario, Canada
Died March 24, 1958
Los Angeles, California. USA
Occupation Actor, Musician (Virtuoso Violinist), Composer
Nationality Canada
Spouse Julia Magdalene Newell, Josephine Morong Runnels, Marguerite Depugh

John Harvey “Oscar” Gahan (née John Harvey Gerald Gahan; August 20, 1888 – March 24, 1958) As Canada's child prodigy violinist. Gahan played a command performance for the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII, at age 5.) As a virtuoso violinist he performed under the name Arvé.


Early years[edit]

John Harvey Gahan was born near Orangeville, Ontario where his father, John James Gahan, had married his mother, Sarah Anne Porterfield, in 1887. Harvey is known to have had one sibling, Alexandria (Alice) Gahan, born in 1902 in Toronto where, in 1911, Harvey married Julia Magdalene Newell of Ohio.

Harvey met his future wife Josepine Morong Runnels (née Whis tum Analyx) during a concert in an opera house owned by Josephine’s father. While playing a classical piece, Harvey glanced up into the owner’s box, and upon seeing Josephine, began to play “Beautiful Dreamer”, the last known song of Stephen Foster. He was introduced to her in his dressing room after the concert. Josephine was in the midst of a divorce from her husband George Whitely, the father of her daughter, Ruth. Harvey and Josephine began a courtship.

Second Marriage[edit]

In 1919 Gahan married Josephine the granddaughter of Chief Que Que Tas of the indigenous Sanpoil (tribe) in the Pacific Northwest. They had three separate ceremonies, the first a Native American ceremony, followed by a Catholic ceremony, and later a third ceremony conducted by a federal court judge.

Gahan, while performing the Orpheum circuit was set up by the theatre manager in Chicago. During a sound check before the performance, a stage hand called him to the telephone, he set his valuable Stradivarius down on a box, went into the flies, picked up a dead phone, and when he returned the violin was gone. It broke his heart. He never played as well again.

After Gahan’s Stradivarius was stolen, he sank into a deep depression. His first cousin Walter Huston wired to tell him to “get down here to New York, there’s this thing called Vaudeville” Gahan joined Walter and his wife at their boarding house in Niagara Falls, and began performing in Vaudeville.

Eventually Walter Huston and his wife found their way out west and Walter once again wired cousin” Oscar” to “Get out to Hollywood, there’s this thing called talking pictures”.

Gahan worked his way across America performing in medicine shows and selling snake oil. He joined the Spade Cooley Band performed with the Son’s of the Pioneers and eventually made it to Hollywood where he was one of the busiest bit-part players in B-Westerns of the late 1930s. Gahan began his 1935-1942 screen career as a member of several hillbilly music groups, including being an original member of the band known as The Arizona Wranglers (aka The Range Riders), which also included stalwart B-Western player Jack Kirk, stuntman Jack Jones, and Deuce Spriggens. Gahan appeared both with the music group and on his own, usually cast as a henchman. Gahan was also a member of Loyal Underwood's Range Riders on radio, and several other groups over the years.

His marriage to Runnels deteriorated due to his constant traveling. They had two daughters, RoseAnne Gahan, a child actress, and Pearl Marie Gahan.

Third Marriage[edit]

In 1956 he married Marguerite Depugh who had been a nurse for Spencer Tracy’s son John, and was at the time a nurse to Roy Rogers and Dale Evans children.

At the time of is death in 1958 at the Queen of Angels Hospital, Gahan was a member of the Hollywood Hillbillies. He wrote many well-loved cowboy songs and sold them to better known performers such as Bob Nolan, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, et al. for the total sum of $25.00 to buy milk for his wife’s baby.

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