George J. Lewis

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George J. Lewis
Zorro's Black Whip (1944 serial) still 1.jpg
Linda Stirling and George J. Lewis in Zorro's Black Whip (1944)
Born(1903-12-10)December 10, 1903
DiedDecember 8, 1995(1995-12-08) (aged 91)
Years active1923–1969
Spouse(s)Mary Louise Lohman (March 1928 – 1995)

George J. Lewis (December 10, 1903 – December 8, 1995) was a Mexican-born actor who appeared in many films and eventually TV series from the 1920s through the 1960s, usually specializing in westerns. He is probably best known for playing Don Alejandro de la Vega, who was Don Diego de la Vega's father in the 1950s Disney television series Zorro. Lewis co-starred in Zorro's Black Whip (in which a Zorro-like character was a woman played by Linda Stirling) and had a minor role in Ghost of Zorro before starring as Don Alejandro in the Disney series.

Career[edit]

Lewis broke into films in the 1920s, and his handsome presence led to leading roles in a Universal Pictures short-subject series, The Collegians. The arrival of sound movies came as a blessing for Lewis, who was bilingual. He spoke English without any trace of accent, and could play character or dialect roles of practically any ethnicity. His language skills earned him leading roles in Spanish-dialogue features, produced by American studios for international release. He also played supporting roles in Educational Pictures shorts.

Most of Lewis' screen work was in low-budget films, although he can be seen in a few major productions (in Casablanca he's an Arab peddler with a monkey). Some of his roles were sympathetic; he played the male leads in the 1944 serial Zorro's Black Whip and in the Vera Vague comedy shorts of the 1940s. Usually, George J. Lewis played villains in westerns and serials, chiefly at Republic Pictures. Cast as a sinister henchman, Lewis would carry out the villain's diabolical orders, setting death traps and ambushes week after week. The high point of Lewis's serial career was probably the 1945 Republic cliffhanger Federal Operator 99, in which he was the full-fledged villain of the piece, playing "Moonlight Sonata" on a piano while plotting crimes. Holding the heroine captive, the nonchalant Lewis asks the hero: "What will it be? Cash for me... or incineration for Miss Kingston?" He appeared in Three Stooges films as Vernon Dent's knife-wielding conspirator in the Stooge short Malice in the Palace, and its remake, Rumpus in the Harem.[1] He was also featured with the Stooges (as George Lewis) in Hollywood's final two-reel comedy release, Sappy Bull Fighters.

Many low-budget filmmakers scored successes in early television, and many familiar faces turned up in half-hour action fare.

Lewis appeared in the first two episodes of The Lone Ranger which were "Enter the Lone Ranger" and "The Lone Ranger Fights On". He was a villain who helped betray a group of Texas Rangers and led them all into a deadly ambush, with the series star of course being the lone survivor. He played a Native American in an Adventures of Superman episode called "Test of a Warrior."

Lewis was cast as General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo in the 1956 episode, "The Bear Flag" of the syndicated anthology series, Death Valley Days, hosted by Stanley Andrews. The episode explains the tensions in 1846 between established Hispanic families in California and the newly-arrived white settlers from the United States. General Vallejo seeks accommodation with the forces headed by Ezekiel "Stuttering Zeke" Merritt (Don C. Harvey) in establishing the short-term Bear Flag Republic.[2]

Lewis continued to work in dozens of television episodes including Daniel Boone & Cheyenne until he retired in 1969.

Death[edit]

Lewis died of a stroke in 1995, two days before his 92nd birthday.[1]

Selected filmography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Shifres, Ed. The Three Stooges Journal #95 (2000) p. 8
  2. ^ "The Bear Flag on Death Valley Days". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved September 24, 2018.

External links[edit]