|After THE LAW OF THE WILD cliffhanger, there were only three more starring roles for Bob Custer, and all three were 1936-1937 releases for Bernard B. Ray and Harry S. Webb at Reliable Pictures.|
Ray and Webb had formed Reliable Pictures Corporation circa 1933 and the company lasted until 1937, a brief lifespan of about four years. While Reliable did make a few non-westerns, their film product is generally recalled as oaters with the likes of Jack Perrin, Tom Tyler and Custer. They also did the Bud 'n' Ben western shorts with short and rotund Benny Corbett as the comedic second lead and starring Perrin or Wally Wales or Fred Humes or Dennis Moore. Rin-Tin-Tin Jr. was also on the Reliable payroll.
Tom Tyler had been Reliable's reliable range hero for several years, but he signed on with Sam Katzman's Victory Pictures in 1936. Ray and Webb needed a quick replacement and hired Custer. He had the lead in a trio for Reliable: VENGEANCE OF RANNAH (with Rin-Tin-Tin, Jr.) followed by AMBUSH VALLEY and SANTA FE RIDES.
B. B. Ray - using his aliases of "Raymond Samuels" and "Franklin Shamray" - directed the threesome. More Custer adventures were in the works, but never came to fruition due to Reliable's financial difficulties. On the right is the announcement of a six film series which was included in one of the pressbooks given to prospective exhibitors. As mentioned, AMBUSH VALLEY and SANTA FE RIDES were completed, but the remaining four titles were not.
Note the SANTE FE RIDES spelling boo boo in the pressbook - should be SANTA FE RIDES.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Bob Custer's finale as a western movie hero was SANTA FE RIDES (Reliable, 1937) which was released in early 1937 but filmed in late 1936. In this, Reliable tried to make a singin' cowboy out of Custer ... who lip-synchs tunes ... badly. Supporting musicians and singers included Lloyd Perryman, Rudy Sooter, Curley Hoag and Oscar Gahan. In the above lobby card, Custer is landing a right to the jaw of Charles 'Slim' Whitaker while prolific henchman Herman Hack looks on from the right. SANTA FE RIDES was also Custer's last movie appearance - he retired after completing this western and did not do any support/bit roles in later films.
The Hollywood career of Bob Custer amounts to about 55 silent and sound films over the period from 1924 -1937, and almost all were westerns. In most, he was billed as "Bob Custer", but there were a few mid 1920s non-westerns where he went by his real name of Raymond Glenn.
On Les Adams' Prolific Performers page on the Old Corral, Custer's total sound era work is small, only about twenty films. That isn't much - and the wages he received working for Poverty Row production companies Big 4, Reliable and Mascot were certainly meager. Therefore, it appears there's a chunk of real life missing from Custer's background - i.e., while he was doing occasional 1930s filmwork, he had to be employed elsewhere in order to generate income to support his family ... especially after his divorce from Anne Cudahy. There is commentary that Custer did have his own construction company, and that may have been his primary income source in the 1930s and later.
Film reviews, as well as writers on the B western, include criticisms about Custer being "wooden", "laconic", and having a monotone delivery. Can't single Custer out for this as there were other silver screen cowpokes who weren't great at dialog - like Reb Russell and Sunset Carson. Clearly, Custer didn't have the horsemanship of a Ken Maynard nor the screen magnetism of a Buck Jones. But he also wasn't the only sagebrush hero to fade during the turbulent Depression and the conversion from silents to talkies. Similarly impacted were Buddy Roosevelt, Bill Cody, Wally Wales and Buffalo Bill Jr. And even big names lost their star power during the 1930s - an example is Hoot Gibson who went from $14,000.00/week at Universal in the late 1920s to a few thousand per film in his few sound era starring roles.
In summary, Custer did have some dialog delivery issues. He also had the misfortune to work for Big 4 and Reliable just as both were going belly-up. And by the mid 1930s, traditional sagebrush heroes like Custer were out. And Gene Autry and singin' cowboys were the new rage.
Today, only a few remember Bob Custer. Thankfully, some of his silents and most of his talkies are available on videotape and DVD for us to view and critique.
If you grew up with television circa 1960, you might remember a syndicated something called "Butch and Billy's Bang Bang Westerns". Somebody edited some Custer silents down to five minute episodes, and had two kids doing voice-overs. Custer was called "Bronco Bob". He talked about this in his 1967 newspaper interview when he returned home to Frankfort, Kentucky:
"About six years ago a man called me, saying he had gotten hold of about 18 of my old movies. He cut out the four or five minutes of film which contained the most action, spliced them togethed (sic), and with the vocies (sic) of two young people commenting on the action, wanted to show them on television in California. He'd already done it in New York and the action shots apparently were better than Captain Kangaroo. The kids watching television in the morning really loved them. He asked for an agreement from me to do the same thing in California, paid me for the rights, and it was just like a financial windfall."
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. Bob Custer never achieved a Top Ten ranking in these polls (but these polls did not begin until the mid 1930s which was at the end of Custer's Hollywood career).
In checking Custer biographies from other writers, there's criticism about Bob packing on some weight during his later screen roles. In re-looking at several of his films when I updated/expanded this piece, I didn't notice any significant increase in poundage or girth. Take at a gander at the two crops/enlargements above. On the left is Custer at about 35 years of age (fighting Edmund Cobb) in a lobby card from THE LAW OF THE WILD (Mascot, 1934). On the right is Custer at about 37 years old (hammering Jack Evans) in a scene from one of his last, AMBUSH VALLEY (Reliable, 1936). Both the full lobby card and image are in these Custer webpages. Look real close and you'll see he's wearing the same gunbelt - and both are buckled at the same spot.
The Family Search website, California Death Index, Social Security Death Index (SSDI), Newspaper Archive, and other sources provide more on Bob Custer / Raymond Anthony Glenn:
Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website notes that Bob Custer/Raymond Anthony Glenn is interred at Green Hills Memorial Park, Rancho Palos Verdes, California. Find A Grave also includes a summary of an interview with Custer that was conducted by Ron Coons about six months prior to Custer's death. Go to: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=10821106
Special thanks to Lisa Atkinson, Director of Alumni Programs at the University of Kentucky. I contacted the University in hopes that they had some record on Custer/Glenn attending and graduating. Recall that his 1918 Military draft registration noted his attendance at the University of Kentucky. Lisa was kind enough to search their records which includes all graduates from as long ago as the early 1920s. They had no graduate named Raymond Anthony Glenn. Thus it appears that he attended the University circa 1918 (based on his military draft record) - but he did not complete his college education.
(Courtesy of Ed Tabor)
|There remains some confusion on Raymond Glenn's job(s).|
This obituary mentions he was superintendent of building and safety for the City of Newport Beach (California). Other biographies note that he was the safety inspector or building inspector or street superintendant or whatever for Los Angeles or Redondo Beach or Newport Beach or El Segundo.
Old Corral fan Marilyn Moir (who lives in California) and ye Old Corral webmaster have e-mailed all of the above city governments in hopes of clearing up this situation. The problem is that the trail is old and cold on confirming his employment with any of these cities and communities. Too many years have passed and no one is around who can remember him ... and personnel records from fifty years ago are destroyed, misplaced or lost.
At the Find A Grave website, Ron Coons included the following from his interview with Custer: "After the war he became street superintendent in Redondo Beach and building inspector for the cities of Newport Beach and El Segundo" and "He died of a heart attack on Dec. 28, 1974 while walking his dog in his Redondo Beach neighborhood.".
(Image courtesy of Bruce Masden)
|Thanks to Bruce Masden for the grave marker image. Note that the marker shows him as U. S. Army Private Raymond A. Glenn. That military service may be the reason that Custer did not complete the degree program at the University of Kentucky.|
Bob Custer - Starring Roles (sound films only)
THE LAST ROUNDUP (Syndicate, 1929) (directed by J.P. McGowan)
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Bob Custer, including his silent film work: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0193793/
(Newspaper article courtesy of Elizabeth and Charles Milton, Tom Baker.)
In 1967, Raymond Glenn returned to Frankfort, Kentucky for a lengthy visit. He was interviewed by the local newspaper and above is a crop of the article including a photo of a grey haired, moustached, and suave looking Raymond Glenn. In the interview. he referenced the syndicated television "Butch and Billy's Bang Bang Westerns". The interview adds to the confusion about his later life and his jobs. Quote: "... he later went to work with Pas Robeles as the Director of Public Works. He retired October 31, 1966 giving up his job as Director of Building and Safety in Newport Beach. He still keeps a home there, but spends most of his time on a small ranch near Santa Barbara." (I believe Pas Robeles is spelled incorrectly - probably is Paso Robles, California.)
If you'd like a copy of the entire article, shoot the Old Corral webmeister an e-mail.