Ray "Crash" Corrigan
|Ray "Crash" Corrigan|
Poster for film Ghost-Town Gold with Corrigan in center
February 14, 1902
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
|Died||August 10, 1976
Brookings, Oregon, U.S.
Cause of death
|Inglewood Park Cemetery, California|
|Other names||Raymond Benard
Rita Jane Smeal (?-1954)
Ray "Crash" Corrigan (February 14, 1902 – August 10, 1976), born Raymond Benard, was an American actor most famous for appearing in B-Western movies. He also performed stunts and frequently appeared in a gorilla costume at both the beginning and end of his film career; Corrigan owned his own ape costume.
In 1937, Corrigan purchased land in the Santa Susana Mountains foothills in Simi Valley and developed it into a movie ranch called "Corriganville." The movie ranch was used for location filming in film serials, feature films and television shows, as well as for the performance of live western shows for tourists. Bob Hope bought the ranch in 1966 and renamed it "Hopetown." It is now a Regional Park and nature preserve.
His career in Hollywood began as a physical fitness instructor and physical culture trainer to the stars. In the early 1930s he did stunts and bit parts in several films. Many of his early roles were in ape costumes - for example, as a Gorilla in Tarzan and His Mate (1934) and an "Orangopoid" in the original Flash Gordon serial. In 1936 he got his break with starring roles in two Republic serials, The Vigilantes Are Coming and in Undersea Kingdom from which Benard adopted his character's name "Crash Corrigan" (that evoked memories of "Flash Gordon") as his own.
On the basis of this, Republic signed him to a Term Player Contract, running from May 25, 1936 to May 24, 1938. He was cast as one of the trio in the Three Mesquiteers series of films and starred in 24 of the 51 3M films made by the studio. He left Republic in 1938 in a dispute over pay.
At Monogram Pictures, he began a new series of films - The Range Busters (a cheap copy of the Three Mesquiteers) - with a character of his own name. Ray starred in 20 of the 24 films in this series between 1940 and 1943.
Following this, his on-screen work largely returned to appearing in ape costumes - for example, the title roles in Nabonga (1944), White Pongo (1945) and as a prehistoric sloth in Unknown Island (1948). The original gorilla "mask" seen in films like The Ape (1940) was replaced with a subtler design with a more mobile jaw. In 1948 he sold his gorilla suits and provided training to Steve Calvert a Ciro's bartender. Calvert stepped in Corrigan's pawprints beginning with a Jungle Jim film. Despite reports to the contrary, Calvert and Corrigan never appeared together in ape costume. Since both Corrigan and Calvert eschewed screen credit as gorillas, credits are often confused. Any appearance of the "Corrigan suit" after 1948 is Calvert.
Corrigan's last film was playing the title role of It! The Terror from Beyond Space. According to bio information given to visitors at the Thousand Oaks, California Corrigan Steak House and Bar that he once owned, the origin of his "Crash" nickname is from his stunt work where he would often crash through saloon windows onto the street outside.
In 1937, Corrigan was on a hunting trip with Clark Gable when he had the idea to purchase the land in Simi Valley, California as his own Western ranch similar to Iverson Movie Ranch. He paid $1,000 down payment, then a thousand dollars a month until the $11,354 price was paid. He developed this into Corriganville, a location used for many Western movies and TV shows. The location featured many different types of terrain for producers such as lakes, mountains, and caves. As opposed to merely set fronts, Corriganville contained actual buildings where film crews could live and store their equipment to save time and expense wasted in daily traveling from studios to an outdoor location.
Corrigan made a lot of money from renting out this location to film studios and from paying visitors - starting in 1949, Corrigan opened his ranch to the public on weekends for Western-themed entertainment. The weekend attractions included several stuntmen shows scheduled throughout each day, a Cavalry fort set, an outlaw shack, a full western town with saloon, jail and hotel, live western music, Indian crafts, stagecoach rides, pony rides, and boating on the ranch's artificial lake. It was common for movie and TV personalities to appear in person for photos and autographs. It attracted as many as 20,000 people on weekends.
Examples of movies and shows filmed at Corriganville:
- Drums of Fu Manchu (1939)
- Fort Apache (1948)
- The Lone Ranger (1949–1957)
- The Cisco Kid (1950–1956)
- The Adventures of Kit Carson (1951–1955)
- The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin (1954–1959)
- Have Gun - Will Travel (1957–1963)
- Casey Jones (1957)
Corriganville was eventually sold to Bob Hope in 1966, at which point, it became Hopetown. Today, what's left is known as Corriganville Park and still features some of the old landmarks. Signs along a hiking trail point out the historic features.
The origin of the "Crash" nickname is from his football-playing days. This was verified by Corrigan himself when he was a contestant on the June 11th, 1959 episode of You Bet Your Life starring Groucho Marx. When asked how he got the name "Crash", Corrigan tells Groucho "When I would go to tackle somebody or instead of fighting them with my fists, I would just take off and dive at them head first and that's how I acquired the name 'Crash'".
His first starring role using the name professionally was in the serial Undersea Kingdom, in which his character was also named "Crash Corrigan." The serial was created to capitalize on the popularity of the Flash Gordon serials and the name may have been created by the Republic publicity department to create a similarly named hero.
After his August 10, 1976 death from a heart attack in Brookings Harbor, Oregon, Crash Corrigan was interred at Inglewood Park Cemetery, Inglewood, California. Sadly, three decades later, his grave remains unmarked.
- "Corriganville Park". LAMountains.com. Retrieved June 23, 2013.
- "Ray Corrigan". IMDb. Retrieved June 23, 2013.
- "New Series of Westerns Planned for Television". Long Beach Press-Telegram. October 8, 1950.
- Gilpatrick, Kristen (2002). Famous Wisconsin Film Stars. Badger Books. p. 202. ISBN 9781878569868.
- Corrigan, Ray. "An Introduction to Corriganville". The Corriganville Gazette 1 (3).
- Schneider, Jerry L. (2007). Corriganville Movie Ranch. Lulu.com. p. 21. ISBN 9781430312246.
- Anderson, Chuck. "Ray 'Crash' Corrigan". B-Westerns. Archived from the original on October 1, 2009.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ray "Crash" Corrigan.|
- Ray Corrigan at the Internet Movie Database
- Official Corriganville Park website
- Ray "Crash" Corrigan at Find a Grave