|Ray 'Crash' Corrigan|
Last name sometimes reported as:
(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
Raymond Benitz was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on February 14, 1902. In the 1910 and 1920 census, the Benitz family were in Denver, Colorado.
His early Hollywood career is sketchy. Appears he made his way to Tinseltown in the early 1930s, working as a physical fitness instructor to some of the celebrities. A good looking guy with lots of muscles, he wound up at MGM as a muscular stand-in and double for Johnny Weissmuller of Tarzan fame. And he did walk-ons and bit-parts in films such as MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY. The name change to Ray Corrigan occurred during his first year at Republic Pictures.
|Right - Ray Corrigan, bare-chested and with curled hair, as 'Apollo' in a tender scene from the comedic fantasy NIGHT LIFE OF THE GODS (Universal, 1935).|
Tidbit: the author of NIGHTLIFE was Thorne Smith, who penned the 'Topper' novel which also became a movie series.
(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
Above is a screen capture from NIGHTLIFE which shows Ray portraying Apollo and billed as Raymond Benard. YouTube has a copy of that film (in poor quality).
In the mid 1930s, the muscular Corrigan landed roles in several films produced by the new Republic Pictures, including a 1935 Gene Autry. And there were a couple of cliffhangers - a supporting role in THE VIGILANTES ARE COMING (Republic, 1936) and the lead role in UNDERSEA KINGDOM (Republic, 1936).
The January 25, 1936 issue of Motion Picture Daily carried a blurb on Corrigan and Republic Pictures: "Hollywood, Jan. 24 - Republic has signed Ray 'Crash' Corrigan to a five-year contract. He will be starred in 'The Undersea Kingdom' as his first assignment."
There was more news in the June 4, 1936 issue Motion Picture Daily: "Hollywood, June 3. - Republic has given a new contract to Ray 'Crash' Corrigan ..." That new deal was a Term Player Contract(s) which ran from May 25, 1936 through May 24, 1938.
From 1936-1938, Corrigan appeared in the first 24 Mesquiteers films (Republic made a total of 51 Mesquiteers films from 1936-1943). If you want more details, go to the Three Mesquiteers section on the Old Corral.
In an interview years later, Ray said that Republic wanted to continue his contract but without a pay raise, and that was unacceptable to him. John Wayne had replaced Bob Livingston in eight Mesquiteer films for 1938-1939. But with the release of STAGECOACH (1939), Wayne was promoted to better features. Corrigan and Livingston didn't get along. And when Corrigan heard that Livingston was returning to the Mesquiteers series, that was the last straw! In the Summer of 1938, Ray Corrigan said goodbye to Republic Pictures.
Max Terhune had similar problems - his contract(s) ran from September 25, 1936 to March 24, 1939. Apparently, Republic opted not to renew Terhune's contract, or not to give him a raise in pay. Instead, they replaced him in the Mesquiteers' series with western film veteran Raymond Hatton.
There are a variety of stories about how Corrigan got the nickname of 'Crash': Corrigan said that it was a name to compete with 'Flash Gordon'; some said it was because Corrigan was a big bruiser; others said it was because Corrigan wasn't a great rider, and had a hard time staying on a hoss. Regardless, the 'Crash' nickname stuck for the remainder of his life. And 'Crash' was prominently used in early Republic publicity - note the credits on the UNDERSEA KINGDOM poster. My guess is that it was created by the Republic publicity department.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above from left to right are Chief Thunder Cloud (Victor Daniels), Ray Corrigan, Gene Autry and Alan Sears in a lobby card from Autry's THE SINGING VAGABOND (Republic, 1935). This was an unbilled role for Corrigan.
|The initial film featuring the Mesquiteers was titled THE THREE MESQUITEERS and released in September, 1936 by Republic Pictures.|
(From Old Corral image collection)
The first of the Republic Pictures' Three Mesquiteers' teams - above from left to right are Syd (Sid) Saylor, Ray 'Crash' Corrigan and Bob Livingston in the initial film of the series, THE THREE MESQUITEERS (Republic, 1936). Max Terhune replaced Saylor in the second film of the series.