(From Old Corral image collection)
Russell 'Russ' 'Lucky' Hayden
Real name: Pate Lucid
(From Old Corral image collection)
Two tall, good lookin' range riders became personal friends as well as memorable sidekicks to Hopalong Cassidy. And in 1950, they came together for a series of six low budget oaters for Lippert Pictures. They are Pate Lucid (Russell Hayden) who hailed from Chico, California and James Ellison Smith (Jimmy Ellison) from Guthrie Center, Iowa.
In the 1930s, Ellison did some bit parts at Warners/First National, MGM and Republic. Hayden's Hollywood experience began with several jobs as a production crew member. Both were working at Paramount in the mid 1930s.
In 1935, James Ellison signed with producer Harry "Pop" Sherman for Paramount's new Hopalong Cassidy series, and he appeared in eight of the early Cassidys. After about a year and half portraying Hoppy's saddle pal "Johnny Nelson", Ellison left with hopes of becoming a leading man in classier, higher budgeted films.
Russell Hayden was Ellison's replacement and he would portray "Lucky Jenkins" in 27 consecutive Cassidy adventures released from 1937 - 1941. During that period, "Pop" Sherman used him in four of Paramount's Zane Grey films and Hayden even got to be the lead in KNIGHTS OF THE RANGE (Paramount, 1940). His last Hopalong was WIDE OPEN TOWN (Paramount, 1941), and then Russ left for greener pastures. (Want to see the complete Hopalong Cassidy filmography with Ellison, Hayden, Hayes, others? Click HERE and a separate window will open.)
Russ became the new helper to Charles Starrett in eight films for Columbia Pictures which were released in 1941 - 1942. In addition to Starrett, Wild Bill Elliott was their other resident range rider. For the 1941 - 1942 season, they paired up Wild Bill with Tex Ritter. Then Elliott departed for a better deal at Republic Pictures and Tex went to Universal to assist Johnny Mack Brown. Columbia gave Hayden his own series. Dub "Cannonball" Taylor was his comic assistant and Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys did tunes. These are among my favorites for they are slick and cram full of action. And Hayden, one of filmdom's best riders, looks good in the saddle ... and he could also handle the action, brawls and fisticuffs. During his brief stay, he even worked in some non-westerns. The Hayden group consisted of seven oaters and one mountie film and the releases were scattered over an extended period, from the Fall of 1942 through the Summer of 1944. But his series was not renewed. Columbia decided to concentrate on Charles Starrett.
While Hayden's last Columbias were hitting the theaters, he was at Universal doing a pair. There was MARSHAL OF GUNSMOKE (Universal, 1944) with Russ again playing second string, this time to Tex Ritter. Earlier, when Tex was recuperating from an injury, Russ starred in FRONTIER LAW (Universal, 1943) and Dennis Moore pulled second lead duty. More bad timing for Russ. Universal was going through another of their periodic re-evaluations of their cowboy films and western movie heroes. Johnny Mack Brown left and headed to Monogram. Tex Ritter exited and signed on with PRC as the replacement for Jim Newill in the Texas Rangers. When the dust finally settled circa 1944 - 1945, Rod Cameron and Kirby Grant were Universal's new sagebrush stars.
Hayden's next boss was the United States Navy. I have March and May, 1944 newspaper articles and following are some excerpts: "Russell Hayden was inducted into the Navy 24 hours after finishing his role in Paramount's "Gambler's Choice", new William Pine - William Thomas production ..."; and, "when Russell Hayden went into the Navy ... he put in storage one of Hollywood's finest collections of frontier model pistols ... more than a 100 guns, some of them being real museum pieces."
Am unsure of his length of service and whether Russ did stateside duty or was on a ship or overseas. But he was back in Hollywood in late 1945 - early 1946. It was Hayden and sidekick Keye Luke vs. Lionel Atwill in the thirteen episode THE LOST CITY OF THE JUNGLE (Universal, 1946). Released in April, 1946, LOST CITY was among Universal's last batch of cliffhangers. It was also Lionel Atwill's final performance as he passed away during the filming and a stand-in/double had to be used.
Russ wore a redcoat in a quartet of 1946 - 1947 Royal Canadian Mounted Police yarns for Screen Guild, all of which had shortened running times of 40 - 45 minutes. At Republic, he starred in SONS OF ADVENTURE (Republic, 1948), a "movie within a movie" about westerns and stuntmen which was directed by Yakima Canutt. With the decline of the B western and serial and the arrival of television, Hayden's film jobs became more infrequent and he was sometimes relegated to playing a no good. Examples: he was the villainous Indian "Black Wolf" in APACHE CHIEF (Lippert, 1949) and a gunslinger out to get Gene Autry in TEXANS NEVER CRY (Columbia, 1951).
Circa 1950, both Hayden and James Ellison were about forty years of age. The pair signed on with producer Ron Ormond for a group of six oaters with Republic Pictures veteran Thomas Carr directing and Lippert Pictures handled the film releasing. The impetus for the series may have been the television broadcasts of the Hoppy films. Because of that TV exposure, someone may have figured that partnering up the former Cassidy sidekicks could generate box office success. Producer Ron Ormond was responsible for some other sagebrush flicks during the closing years of the B western programmer - click HERE for an example.
For the Ormond/Lippert series, Russ 'Lucky' Hayden put on chaps and a blue jean jacket while Jimmy 'Shamrock' Ellison wore buckskins, high-top moccasins, and a brace of six-shooters. These were very different costumes from what they wore in the Hoppy films; and Ellison's buckskins remind me of his outfit in THE PLAINSMAN. All six of the films were shot together over a one month period using the same cast - Raymond Hatton and Fuzzy Knight were there along with Dennis Moore, Tom Tyler, John Cason, I. Stanford Jolley, George J. Lewis, and a few other familiar faces. Pretty Julie Adams (then billed as Betty Adams) was the heroine - remember her as the female lead in THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON. Once shooting was completed, Tommy Carr and his crew edited the miles of film into six respectable B westerns. Johnny Mack Brown and stuntman Dave Sharpe were among a few Hollywood gun handlers that could spin and twirl a sixgun and flip it in the air and over their shoulder. While not as proficient as Brown and Sharpe, Hayden and Ellison demonstrate their gun twirlin' talents beginning around the 32 minute mark in MARSHAL OF HELDORADO (Lippert, 1950), the best of their half dozen adventures for Carr and Ormond. For those into trivia and minutiae, there is an error with the Ellison credits. In the lobby cards shown in this piece, you'll see that Jimmy 'Shamrock' Ellison is first billed over Hayden. The opening of all six films have the titles and credits superimposed over a scene of Raymond Hatton, Hayden, Ellison and Fuzzy Knight riding together. Ellison still gets first billing ... but the film credits list him as Jimmie 'Shamrock' Ellison.
Hayden, along with movie baddie Dick Curtis, Roy Rogers and others, were early investors responsible for the development of the Pioneertown, California movie location. He was the hero lawman on the 1952 - 1953 syndicated COWBOY G-MEN TV oater with one-time child star Jackie Coogan as his partner. And in the mid to late 1950s, Russ was behind the camera, producing the JUDGE ROY BEAN and 26 MEN television shows.
Hayden's first wife was actress Jan (Jane) Clayton, the original 'Mom' in the LASSIE TV show with Tommy Rettig. They met during the filming of IN OLD MEXICO (Paramount, 1938) and were married from 1938 - 1943. Jan and Russ had a daughter named Sandra (Sandy), but tragedy struck in September, 1956 when sixteen year old Sandra Hayden Lerner was killed in a car accident. Hayden's second wife was actress Lillian Porter (nicknamed "Mousie") and they tied the knot in 1945 or 1946. Russ and "Mousie" were together through his passing in 1981, and in their later years, they lived at the Hayden Ranch at Pioneertown.
(Courtesy of Donn & Nancy Moyer)
Above - Russell Hayden, circa 1980.
|In March, 2000, Larry Imber sent me an e-mail about his visit with Russ Hayden and his wife "Mousie" (Lillian Porter) at Pioneertown:|
"He lived in the Judge Roy Bean house (set), a big room with a heater. On the wall was a large and lovely painting of Hoot Gibson. Being a Gibson fan, I was surprised by it. I asked if he was a fan as I was. He told me he loved Hoot. That opened him up and we had a long delightful conversation. He was blind at this time and enjoyed sitting in the sun. Mousie (Hayden's wife) left us alone but hoped I would come back on July 4th when Russ had a barbeque for the whole town. A stable nearby was covered with one sheets and stills from his career. He pointed off to roads used in stagecoach chases and other spots. It was one of my most memorable visits."
Bobby J. Copeland has an interview with Russ Hayden in his Five Heroes book. In summary, Harry "Pop" Sherman, the producer of the Hoppy films for Paramount, offered Hayden $1000.00 per film to play "Lucky Jenkins". Hayden, who had no prior acting experience, said yes! Russ had kind words about Sherman ("he was just like a father to me"). But "Bill Boyd was not easy to work with" and referring to his exit from the Hoppy films, "... I was glad to get out. I wouldn't have gone back for $5,000 a picture."
Russell Hayden passed away on June 9, 1981 from viral pneumonia at the Desert Hospital in Palm Springs, California. You may want to go to the In Search Of ... page on the Old Corral and then to the California Death Records database and Social Security Death Index (SSDI). There you will find records for: Russell Michael Hayden, born 6/10/1910 in California, Mother's maiden name of Harvey, and he died on 6/9/1981. However, the SSDI shows his birth date as June 11, 1911.
Most folks remember Russell Hayden as one of Hoppy's helpers. This multi-talented guy deserves more credit. Other than an occasional stray, he stayed with the western for all of his career. He was moderately successful as both a star and producer of early television programs. His series for Columbia should be viewed by fans of the genre. He could ride, fight and handle a sixgun with the best of them. His career consisted of about 75 films, and his movie and television work spanned about twenty years, from 1937 through the mid 1950s. If I had to pick a word or two to describe Russell Hayden, it would be "under appreciated".
The Motion Picture Herald and Boxoffice polls were conducted from about the mid 1930s through the mid 1950s. With a few exceptions, the annual poll 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. Russell Hayden was ranked during his cowboy films at Columbia and Universal.
|Popularity Rankings of Russell Hayden|
|Year||Motion Picture Herald Poll Ranking||Boxoffice Poll Ranking|
(From Old Corral image collection)
Above - Hayden as "Lucky Jenkins" circa 1940. There were a total of 66 Hopalong Cassidy films released from 1935 - 1948 and Hayden did 27 during the period from 1937 - 1941. He appeared in more Hoppys than George Hayes (as "Windy Halliday"), but is beaten out by Andy Clyde's 36 film run as "California Carlson".
(From Old Corral image collection)
Above is a re-release lobby card for IN OLD MEXICO (Paramount, 1938). The gal lead in this film was Jan (Jane) Clayton (of LASSIE TV show fame) and she and Russell Hayden married in 1938 and divorced in 1943.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above from L-to-R are William Boyd, Russell Hayden, Andy Clyde and Morris Ankrum in a lobby card from WIDE OPEN TOWN (Paramount, 1941). Released in August, 1941, this was Hayden's 27th and final Hoppy film. His next job was at Columbia, assisting Charles Starrett. Replacing Hayden in the Cassidy series was Brad King ... who was replaced by Jay Kirby ... and then George "Superman" Reeves was there in one film ... and then came Jimmy Rogers ... and lastly, Rand Brooks.