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Jill Jackson Miller


Screen names of:
Harlene Wood, Harley Wood, Jill Martin

Birth name:
Evelyn Merchant

1913 - 1995


Our (my) nearly five year search for the answer to "Whatever happened to Harlene Wood, Harley Wood, Jill Martin?" involved a lot of people. Hats off (in no particular order) to Marilyn Moir, Billy Doyle, Jack Tillmany, Les Adams, Garry Dashner and Frank Reighter for their assistance. A big thanks to Jan Tache and Harley White, Jill Jackson Miller's daughters, for sharing information and photos with me.
Chuck Anderson



(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above is the cover of the pressbook for THE LAW RIDES (Hackel/Supreme, 1936), one of many Bob Steele films for producer A. W. Hackel which was directed by Bob's father, Robert North Bradbury. Her name in this oater is Harley Wood, and the old-timer with the white beard is Buck Connors.



Above - crops/enlargements from the pressbook cover and lobby card shown left and below.
This "gal of many names" came and went during the 1930s, and her Hollywood career consisted of about twenty films. B western and serial fans remember her as the heroine to 1928 Olympic shot-put Silver medalist Herman Brix (Bruce Bennett) in the serial, HAWK OF THE WILDERNESS (Republic, 1938).

One of her earliest roles was the star (and being first billed as Harley Wood) in MARIHUANA (Road Show Attractions, 1936), one of many exploitation films of the 1930s. Somehow she survived that bit of misfortune and was cast as the feminine lead in seven westerns. In those seven, she used three different name variations:

Billed as Harley Wood in LAW AND LEAD (Colony, 1936) with Rex Bell
Billed as Harley Wood in THE LAW RIDES (A. W. Hackel-Supreme, 1936) with Bob Steele
Billed as Harlene Wood in VALLEY OF TERROR (Ambassador-Conn, 1937) with Kermit Maynard
Billed as Harlene Wood in THE FEUD OF THE TRAIL (Victory, 1937) with Tom Tyler
Billed as Harlene Wood in WHISTLING BULLETS (Ambassador-Conn, 1937) with Kermit Maynard
Billed as Harley Wood in BORDER PHANTOM (A. W. Hackel-Surpreme/Republic, 1937) with Bob Steele
Billed as Jill Martin in TRIGGER FINGERS (Victory, 1939) with Tim McCoy

Three Stooges researcher Frank Reighter also has her identified in several 1937 Three Stooges shorts (DIZZY DOCTORS, BACK TO THE WOODS and CASH AND CARRY).

According to Jack Mathis in his book Republic Confidential - Volume 2 - The Players (1992), Jill Martin was under a Term Players contract(s) at Republic from August 22, 1938 through February 21, 1939, and during that six month period, she did four films: bit parts in features THE NIGHT HAWK (1938) and WOMAN DOCTOR (1939) and serial DICK TRACY RETURNS (1938); and the female lead in the HAWK OF THE WILDERNESS (1938) cliffhanger. Les Adams also provided some HAWK pressbook clippings with Republic proclaiming: "... lovely Jill Martin, new Republic screen find ..."; she was a native of Kansas City, Missouri; and she was a second cousin of the Wright Brothers (airplane). Time to toss in some speculation: it appears that the name change to "Jill Martin" came around the time of her work at Republic. Whether she, her agent, or the studio instigated the change is unknown. But the new name - along with the "new Republic screen find" pronouncement - may have been done to break from her earlier personas, especially that 1936 MARIHUANA flick. I also chuckle a bit when pronouncing her "Harley Wood" and "Harlene Wood" names. Say "Hollywood".

After Republic, there were only a couple more films for Harley/Harlene/Jill - a Columbia short with Buster Keaton and the Tim McCoy TRIGGER FINGERS, both of which were released in 1939.

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has information on Harlene Wood / Harley Wood / Jill Martin: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0939738/

You can download or stream the public domain MARIHUANA (Road Show Attractions, 1936) from the Internet Archive website: http://www.archive.org/details/Marihuana-the_Devils_Weed

What happened to our actress named Harley/Harlene/Jill. Our search began in 2005, and you'll find out more below and on the next page.



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above is the title lobby card for the Kermit Maynard starrer WHISTLING BULLETS (Ambassador/Conn, 1937).



(From Old Corral image collection)

In the above lobby card from WHISTLING BULLETS (Ambassador/Conn, 1937), Kermit and Harlene Wood check out the prone Jack Ingram.



(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from left to right are John Merton, Hank Bell, Harlene Wood and Kermit Maynard in a crop from a lobby card from Kermit's VALLEY OF TERROR (Ambassador/Conn, 1937).


2005 - the Search Begins!

In 2005, ye Old Corral webmaster began exchanging e-mails with Garry Dashner. He asked if I knew anything about a songwriter who was a heroine in some 1930s westerns. Gary wrote: "I do a history website for my former high school alma mater, NORTHEAST HIGH SCHOOL in Kansas City, Missouri. An alumnus by the name of JILL JACKSON MILLER attended there. I am currently trying to feature distinguished graduates at the NE History site. JILL wrote the song, "LET THERE BE PEACE ON EARTH" and is supposed to have appeared in 7 western movies sometime in the 30's and 40's."

Gary has info on Jill Jackson Miller at: http://garry-dashner.tripod.com/

Following is a link to that Northeast Alumni Association website to which Garry referred. On the homepage, scroll down the menu on the left side and click on "Notable Grads". On the subsequent page click on "View Honored Notables": http://northeastvikings.org/

The Kansas City Public Library, Missouri Valley Special Collections, has a biography (in Adobe Reader pdf format) on Jill Jackson Miller (1913-1995) and a photo is included (the image is credited to the The Kansas City Star newspaper). There is a brief mention of her Hollywood career and doing seven westerns, as well as a failed marriage and a suicide attempt. Go to:
http://www.kchistory.org/cgi-bin/showfile.exe?CISOROOT=/Biographies&CISOPTR=260&filename=261.pdf
or,
http://www.kchistory.org/cdm4/results.php?CISOOP1=exact&CISOFIELD1=CISOSEARCHALL&CISOROOT=all&CISOBOX1=Miller%2C+Jill+Jackson

The photo of Jill Jackson Miller on that kchistory.org reminded ye Old Corral webmaster of Jill Martin, the heroine in THE HAWK OF THE WILDERNESS serial.

  The Internet Movie Database also has a film list and biography for an actress named Jill Jackson and the IMDb biography mentions her 1913 birth year and writing the song "Let There Be Peace On Earth". However, this is an error. This Jill Jackson is NOT our Jill Jackson Miller / Harlene Wood / Harley Wood / Jill Martin. This Jill Jackson may be the female member of the 1960s singing duo "Paul and Paula" who had the 1963 hit "Hey Paula".
          Jill Jackson - Film/TV Listing: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0413672/
          Jill Jackson - Biography: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0413672/bio
          Wikipedia for "Paul and Paula" (real names: Ray Hildebrand, born 1940, and Jill Jackson, born 1942): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_&_Paula

Above - yearbook photo courtesy of Garry Dashner
August, 2009 updates:

Received e-mails from Garry Dashner and Three Stooges researcher Frank Reighter. Our "gal of many names" is listed in the high school yearbook as Evelyn Cowan, and she graduated in 1930 from Northeast High School, Kansas City, Missouri. During her 1929 - 1930 Senior year, she was on the student council, a member of the National Honor Society, in the drama club and Christmas play, and more.

Garry Dashner has yearbook photos and biography info at:
http://garry-dashner.tripod.com
(scroll down the left side menu until you find Northeast Notables, and click on "Jill Jackson")

September-October, 2009 updates:

In September-October, 2009, ye Old Corral webmaster connected with Jan Tache, Jill Jackson Miller's daughter. Jan and her sister Harley White provided a bunch of photos and biographical info on their Mom. You'll find that on the next page.


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