|Allan 'Rocky' Lane|
Harry Leonard Albershart
1909 - 1973
(Courtesy of Betty Richards (maiden name: Betty Hartzell))
|Special thanks to guest commentator Paul Dellinger for authoring the following narrative and background info on Allan Lane.|
|Click HERE for the filmography on Allan Lane which includes the directors, leading ladies and sidekicks.|
For a listing of the 38 Allan 'Rocky' Lane oaters, along with brief summaries of the plots, click HERE.
There's confusion about his attendance and football playing at Notre Dame, his pro or semi-pro football career, his marriages, and more. Click HERE for some supplemental information on Allan Lane.
Harry Albershart, or Allan Lane, or 'Rocky' Lane, had four careers at Republic Pictures alone. That doesn't even count all the movies in which he worked before Republic, or his appearances in movies and TV shows (including his unbilled but now well-known voicing of MR. ED, TV's talking horse).
Lane seems to be the rare exception to the rule that most folks who worked in B-westerns liked each other, or at least got along. In Allan 'Rocky' Lane, Republic's Action Ace, by Chuck Thornton and David Rothel (1990, Empire Publishing), there are a good six pages of negative comments about Lane by people who worked with him such as Peggy Stewart, Terry Frost, William Witney, Yakima Canutt and others. Their comments, generally, were that he was egotistical, lacked a sense of humor, was too much of a perfectionist, and always wanted to run the show.
This writer once asked Linda Stirling about her recollections. She recalled Lane as tending to hog the camera at times, and push her out of the picture until a director would call him on it. She also recalled a scene where Lane's character had to ride a horse down a difficult descent. Lane insisted on doing it himself, even though the shot was so far away that nobody could tell if it was a stunt double. He fell off the horse the first time, the second time, and kept doing it until he finally managed to stay on for the duration.
In a 1999 book on Peggy Stewart's career, Robert Blake -- the actor who, as a boy billed as Bobby Blake, played Little Beaver to the Red Ryder character as portrayed by 'Wild Bill' Elliott and Allan Lane -- wrote a introduction in which he characterized Elliott as a real gentleman but castigated Lane in no uncertain terms as selfish and egotistical, among other things. He wrote that easy-going Peggy was the only person on the set who could get him to laugh at himself at all. (Peggy Stewart, Princess of the Prairie by Bob Carman and Dan Scapperotti).
Harry Lauter recalled Lane coming up to him on the set of one of the Rocky Lane pictures and ordering him to remove his pants. "What?" Lauter asked. "I'm the only one who wears jeans on this set", Lane said. When they met in later years, Lane told Lauter about his being the voice of MR. ED. When Lauter started to comment with enthusiasm, Lane shushed him. He didn't want people to know about it at that time, Lauter said. Alan Young, the human star of MR. ED, said Lane changed his mind after the show became a hit and asked to be listed in the cast, after all. By then, the credits had established MR. ED as being played 'by himself' and Lane was offered a raise in lieu of billing and he took it.
And yet, Lane has his defenders, too. Actor Walter Reed agreed that he was a perfectionist and liked working with experienced people, but said he would unwind after the day's work was done, and then would socialize and was nice to everybody. Eddy Waller, who co-starred in most of the 'Rocky' Lane movies, once told of Lane making unpublicized visits to such places as children's hospitals. When it was suggested that he could capitalize on doing that, he said only that was not why he was doing it.
Young himself said that, at the start of the MR. ED series, Lane got incensed not on his own behalf but on Young's when one of the show's executives talked about how the show was going to make Young a star. The exec was obviously unaware of Young's previous work, and Lane told Young privately that he should have called the exec on it. Young said there was some pressure during the show to replace Lane, because he did make himself unpopular with some of the regulars, but his voice by then was so identified as MR. ED that they found it impossible. Young didn't know if Lane was ever aware of all this. He said he got along well with Lane because, whenever Lane started to become cantankerous, Young would ask him about this little racehorse he'd purchased during the run of the show. The little mare did well by Lane, winning many of her races, and Lane would always mellow out when talking about her. At the start of the series, Young had to do some riding scenes and it became obvious to Lane that Young didn't know what he was doing. Young said Lane took him aside privately and helped him improve his riding skills.
Others have said that Lane looked up many of the people with whom he'd once worked and apologized to them for the way he behaved during his movie-making years. The closest any of us may be able to get to Lane today is simply to acknowledge that people are complicated, all of them with good and bad sides, and Lane was probably no different.
In any case, many B-western fans agree that he turned out as fine a body a work as any actors of his time in the saddle.
Lane was born September 22, 1909, as Harry Leonard Albershart, in Mishawaka, Indiana. His family later moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Studio publicity claimed that he learned to ride as a youngster spending summers on an uncle's ranch near Clovis, New Mexico. After high school, he is supposed to have enrolled at the University of Notre Dame (although this is unverified), started a photography company, and toured New York with a Cincinnati acting company (which is apparently about the time he changed his name). He worked in nineteen pictures, starting with NOT QUITE DECENT (1929) and ending with THE CRASH (1932), and then dropped out of movies for about four years.
His next work came in STOWAWAY in 1936, the first of six movies at 20th Century Fox including a good role in CHARLIE CHAN AT THE OLYMPICS (1937) with Pauline Moore, future co-star with Sammy Baugh in Republic's KING OF THE TEXAS RANGERS serial. He worked in a string of thirteen RKO pictures during 1938 and 1939, including some leads in little pictures like CRIME RING and CONSPIRACY. His first western appearance came in 1938, in RKO's THE LAW WEST OF TOMBSTONE starring Harry Carey as a loveable rogue who befriends and reforms a young outlaw known as the Tonto Kid. The Kid is played by Tim Holt, in his first western. Lane is one of his gang, and engaged to Carey's daughter until he tries to shoot the Kid in the back and the Kid shoots first.
Lane's first work for Republic came in 1937, in a sports picture titled THE DUKE COMES BACK. He returned there in 1940 for a role in GRAND OLE OPRY with country music singer Roy Acuff and, except for one United Artists picture (ALL-AMERICAN CO-ED, 1940) and one at Fox (THE DANCING MASTERS, 1943), stayed there throughout his leading man career. Even after his western work started, he made several departures: CALL OF THE SOUTH SEAS (1944), GAY BLADES (1946), A GUY COULD CHANGE (1946), and NIGHT TRAIN TO MEMPHIS (1946) in which he co-starred again with Acuff as two men in love with the same girl (Adele Mara) and being chased around by the same grubby heavy (Roy Barcroft, whiskered and disreputable and obviously enjoying it thoroughly).
His first career at Republic came in serials, starting with KING OF THE ROYAL MOUNTED (1940), based on the popular King Features comic strip featuring a Mountie named Sgt. King. Robert Kellard co-starred as a fellow Mountie who ends up sacrificing his life to get rid of the enemy agents working in Canada. It was condensed into a feature a few years later (THE YUKON PATROL) to coincide with the release of KING OF THE MOUNTIES (1942), in which Lane reprises his role as Sgt. Dave King, this time fighting enemy agents with a disk-like flying machine that takes them in and out of their volcano hideaway. His other two serials were DAREDEVILS OF THE WEST (1943) with 'serial queen' Kay Aldridge, and THE TIGER WOMAN (1944) with future serial queen Linda Stirling (also condensed into a movie feature, JUNGLE GOLD) in her first big role. Even by the time of DAREDEVILS, Republic was billing Lane and Aldridge as the king and queen of serials.
(From Old Corral image collection)
From left to right are sidekick Eddie Acuff, heroine Kay Aldridge, hero Allan Lane and Chief Thunder Cloud (Victor Daniels) in full Indian wardrobe in Republic's 1943 DAREDEVILS OF THE WEST cliffhanger.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above - the title lobby card from Chapter 1 of DAREDEVILS OF THE WEST (Republic, 1943).
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above from L-to-R are serial queen Kay Aldridge, Allan Lane and William Haade in the cliffhanger DAREDEVILS OF THE WEST (Republic, 1943). A good group of villains in this one: Haade and George J. Lewis work for Ted Adams and Robert Frazer.
(Courtesy of Dave Smith)
Above are Allan Lane and pretty Jean Rogers in a crop from a lobby card from GAY BLADES (Republic, 1946).
Few people know it, but Lane appeared in the last chapter of the last western serial made by Republic, MAN WITH THE STEEL WHIP (1954, a year after Lane's 'Rocky Lane' series ended). The climax of that chapter has a stagecoach hijacked by renegade Indians, with the unconscious hero (Richard Simmons of later fame as TV's SERGEANT PRESTON) inside, and being pursued by a troop of cavalry. The chase footage is lifted from the last chapter of DAREDEVILS OF THE WEST, and there is Lane in the lead, as the straight-shooting lieutenant who knocks several of the fleeing renegades off their horses during the rescue.
Republic had a western series going with Don Barry, who had been the studio's first Red Ryder in a 1940 serial based on that comic-strip character, but was moving Barry up to other roles. Since Lane had established himself as an action hero in his four serials, Republic dropped him into the unfilmed Barry scripts (along with Barry's New York-sounding sidekick, Wally Vernon, in the first two, and child actress Twinkle Watts in all of them).
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above, Lane is sandwiched between Twinkle Watts on the left and Linda Stirling on the right, circa 1944.
Thus began Lane's second Republic career, in a western series of six pictures during 1944-45 in which, like Barry, he would have a different character name each time. He rode a horse called Feather, which appeared to be brown in color with a white blaze and black mane and tail, and wore a black shirt with white piping and arrow pockets with light trousers in the first one. That gave way to a gray shirt with two large, square button-down pockets and a black collar, white hat, dark trousers in the others. He carried a single stag-handled pistol. Republic did well by him with his leading ladies - Peggy Stewart in the first two, Linda Stirling in the second two, and Helen Talbot in the last two.
SILVER CITY KID pits Lane against a gang led by veteran badman Harry Woods in a battle over mining properties, and an attempt by the baddies to frame Peggy Stewart for a murder. Glenn Strange is the action heavy. In STAGECOACH TO MONTEREY, Lane and Vernon are treasury agents on the trail of counterfeiters, one of whom is Roy Barcroft in the first of the many Lane-Barcroft encounters to follow. Tom London plays a printer (and Peggy Stewart's father) forced into doing the dirty work until Lane gets him to join the side of virtue.
SHERIFF OF SUNDOWN teams Lane with Max Terhune and Duncan Renaldo battling a crooked banker and land baron (Barcroft). Tom London is a sheriff this time, and father of Linda Stirling, and eventually killed in the line of duty. Despite direction by Lesley Selander, the fight scenes appeared somewhat stiff for Republic. The movie did mark the re-teaming of the three TIGER WOMAN serial stars, Lane, Stirling and Renaldo. Stirling again is the leading lady and Barcroft the baddie in THE TOPEKA TERROR, in which Lane is a government investigator. This movie is notable for the voluble Earle Hodgins coming as close as he ever will to playing a comic sidekick.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above - Allan Lane (on an unidentifed horse) and heroine Linda Stirling in a scene from TOPEKA TERROR (Republic, 1945).
The last pair was CORPUS CHRISTI BANDITS and TRAIL OF KIT CARSON, with Helen Talbot and, of course, Barcroft in both. The first was unusual in that it started in then-contemporary 1945, with Lane as a World War II flyer returning home. Francis McDonald, as his father, tells Lane and his sister the story of their grandfather, Corpus Christi Jim, who returned from the Civil War to find his parents dead and himself framed for a murder. Lane plays both the flyer and his own grandfather, growing whiskers for the early part of the flashback role. After briefly riding the outlaw trail, Jim and his partners change their names and try going straight. They eventually succeed and Jim is cleared of the original murder charge.
The final Allan Lane outing has our hero trying to find the killers of his partner (Robert Wilke) even though everyone else seems convinced the shooting was an accident, including the doctor (Barcroft) and local gunsmith (Kenne Duncan). Guess who the real killers turn out to be? Lane also has several run-ins with one of Barcroft's gunsels, a man called 'Red' (Bud Geary). In his next series at Republic, Lane would be called Red, too.
Lane appeared in one other movie during this phase of his career, along with 'Wild Bill' Elliott, Sunset Carson, Bob Livingston, Don Barry and the star, Roy Rogers, in BELLS OF ROSARITA (1945). The plot has Roy bringing in his fellow actors from Republic to draw crowds to save Dale Evans' and Gabby Hayes' circus (the picture is also memorable for a Roy Barcroft line to his boss, Grant Withers, when Gabby has accidentally released the brake on their car and they find it gone: "There must be some crooks around here!"). In the finale, Lane and Livingston are chasing a pair of Withers' thugs and Lane is firing away at them until Livingston observes dryly, "You're gonna do a lot of damage with those blanks". Without a word of dialog, Lane conveys with facial expression and body language that (1) he really had forgotten he was firing blanks, but (2) the crooks don't know that they're blanks. He keeps firing until the crooks run out of bullets and surrender.
(From Old Corral image collection)
Above, from L-to-R standing in the top row are Wild Bill Elliott, Allan Lane and Sunset Carson. From L-to-R kneeling are Bob Livingston (laughing), Roy Rogers, Don 'Red' Barry and Dale Evans. Lobby card from the Roy Rogers 'All-Star' western, BELLS OF ROSARITA (Republic, 1945).