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Alfred 'Lash' LaRue

1917 or 1921 - 1996


Special thanks to guest commentator Paul Dellinger for authoring the following narrative and background info on Al 'Lash' LaRue


Confused about Lash's real name, birth date, birth location, etc. Click HERE for a webpage with genealogy and family info that may help ... or add to the confusion. Was updated on January 21, 2014.



(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

Above - LaRue as the 'Cheyenne Kid' in SONG OF OLD WYOMING (PRC, 1945).



Lash LaRue practically had two careers.  The first was on the movie screen; the second, until his death in 1996, was being perhaps the most approachable guest star attending western film conventions around the country.  He was known as the 'King of the Bullwhip', the title of what was arguably his best movie, but admitted that he did not come by his whip-cracking talent naturally.

"The whip came into being from a writer and producer and director by the name of Bob Tansey", Lash explained in an informal interview at the 1981 Western Film Fair in Charlotte, NC.  Tansey was considering LaRue for a supporting role in SONG OF OLD WYOMING (1945), the PRC Cinecolor movie which was the first starring vehicle for singer Eddie Dean and which made Dean the first series western star to appear in color.  Lash was up for the role of the Cheyenne Kid, who would start as the bad guy and Eddie's rival for the affections of leading lady Jennifer Holt, but would discover the error of his ways and change sides in time to stop a bullet in the final showdown with the baddies.

"Well, he looks the part, if he can act", Tansey said to his secretary, talking about his visitor who was then known as Al LaRue.  "I'm probably the best actor that's ever been in your office", LaRue told him.  "Well, I had intended to use a guy who could handle a whip."  "A bullwhip?"  "Yes."  "I've been messing around with one since I was a kid", said LaRue, who had never touched one in his life.  But he figured he could learn.

"I went out and rented a couple of whips, one 15 foot and one 18 foot, and I practically beat myself to death trying to learn to throw it.  I finally gave up altogether and the picture started and I thought, well, as soon as they learn I can't handle a whip, they'll throw me out."  After seeing some of the early rushes, Tansey took LaRue aside, complimented him on the job he was doing, and asked if he would like to do three pictures for three times his current salary.  "Bob, I have to tell you something", LaRue said.  "What is it, Al?"  "Well, I can't use that whip."  "But you said..".  "Now wait a minute. You doubted if I could act, so I acted just a little bit for you.  And I'm sorry about lying to you, but I wanted that part."  Then LaRue peeled off his shirt and showed Tansey how he'd cut himself up practicing with the whips.  He said Tansey burst out laughing.  "He thought it was the funniest thing he'd ever run into", said LaRue.  The PRC studio hired an expert named Snowy Baker to give lessons on the bullwhip, and LaRue proved a good pupil.

LaRue had already had some minor appearances in a couple of Deanna Durbin musicals at Universal, CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY (1944) and LADY ON A TRAIN (1945), and a supporting role in the 1945 Universal serial, THE MASTER KEY, which starred Milburn Stone, the future Doc Adams on TV's GUNSMOKE.  But thereafter he would be best known as a cowboy star.

As the Cheyenne Kid, he was supposed to help ruin a woman rancher but later learns that he is actually her long-lost son.  That's when he changes sides, uses his whip to retrieve a couple of guns from the baddies after he has been disarmed, and shoots it out with the two major villains.

The rancher was played by character actress Sarah Padden, who remarked on LaRue's resemblance to Humphrey Bogart.  She asked the young actor if he was related to Bogart, and LaRue said he didn't think so.  After a pause, Padden asked: "Did your mother ever meet Humphrey Bogart?"

LaRue was born in 1917 (or 1921, depending on whom you believe).  He grew up in Louisiana but, since his father was a traveling hotel representative and real estate salesman, he never stayed long in the same school and was raised mostly by his mother.  His high school years were in St. John's Military Academy in Los Angeles.  He then enrolled at College of the Pacific where he wanted to study law.  He took drama to overcome a speech impediment, and worked at various jobs (including real estate salesman and hairdresser) before hitting on acting.

For SONG OF OLD WYOMING, LaRue choose a black outfit with white trim and a white neckerchief to go with his two sixguns. "I picked out the wardrobe", he said. "It was an outfit that George O'Brien had used, and George O'Brien ... I had always liked him, because he wasn't a singing cowboy, he was lots of action." His role clearly impressed viewers, because he got more fan mail than the star.  The fans did not always remember his name, so some of the mail was addressed to the guy who wore the black outfit, or the man with the whip.



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above is LaRue doing his first movie role in the thirteen episode serial THE MASTER KEY (Universal, 1945) which was released in April, 1945. From left to right are Milburn Stone (who later portrayed 'Doc' in TV's GUNSMOKE), LaRue, and Dennis Moore. In this, he is billed as Alfred La Rue and plays "Migsy", the street smart leader of a group of teenagers helping Stone, Moore and heroine Jan Wiley outwit Addison Richards.



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above is the front cover of the six-page pressbook anouncing PRC's SONG OF OLD WYOMING as well as the PRC's new series of Cinecolor westerns starring Eddie Dean. Note the spelling of LaRue as "Al La Rue" with a space between La and Rue.

The producer and director on the film is Robert Emmett, whose real name was Robert Emmett Tansey.  He had done just about every film related job in Hollywood since the silent days. A couple years prior to working with Dean at PRC, Tansey put together the Trail Blazers trio series at Monogram.

The size of the pressbook is approximately 11 inches wide x 17 1/2 inches long. On the right side, you will note a difference in the backgrounds, and there's a tannish line running top to bottom. This is because I had to scan in two parts and merge them into a full size image - and there was a color variation between the two scanned images that were used to form the final pressbook image.




(From Old Corral image collection)

Above from left to right are Sarah Padden, Emmett Lynn, Eddie Dean, Jennifer Holt and Al LaRue in his days before becoming 'Lash' in a lobby card from Eddie Dean's first starring effort, the Cinecolor SONG OF OLD WYOMING (1945).



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above, LaRue is making small talk with pretty Jennifer Holt, the daughter of silent star Jack Holt and sister of RKO cowboy Tim Holt, in this scene from SONG OF OLD WYOMING (PRC, 1945).



(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

Rollin' a cigarette is LaRue as the Cheyenne Kid as he cuts a deal with Bob Barron (center, as 'Dixon') and Ian Keith (right, as 'Landow') to ruin Sarah Padden and her ranch and newspaper in another still from SONG OF OLD WYOMING (PRC, 1945).



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