Glenn Strange

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Glenn Strange
Strange in Western Mail (1942)
George Glenn Strange

(1899-08-16)August 16, 1899
DiedSeptember 20, 1973(1973-09-20) (aged 74)
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills, California, U.S.
Occupation(s)Actor, rancher
Years active1930–1973

George Glenn Strange (August 16, 1899 – September 20, 1973) was an American actor who appeared in hundreds of Western films. He played Sam Noonan, the bartender on CBS's Gunsmoke television series, and Frankenstein's monster in three Universal films during the 1940s.

Early life[edit]

Strange was born in Weed, New Mexico Territory,[1] of Irish and Cherokee ancestry.[2] He spoke Cherokee until he was about 13 years old, but in 1972 he stated "since that time I've had nobody to speak it with, so I’ve lost it."[3]

He grew up on a ranch, and left school after eighth grade, for his father thought he had enough education to work with cattle. When he was 12 he began playing the fiddle at local dances.[4] In 1928 he began performing music on an El Paso radio station.[2] Another early job was heavy-weight boxing, which caused some "cauliflower" damage to his right ear.[4]

Strange competed in the Hoot Gibson rodeo, but was injured when a horse fell on him. After the injury Gibson looked after him, and Strange began playing outlaws in Gibson's western films.[3]


Strange and Fred Kohler Jr. in Western Mail

For much of Strange's acting career most of his roles were playing "bad man parts."[5] He had roles in 300 films and 500 television episodes.[2]

In 1932 he had a minor role as part of the Wrecker's gang in a 12-part serial, The Hurricane Express, starring John Wayne. He played numerous small parts in Paramount's popular Hopalong Cassidy film series, usually cast as a member of an outlaw's gang and occasionally as a local sheriff. In 1943, he played a badman in the Hopalong Cassidy movie False Colors. He played the killer Naylor Rand in the 1948 film Red River.[5]

Beginning in 1949, he portrayed Butch Cavendish, the villain responsible for killing all but one of the Texas Rangers in the long-running television series The Lone Ranger. Strange appeared twice as Jim Wade on Bill Williams's syndicated Western series geared to juvenile audiences 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. 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. That same year, Strange appeared in an uncredited role as the sheriff in Silver Rapids in the Western movie The Fastest Gun Alive starring Glenn Ford. In 1958, he had a minor part in an episode of John Payne's The Restless Gun, and had an important role in the 1958 episode "Chain Gang" of the Western series 26 Men, true stories about the Arizona Rangers. That same year, he played rancher Pat Cafferty, who faces the threat of anthrax, in the episode "Queen of the Cimarron" of the syndicated Western series, Frontier Doctor. Strange appeared in six episodes of The Rifleman playing the same role in different variations: Cole, the stagecoach driver, in "Duel of Honor"; a stagecoach shotgun guard in "The Dead-eye Kid"; Joey, a stagecoach driver in "The Woman"; and an unnamed stagecoach driver in "The Blowout", "The Spiked Rifle", and "Miss Bertie".[6]

Strange had parts in the ABC Western The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, plus Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill, Jr., Wagon Train and other western television series.[7] He played an Indian Chief in "Rawhide" S2 E8 "Incident of the Haunted Hills" which aired 11/5/1959.


He first appeared on Gunsmoke in 1960 after James Arness asked him, "When are you going to do a Gunsmoke? I like to work with big guys."[2] During Gunsmoke's sixth season, Strange played a Long Branch customer in "Old Faces" and a cowboy in "Melinda Miles".[7]

Strange began playing Sam Noonan during the seventh season, and continued on in the role for 222 episodes. In 1972 Strange was diagnosed with lung cancer, but worked as long as he was able. Five of his episodes were broadcast after his death. His last appearance was on the November 26, 1973 episode "The Hanging of Newly O’Brien".[7]

Frankenstein's monster[edit]

Strange as Frankenstein's monster in House of Dracula (1945)
Strange (left) and Boris Karloff in the 1944 horror film, House of Frankenstein

In 1944, while Strange was being made up for an action film at Universal, make-up artist Jack Pierce noticed that Strange's facial features and 6'4"[5] height would be appropriate for the role of Frankenstein's monster. Strange was cast in the 1944 film House of Frankenstein in the role created by Boris Karloff in Frankenstein (1931), coached by Karloff personally after hours.

Previous to House of Frankenstein, Strange starred as a Petro, who is turned into a wolf-monster by George Zucco, in The Mad Monster (1943). Another role in a horror film was in 1944's The Monster Maker. He also appeared as "The Giant" in the mystery film The Black Raven (1943).

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, 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. as the Wolf Man and Bela Lugosi in his second screen appearance as Count Dracula. Strange also appeared in character with Lou Costello in a haunted house skit on The Colgate Comedy Hour and made 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 Frankenstein's 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, Glenn Strange's iconic image often was used for the monster on toys, games, and paraphernalia, most often from his appearance in the Abbott and Costello film. In 1969, The New York Times mistakenly published Boris Karloff's obituary with Glenn Strange's picture as the Frankenstein monster.[8]


On September 20, 1973, at age 74, Strange died of lung cancer in Los Angeles, California.[9] Singer Eddie Dean, with whom Strange had collaborated on various songs and opening themes for films, sang at Strange's funeral service as a final tribute. Strange is interred at Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery.[citation needed]

Selected filmography[edit]


Year Title Role Notes
1959 Rawhide Indian Chief S2:E8, "Incident of the Haunted Hills"
1961–1973 Gunsmoke Sam Noonan 222 Episodes


  1. ^ Raw, Laurence (2012). "Glenn Strange", Character Actors in Horror and Science Fiction Films, 1930–1960 (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2012), p. 175. Retrieved October 29, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d Film bad guy Glenn Strange dies, Arizona Republic, September 22, 1973, page 9
  3. ^ a b Witbeck, Charles, The Man Behind the Bar, Richmond Times-Dispatch, August 20, 1972, page 102
  4. ^ a b Witbeck Charles, It Will Be Strange When Glenn Is No Longer on 'Gunsmoke', The Bridgeport Post, October 9, 1973, page 24
  5. ^ a b c Bob Foight, 'Monster’ Stops Here to Visit Relatives, The Amarillo Globe-Times, September 24, 1948, page 20
  6. ^ "Secrets Of TV's The Rifleman: More Than Just Guns And Good Times: Stagecoach Driver (Glenn Strange)", TrendChaser. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  7. ^ a b c David R. Greenland, The Gunsmoke Chronicles (ebook, no page numbers), Bear Manor Media, 2013
  8. ^ Mank, Gregory William (2009). Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff: The Expanded Story of a Haunting Collaboration (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2009), p. 610. ISBN 0-7864-3480-5.
  9. ^ "Glenn Strange, Actor, Dies; Was 'Gunsmoke' Bartender", digital archives of The New York Times, September 22, 1973. Retrieved February 23, 2019.

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