On the trail of Lane Chandler / Robert Oakes
Updated: January 21, 2014
(Courtesy of Jack Jones)Lane Chandler, circa 1928 | |(From Old Corral image collection)Lane Chandler, 1950s
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has information on Lane Chandler: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0151420/
Not sure if Chandler was a friend of Cecil B. DeMille ... or just a dependable support/bit player. He worked in eleven DeMille sound films during the years 1932 through 1958: http://www.imdb.com/search/title?at=0&roles=nm0151420,nm0001124&sort=release_date_us&title_type=feature,tv_episode,video,tv_movie,tv_special,mini_series,documentary,game,short,unknown
Checked the Internet Archive and YouTube for any of Chandler's starring westerns ... and there's not much. YouTube does have a good print of LAWLESS VALLEY (Willis Kent, 1932) which you can view or download: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ls8nLNjLeYI
It's always interesting to click through excerpts of newspaper headlines and clippings at the Google newspaper archives at: http://news.google.com/newspapers
While some of the articles are free, many go to newspaper websites where you have to pay to retrieve the full article.
1937 article titled "How Gary Cooper 'Crashed' the Movies on Horseback" was purportedly written by Gary Cooper, and mentions his Montana connection, friendship with Lane Chandler, etc.: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1499&dat=19370903&id=AqpQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=CiIEAAAAIBAJ&pg=4975,6509142
1928 newspapers blurbs on newcomers selected for Paramount's "Stars of Tomorrow" - among the names were Fay Wray, Louise Brooks, Jack Luden, Richard Arlen, Gary Cooper, Charles Rogers (Buddy Rogers), and Lane Chandler:
Census and info on the Oakes Family and son Robert (Lane Chandler)
Curt Eriksmoen is a book author and writes newspaper articles and columns about Hollywood personalities that were born in North Dakota. Curt provides the following info on Lane Chandler/Robert Oakes:
- 1900 census shows Robert Oakes, infant son of George and Irene Oakes was born in North Dakota. George is listed as farmer, born in 1876. He was from Illinois, as was his brother William who was also born 1876. Most likely twins. George, Irene and William Oakes lived in Prospect Township in Ramsey County.
- Prior to coming to Ramsey County, George and William Oakes were early settlers in Walsh County (Kensington Township). This lends credibility that Chandler was born in Walsh County.
- 1910 census shows Irene, Robert and three young sisters living in River Falls, Wisconsin, which is about 40 miles east of Minneapolis, Minnesota. River Falls may have been where Irene's parents lived. Irene was born in Wisconsin. Robert's three sisters were aged 9, 7 and 5. The two oldest were born in North Dakota and the youngest was born in South Dakota. This means that they must have moved to South Dakota when Bob was about 5 or 6 years old. I don't know if George died or the mother moved back to River Falls so the children could attend school.
- Information from Helena, Montana newspapers in 1926 and early 1927: Red-haired, 6 ft. 2 inch. Reared on ranches in eastern Montana near Bainville, 15 miles west of Williston. (Bainville is just west of Culbertson.) "Could ride before he could walk." In college, took business admin courses and played guard and tackle on football team. Lived in Helena about 5 years while attending Intermountain College. Before Hollywood, was passenger agent for the Yellowstone Park Transportation Co. stationed at the Old Faithful Inn. Arrived in Hollywood Dec. 1, 1926.
Following up on Curt's info on the Oakes family, I checked the Family Search website (free), Ancestry.com (subscription), ProQuest obituaries, Newspaper Archive, and many other sources. The Oakes family moved around a lot and I've highlighted that in red:
- 1900 census: 24 year old father George Oakes (born Illinois; occupation farmer), 22 year old Irene Oakes (born Wisconsin), and 1 year old son Robert are living in Ramsey County, North Dakota: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/M9V2-BC2
1900 census takers worksheet notes that son Robert is 11/12 years old (meaning about 11 months of age), born in North Dakota, and his birthdate was June, 1899: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-266-12403-96725-39?cc=1325221&wc=MMPN-YR5:n1561385959
- 1905 South Dakota Census: the Oakes family is living in Egan, Moody County, South Dakota. All the children are listed - below are links to Robert, his mother and father:
5 year old Robert Oakes was born in North Dakota and resided in South Dakota for about 2 years: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MMHQ-YHV
Mother Irene Oakes (born Wisconsin): https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MMHQ-Y4X
Father George Oakes (born Illinois): https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MMHQ-YWG
- 1910 census: father George is no longer with the family. Living in River Falls, Pierce County, Wisconsin are 32 year old mother Irene J. Oakes (born Wisconsin), 10 year old son Robert C., and daughters 9 year old Bertha M., 7 year old Gladys A. and 5 year old Besore H.: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MP2K-1G5
- September 12, 1918 World War I Draft Registration: Robert Clinton Oakes, age 19, born June 4, 1899, is living at the YMCA in Helena, Montana. Occupation is "truck driver" at the Lindsay-Helena Co. warehouse in Helena, Montana. His contact is his mother, Mrs. Irene Oakes (and her home address is shown incorrectly as Bainville, Illinois when it should be Bainville, Montana): https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1961-26275-26253-46?cc=1968530&wc=M9W1-3P3:n1668296286
- 1920 census - both Family Search and Ancestry.com have the family listed under the last name of "Oaker". 41 year old Irene J. Oaker [sic] (born Wisconsin), 20 year old son Robert C. (born North Dakota), 19 year old daughter Bertha M. (born North Dakota), 17 year old daughter Gladys Q. (born North Dakota), and 15 year old daughter Bess H. (born South Dakota) are living in Bainville, Roosevelt County, Montana: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/M8QS-PH4
- June 21, 1924 marriage license of Lester F. Johnson (of Billings, Montana) to Gladys A. Oakes (of Helena, Montana) in Helena, Montana. The marriage license has Gladys as 22 years old and born in Devils Lake, North Dakota. Her father was George Oakes and mother was Irene West: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-267-11694-73685-98?cc=1609797&wc=10525221
- 1930 census: 28 year old Lane R. Chandler (born North Dakota) is living in Los Angeles: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XCJ1-XRC
Ancestry had the 1930 census takers worksheet: 28 year old Lane R. Chandler is single, born in North Dakota, and is rooming at 1760 North Wilcox Street, Los Angeles. His parents were born in North Dakota (father) and Wisconsin (mother). He reports his occupation as "Actor-screen - Motion Picture St."
- 1940 census: 40 year old Robert C. Oakes is alone and residing in West Hollywood, California: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/K97Z-Y4C
1940 census takers worksheet has 40 year old Robert C. Oakes as one of many renters living at 1119 Poinsettia Drive in the Los Angeles area. He is single, born in North Dakota, completed four years of high school, occupation is "Actor - Motion pictures", and in 1939, he worked 20 weeks and earned $3103.00: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1971-27791-13934-0?cc=2000219&wc=MMYH-6VP:n1197724745
- 1940 census has 62 year old mother Irene Oaks [sic] (born Wisconsin), 34 year old daughter Bess Scott (born South Dakota), and Bess' 12 year old daughter Lois Scott (born Montana) residing in Great Falls, Cascade County, Montana: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/VB3R-GP7
1940 census takers worksheet notes that Irene is renting, she is a widow, daughter Bess is divorced, and in 1935, they lived in Billings, Yellowstone County, Montana: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-27887-16900-12?cc=2000219&wc=M9Q6-9G6:n968823755
- Ancestry.com had various listings of Robert C. Oakes in the Los Angeles County voter registrations. No wife was listed:
1938 Los Angeles County Voter Registration: Robert C. Oakes (occupation actor), 5426 Sierra Vista, Los Angeles
1942 Los Angeles County Voter Registration: Robert C. Oakes (occupation actor), 1119 Poinsettia Drive, West Hollywood
1944, 1946, 1948 and 1952 Los Angeles County Voter Registrations: Robert C. Oakes (occupation actor), 7292 Fountain Avenue, West Hollywood
- ProQuest obituaries had a September 18, 1972 funeral notice in the Los Angeles Times newspaper. Excerpts: "CHANDLER, Lane (Robert C. Oakes), passed away at home, September 14, 1972. ... Inurnment in Hollywood Memorial Park.". There was no mention of a wife, children or other relatives.
- The Newspaper Archive had a death notice on Chandler from the September 29, 1972 edition of The Independent Record newspaper (Helena, Montana). Excerpts: "died ... in his home in Hollywood, Calif., after suffering a heart attack. He was 73. ... born in North Dakota ... He came to Helena in 1920 to attend Montana Wesleyan College, later Intermountain Union College, and was center on its football team which won the state collegiate championship in 1921. Later, with his friend Gary Cooper, he was a summer bus driver in Yellowstone Park. With Cooper, he went to Hollywood in 1924 ... ". He was survived by his three sisters, but no mention of a wife or children.
- You may want to go to the In Search Of ... page on the Old Corral, and connect to the California Death Records database and the Social Security Death Index (SSDI). From the California Death Records database: Lane Chandler, born 6/4/1899 in South Dakota, and he passed away in the Los Angeles area on 9/14/1972. There is a corresponding record in the SSDI but his name is listed as Robert Oakes.
- The Find-A-Grave website has some info on Chandler's mother, including an obituary which clears up some questions and family history. Obit excerpts:
"Mrs. Oakes was born in Prescott, Wis., March 8, 1878. She was married to George Oakes in Sioux Falls, S. D., in 1898. He died in 1909 and she moved to River Falls, Wis., with her four children to be near her parents. In 1912, she and her children came to the west and she filed on a homestead northeast of Bainville. In 1923 when two of her children attended Montana Wesleyan College in Helena she came here and was employed as cook and housekeeper at the college. Later she resided at Billings and Great Falls before moving to California in 1942."
Lane Chandler's mother Irene Jane West Oakes (1878-1961) at Find-A-Grave: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=6529429
His father George W. Oakes (1876-1909) at Find-A-Grave: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=54375444
- Ancestry.com has the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Beneficiary Identification Records Locator Subsystem (BIRLS) Death File, 1850-2010. There is a record for: Robert Oakes, born June 4, 1899 and died September 14, 1972. No other info is available - unsure if he was a military veteran or a beneficiary of a veteran.
- There's an Oakes Family Tree on Ancestry.com. There is a notation of a 1943 marriage of Robert C. Oakes to Doris Guardner, but no supporting records are provided.
His real name was Robert Clinton Oakes ... not Robert Chandler Oakes.
There was an article titled "Giving Their Wrong Names" by Marquis Busby in the March, 1930 issue of Motion Picture magazine. The subject was about the real names of many actresses and actors. Lane Chandler is mentioned twice - and his real name was Robert Clinton Oakes.
And his World War I draft registration has his full name as Robert Clinton Oakes.
Lane Chandler in Montana ... and his early Hollywood biography
The Oakes family moved around ... a lot. Lane Chandler was born in North Dakota. Then the family was (briefly) in South Dakota, followed by Wisconsin. Their next stop was Montana, and Chandler's attendance at Montana Wesleyan College begins in 1919.
From the 1923 Montana Wesleyan College "Prickly
Pear" yearbook, available at the Internet Archive.
Above- Robert was Captain-elect for the 1924 football team.
His sister Bess Oakes is listed as a music student in the 1923 yearbook.
The Internet Archive has full copies of the "Prickly Pear" yearbooks from Montana Wesleyan College. Robert Oakes (as well as his sister Bess Oakes) were students. Robert was a guard on the football team, his nickname was "Slats", and he was also on the honor roll.
The earliest yearbook reference to Oakes at Montana Wesleyan is in the 1922 yearbook. He is a member of the "W" Athletics Club with a notation that he played football in 1919.
The yearbooks at the Internet Archive have more on Robert Oakes/Lane Chandler:
1922 yearbook: https://archive.org/details/pricklypearthe1922mont
1923 yearbook: https://archive.org/details/pricklypearthe1923mont
The September 29, 1929 issue of Film Daily mentioned that Chandler did not complete his Senior college year. Excerpts: "Lane Chandler ... was a member of the Montana Wesleyan College team ... He was nominated captain-elect of the 1923 football eleven, but did not return to school."
However, Oakes is listed as an Academy Senior in that 1923 yearbook - see below. Unsure if he finished ... or if he left prior to graduation.
From the 1923 Montana Wesleyan College "Prickly
Pear" yearbook, available at the Internet Archive.
From the October, 1927 issue of Photoplay magazine, available at the Internet Archive.
Above is Lane Chandler from the October, 1927 issue of Photoplay magazine - and this biography was most likely enhanced by Paramount. This appears to be the background info that has been carried forward on Chandler.
We do know that he was NOT born in Montana. And he was NOT a cowboy that was raised on a ranch owned by his dad. The status of father George Oakes is not clear - he was with the family at the time of the South Dakota 1905 census but was missing in the 1910 U. S. Census when the Oakes clan was living in Wisconsin.
I wondered about Chandler's time at Paramount, and the following trade publications provided a timeline of his contracts and renewals:
May 26, 1927 issue of Film Daily: "Newcomer for Nevada Role? Hollywood - Lane Chandler, screen newcomer, is reported to have been selected for the leading role in 'Nevada' for Paramount."
June 26, 1927 issue of Film Daily: "Chandler Signed for Five Years. Hollywood - Lane Chandler will appear in Paramount pictures for five years under a new contract."
August 18, 1927 issue of Film Daily: "Before departing for Zion Park, Utah, where exteriors on 'Open Range' will be filmed, Lane Chandler signed a new contract with Paramount."
October 25, 1927 issue of Film Daily: "Paramount has signed Lane Chandler under a new long-term contract."
September 18, 1927 issue of Film Daily: "Lane Chandler and Betty Bronson have completed ... 'Open Range'."
January 5, 1928 issue of Film Daily: "Lane Chandler has signed a long term Paramount contract."
May 4, 1928 issue of Film Daily: "Among those signed to new Paramount contracts in the past few days are ... Lane Chandler ..."
June 1, 1929 issue of Hollywood Filmograph: "Lane Chandler, under contract to Paramount for the past two years, will free-lance following the completion of his present contract on July 6."
September 15, 1929 issue of Film Daily: "Lane Chandler, who supported Clara Bow, Esther Ralston and other stars in Paramount pictures, is starring in 'Lightning Express', a Universal serial."
Above is a crop from a large theater advertisement for hometown boy Lane Chandler/Bob Oakes starring in OPEN RANGE (Paramount, 1927). From the January 20, 1928 edition of the Helena (Montana) Daily Independent newspaper.
The ad mentions Oakes attendance at Intermountain College. In the mid 1920s, the College of Montana merged with Oakes' alma mater Montana Wesleyan to form Intermountain Union College.