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Rod Cameron

Real name:
Nathan Roderick Cox

1910 - 1983



Special thanks to guest commentator Paul Dellinger for authoring the following narrative and background info on Rod Cameron.


Rod Cameron had a movie career stretching from the 1930s to the 1970s, including mysteries, action dramas, war pictures, serials and even horror and sci-fi. But the lanky Canadian was best known for his westerns --- those, and for having divorced his young beautiful wife and marrying her mother.

He started out by doubling stars in stunts, and had minor roles in some early Paramounts like HERITAGE OF THE DESERT (1939) with Donald Woods and Russell Hayden, and RANGERS OF FORTUNE (1940) with Fred MacMurray among dozens of pictures in which he worked. They ranged from THE MONSTER AND THE GIRL and WANTED WINGS to HENRY ALDRIDGE FOR PRESIDENT and NO TIME FOR LOVE. He played Jesse James in THE REMARKABLE ANDREW (1942), a fantasy in which Brian Donlevy plays the ghost of Andrew Jackson who returns to help crusading newspaperman William Holden. Other western work included THE KANSAN (United Artists) with Richard Dix and DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS (Universal) with Johnny Mack Brown and Tex Ritter, both 1943.

That was the year Cameron would rise to starring status in a pair of fifteen chapter serials, SECRET SERVICE IN DARKEST AFRICA (directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet) and G-MEN VS THE BLACK DRAGON (directed by William 'Bill' Witney). In both Republic chapterplays, Cameron led a trio of counterspies against Axis powers in World War II as 'Rex Bennett'. Both helped established Cameron as an action star, as did his own stunting ability.  The careers of director Witney and Cameron would intersect a few years later.



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above, Cameron as 'Rex Bennett' in the excellent cliffhanger, SECRET SERVICE IN DARKEST AFRICA (Republic, 1943) (Alternate title: MANHUNT IN THE AFRICAN JUNGLES).


His next step was to helm a western series at Universal, succeeding Johnny Mack Brown and inheriting Fuzzy Knight for comedy relief. Eddie Dew also appeared in some of them, making a threesome, and Jennifer Holt, the real life sister of Tim Holt, was a frequent leading lady.

The series included TRIGGER TRAIL, RIDERS OF THE SANTA FE, THE OLD TEXAS TRAIL, BOSS OF BOOMTOWN in 1944 and BEYOND THE PECOS and RENEGADES OF THE RIO GRANDE in 1945. Then Universal put him into several color pictures with Yvonne de Carlo with western trappings and higher budgets: SALOME, WHERE SHE DANCED, FRONTIER GAL (both 1945) and RIVER LADY (1948). He also co-starred in a Maria Montez vehicle, PIRATES OF MONTEREY (1947), along with Gilbert Roland.



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above - Cameron and Eddie Dew.



(Courtesy of Les Adams)


Above, Fuzzy Knight and Cameron in BOSS OF BOOMTOWN (Universal, 1944).

(From Old Corral image collection)

Above is Cameron with Jennifer Holt, the sister of Tim Holt.


(From Old Corral image collection)



(From Old Corral image collection)



(From Old Corral image collection)
After that, Cameron was all over the western map. At 20th Century Fox, despite his neat black outfit and set of pearl-handled guns, he was the bad guy in BELLE STARR'S DAUGHTER (1947) with George Montgomery as the lawman-hero and Ruth Roman in the title role. He would have a similar role at 20th three years later, again with Montgomery but with Marie Windsor this time in the title role of DAKOTA LIL.

In 1948, he played an undercover lawman in Republic's THE PLUNDERERS with Forrest Tucker as the likeable outlaw who ends up fighting renegade Indians on Cameron's side. Ilona Massey and Adrian Booth played their respective female interests. He had an even more rugged role over at Allied Artists in PANHANDLE, as a former gunfighter looking for his brother's killer. Reed Hadley was the villain of this moody piece, and Blake Edwards not only co-authored the screenplay but played Hadley's young gunsel. It was back to Republic in 1949 for another undercover job in BRIMSTONE, where the mission was to bring to justice a crime family headed by Walter Brennan. Then he rode over to Monogram to play a Texas oil driller in STRIKE IT RICH.

Also in 1949, Cameron combined with Johnny Mack Brown as a rancher in SHORT GRASS and, in 1950, they teamed up again in STAMPEDE. In both pictures, Brown played a lawman. In 1951, Cameron teamed up with Wayne Morris over at Columbia for STAGE TO TUCSON in which they are rivals for the same young lady (and Morris wins) while fighting stagecoach robbers. At Allied Artists, Cameron tracked down stolen Gatling guns in CAVALRY SCOUT and battled Indians and renegade whites at Republic in OH, SUSANNA! His other outing that year was a non-western, THE SEA HORNET.

Cameron did a couple westerns at Monogram in 1952, FORT OSAGE and WAGONS WEST (which used some footage from FORT OSAGE). In WOMAN OF THE NORTH COUNTRY at Republic, he was involved in mining rivalry. In his spare time, he discovered prehistoric animals in THE JUNGLE. Next year it was back to Republic for SAN ANTONE, involving a cattle drive, and the wild and rugged RIDE THE MAN DOWN with Ella Raines and a hatful of action. There was also a war story in which Cameron fixes an abandoned tank, THE STEEL LADY, and 1953 was also the start of his first TV series, CITY DETECTIVE. He played Detective Lt. Bart Grant in syndicated shows into 1955. He did most of his movie work at Republic during those TV years, starting with SOUTHWEST PASSAGE (1954), about the Beale camel expedition in the west. In SANTA FE PASSAGE (1955), with William Witney directing, he reverts to villainy but ends up sacrificing himself so hero and heroine John Payne and Faith Domergue can escape marauding Indians. Payne plays an Indian-hating scout who falls for Domergue, and the problems start when he learns she is half-Indian. Slim Pickens is his fellow scout.

HELL'S OUTPOST (1954) was kind of a modern western, with Cameron lying his way into a modern-day mining family but finally owning up and siding against villain John Russell. The rest were non-westerns: PASSPORT TO TREASON, HEADLINE HUNTERS (a remake of 1940s BEHIND THE NEWS with Lloyd Nolan), THE FIGHTING CHANCE and DOUBLE JEOPARDY, all 1955. Ben Cooper co-starred as Cameron's younger protegee in the Witney-directed newspaper and fight pictures.

Two more Republics emerged in 1957, YAQUI DRUMS and SPOILERS OF THE FOREST (with Vera Ralston). The next year was a non-western year, with Cameron starring in THE MAN WHO DIED TWICE, a Republic mystery, and THE ELECTRONIC MONSTER (a movie about using dream therapy in brainwashing by English science fiction writer Charles Eric Maine; it was not released in the U.S. until 1960). Cameron also launched his second syndicated TV series, STATE TROOPER, in which he played Nevada Trooper Rod Blake from 1957 to 1959 when he would start yet another TV series, CORONADO 9, as detective Dan Adams.

In THE GUN HAWK (1963), Cameron had dropped to an older supporting role of a lawman trying to keep the title character, played by Rory Calhoun, from going down a path of no return. Cameron's path thereafter took him to Europe for a series of westerns, which saw him play the role of Pat Garrett several times as in BULLETS DON'T ARGUE (1964), featuring an early Ennio Morricone musical score. Others included BULLET AND THE FLESH (1964).

Then came a couple of Embassy movies produced by Alex Gordon which assembled many faces familiar to fans of past westerns. In REQUIEM FOR A GUNFIGHTER (1965), Cameron impersonates a murdered judge (played by Tim McCoy) to bring Stephen McNally to justice. He is assisted by a bartender played by Johnny Mack Brown. Johnny's old saddle pal, Raymond Hatton, is also in the cast. The same year saw THE BOUNTY KILLER with Dan Duryea in the title role and Cameron, Buster Crabbe, Johnny Mack Brown, Bob Steele, Richard Arlen and even Broncho Billy Anderson rounding out the cast. In 1966, Cameron appeared in RIDE THE WIND, which was actually a couple episodes of TV's BONANZA cobbled together, with William Witney directing. It was overseas again to play Old Firehand in THUNDER AT THE BORDER in 1966 in West Germany. Columbia released it here.

Cameron was winding down his career now, as the title of THE LAST MOVIE (1971) hinted. His role again was Pat Garrett. The movie was a Dennis Hopper piece about a stuntman making one last picture in Peru. Cameron had supporting roles in EVEL KNIEVEL (1971), THE LONG CHASE (1972), two ALIAS SMITH AND JONES television shows, THE PSYCHIC KILLER (1975), JESSI'S GIRLS (in which he plays a prospector who saves a young woman (Sondra Currie) left for dead and teaches her things she must know to get revenge on her attackers). His last movie credit was LOVE AND THE MIDNIGHT AUTO SUPPLY (1978), in which, appropriately, he plays a sheriff.

Fawcett published 20 issues of Rod Cameron Western, a comic book featuring a fictionalized version of himself. It was also published in England. Cameron reflected at a film convention how the company used to send him several issues of his comic each month, and he would give them away to the neighborhood kids. He had just seen some of those issues in the dealers' room going for hundreds of dollars.

Cameron was born December 7, 1910, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Circa 1979, he retired to the Gainesville, Georgia area. He suffered a stroke, was ill for an extended period, and passed away at the Lanier Park Hospital, Gainesville, Georgia on December 21, 1983.

The Motion Picture Herald and BoxOffice polls were conducted from about the mid 1930s through the mid 1950s.  With a few exceptions, the annual results would list the 'Top Ten' (or 'Top Five') cowboy film stars.  In most cases, the winners were what you would expect --- Autry, Rogers, Holt, Starrett, Hoppy, etc.  Cameron was ranked during the end of the B western era.


Popularity Rankings of Rod Cameron
Year Motion Picture Herald
Poll Ranking
BoxOffice
Poll Ranking
1945 10th .
1953 . 4th
1954 . 4th
1955 No poll conducted 3rd


(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are Rod Cameron, Fuzzy Knight, Dan White, Ray Whitley and Eddie Dew in BEYOND THE PECOS (1945).



(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are Rod Cameron, Dan White, Ray Whitley, Eddie Dew, and on the far right is Roy Bucko ... in another scene from BEYOND THE PECOS.


LINKS

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has information on Rod Cameron: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0131713/

The Google Newspaper archive has several obituaries on Rod Cameron:
http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1345&dat=19831222&id=-FZOAAAAIBAJ&sjid=fPkDAAAAIBAJ&pg=6125,1296195
http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1243&dat=19831222&id=ToVTAAAAIBAJ&sjid=14YDAAAAIBAJ&pg=4468,5298188

Cameron has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame:: http://projects.latimes.com/hollywood/star-walk/rod-cameron/

The Northern Stars website is dedicated to Canadian born film personalities and performers, and the page on Rod Cameron is at: http://www.northernstars.ca/actorsabc/cameron_rod.html



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