Ray "Crash" Corrigan

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Ray "Crash" Corrigan
Ghost-Town Gold FilmPoster.jpeg
Western theatrical release poster (Corrigan in center)
Born Raymond Benard
(1902-02-14)February 14, 1902
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
Died August 10, 1976(1976-08-10) (aged 74)
Brookings, Oregon, U.S.
Cause of death
Heart attack
Resting place
Inglewood Park Cemetery, California
Other names Raymond Benard
Ray Benard
Ray Corrigan
Crash Corrigan
Years active 1932–1958
Spouse(s) Elaine DuPont
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 many B-Western films. He also was a stuntman and frequently acted as silver screen gorillas in gorilla costumes that he owned, both at the beginning and end of his film career.

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 later bought the ranch in 1966 and renamed it "Hopetown." It is now a Regional Park and nature preserve.[1]

Film career[edit]

Corrigan's 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 first Flash Gordon serial. In 1936 Corrigan got his screen breakthrough with starring roles in two Republic serials, The Vigilantes Are Coming and in The Undersea Kingdom, which evoked memories of Universal's first "Flash Gordon" serial.[2]

On the basis of this, Republic signed him to their standard 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 westerns, starring in 24 of the 51 "3M" films made by the studio. He later left Republic in 1938 over a pay dispute.

Over at Monogram Pictures, Corrigan began a new series of feature westerns, The Range Busters, cheap knock-offs of The Three Mesquiteers, with a series character that used his name; between 1940 and 1943, he starred in 20 of the 24 films in this series.

Following this, his on-screen work largely returned to appearing in ape costumes, such as the roles in Captive Wild Woman (1943), 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. Corrigan later sold his gorilla suits in 1948 and provided training in using them to their new owner, Steve Calvert, a Ciro's bartender. Calvert stepped into Corrigan's paw prints starting with a Jungle Jim film. Despite reports to the contrary, Calvert and Corrigan never appeared together on-screen in an ape costume. Since both Corrigan and Calvert eschewed screen credit playing gorillas, their film credits are often confused; any appearance of the "Corrigan suit" after 1948 is by Calvert.

In 1950 he had a television show called Crash Corrigan's Ranch. He also planned a television series called Buckskin Rangers with his old associate Max Terhune.[3]

Corrigan's final theatrical film was playing the title role in the science fiction film 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.


In 1937 Corrigan was on a hunting trip with Clark Gable when he had an idea to purchase land in Simi Valley, California and use it as a 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.[4] 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.[5] As opposed to merely set fronts, Corriganville contained actual buildings where film crews could live[6] 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, attracting as many as 20,000 people on those weekends.

Examples of feature films and TV shows that were filmed at Corriganville:

Hollywood cowboy stars who filmed there include: Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Buster Crabbe, John Wayne, Smiley Burnette, Clayton Moore, Jay Silverheels, Charles Starrett, Ken Maynard, Hoot Gibson, Bob Steele, and Tex Ritter.

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 The Undersea Kingdom, in which his screen character was also named "Crash Corrigan." The serial was created to capitalize on the popularity of the Flash Gordon serials and the nickname may have been appropriated by the Republic publicity department to create a similarly named hero.[7]


After his August 10, 1976 death at age 74 from a heart attack in Brookings Harbor, Oregon, Ray "Crash" Corrigan was interred at Inglewood Park Cemetery, Inglewood, California. Sadly, nearly four decades later, his grave still remains unmarked.

Corrigan Filmography[edit]

(1958) It! The Terror from Beyond Space, (1957) Domino Kid, (1957) Zombies of Mora Tau, (1955) Apache Ambush, (1954) Man with the Steel Whip, (1953) Killer Ape, (1953) The Great Adventures of Captain Kidd, (1952) Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, (1950) Crash Corrigan's Ranch, (1949) The Adventures of Sir Galahad (1949) Zamba, (1948) Crime on Their Hands, (1948) Unknown Island, (1946) Renegade Girl, (1945) White Pongo, (1945) The White Gorilla, {1945) The Monster and the Ape, {1944) The Monster Maker, (1944) Nabonga, (1943) She's for Me, (1943) Bullets and Saddles, (1943) Black Market Rustlers, 1943 Captive Wild Woman 1943 Cowboy Commandos 1943 Land of Hunted Men 1942 Dr. Renault's Secret 1942 Arizona Stage Coach 1942 Texas Trouble Shooters 1942 Boot Hill Bandits 1942 The Strange Case of Doctor Rx 1942 Rock River Renegades 1942 Thunder River Feud 1941 Underground Rustlers 1941 Tonto Basin Outlaws 1941 Saddle Mountain Roundup 1941 Fugitive Valley 1941 Wrangler's Roost 1941 Tumbledown Ranch in Arizona 1941 The Kid's Last Ride 1941 The Trail of the Silver Spurs 1940 West of Pinto Basin 1940 Trailing Double Trouble 1940 The Ape 1940 The Range Busters 1939 New Frontier 1939 Wyoming Outlaw 1939 Three Texas Steers 1939 The Night Riders 1938 Red River Range 1938 Santa Fe Stampede 1938 Overland Stage Raiders 1938 Pals of the Saddle 1938 Heroes of the Hills 1938 Three Missing Links 1938 Riders of the Black Hills 1938 Outlaws of Sonora 1938 Call the Mesquiteers 1938 The Purple Vigilantes 1937 Wild Horse Rodeo 1937 The Trigger Trio 1937 Heart of the Rockies 1937 Range Defenders 1937 The Painted Stallion 1937 Come on, Cowboys 1937 Gunsmoke Ranch 1937 Hit the Saddle 1937 Round-Up Time in Texas 1937 Join the Marines 1937 Riders of the Whistling Skull 1936 Roarin' Lead 1936 Country Gentlemen 1936 Ghost-Town Gold 1936 The Three Mesquiteers 1936 The Vigilantes Are Coming 1936 Kelly the Second 1936 Undersea Kingdom 1936 Flash Gordon 1936 The Leathernecks Have Landed 1936 Darkest Africa 1935 The Singing Vagabond 1935 Mutiny on the Bounty 1935 Dante's Inferno 1935 She 1935 Night Life of the Gods 1935 The Phantom Empire 1935 Tomorrow's Youth 1934 Romance in the Rain 1934 Murder in the Private Car 1934 Tarzan and His Mate 1934 Tomorrow's Children 1932 Tarzan the Ape Man


  1. ^ "Corriganville Park". LAMountains.com. Retrieved June 23, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Ray Corrigan". IMDb. Retrieved June 23, 2013. 
  3. ^ "New Series of Westerns Planned for Television". Long Beach Press-Telegram. October 8, 1950. 
  4. ^ Gilpatrick, Kristen (2002). Famous Wisconsin Film Stars. Badger Books. p. 202. ISBN 9781878569868.
  5. ^ Corrigan, Ray. "An Introduction to Corriganville". The Corriganville Gazette 1 (3). 
  6. ^ Schneider, Jerry L. (2007). Corriganville Movie Ranch. Lulu.com. p. 21. ISBN 9781430312246.
  7. ^ Anderson, Chuck. "Ray 'Crash' Corrigan". B-Westerns. Archived from the original on October 1, 2009. 

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