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John Preston

Real name:
Andrew Jackson Rylee


Photo right: publicity still of John Preston as Canadian mountie "Sgt. Bruce Morton".

(Image courtesy of Cherryl Rylee Bacot)

Special thanks to Cherryl Rylee Bacot for photos and information on her grandfather, Andrew Jackson Rylee. Rylee had a brief film career during the mid to late 1930s and used the screen name of "John Preston".

(From Old Corral image collection)

Above is John Preston as "Morton of the Mounted" and riding "Dynamite, the Wonder Horse".
A half-dozen "Morton of the Mounted" films were planned and announced. The star was John Preston who was born and raised in/around San Antonio, Texas. He was "Sergeant Bruce Morton", the redcoated Canadian lawman in charge of the Three Rivers Post of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police.

Preston wound up portraying RCMP Sgt. Morton in a pair, COURAGE OF THE NORTH (Empire/Stage & Screen, 1934) and TIMBER TERRORS (Empire/Stage & Screen, 1935). The Morton name was dropped and Kane Richmond took over the lead in a solo shot, THE SILENT CODE (International/Stage & Screen, 1935).

And Preston also had the lead in the BEAST OF BORNEO (Far East Productions Inc./DuWorld, 1934), an ultra low budget mess about a scientist researching evolution and using primates captured in Borneo.

Cherryl Rylee Bacot writes that sometime after his Hollywood days, Andrew Jackson Rylee (John Preston) disappeared, leaving his wife Nema and son Jack. For years, members of the family searched for him but found no trace - and that included a rumor that he settled out East.

Another rumor was that he had lived in Kansas City, Missouri. That Kansas City lead gave us the answer to "Whatever happened to John Preston?":

48 year old Andrew J. Rylee was owner of the D&J Hobby Craft Center in Kansas City, Missouri and he passed away at his home on July 30, 1953 from heart problems. An obituary in the Kansas City, Missouri Times newspaper mentioned that he was survived by his wife, Mrs. Denise Rvlee, and two sons. According to the death certificate and newspaper obituary, Preston had resided in the Kansas City, Missouri area for eight-nine years.

  Although some of the data may be incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on John Preston whose Hollywood career amounted to about a half-dozen film appearances in the mid to late 1930s:

The approximate one-hour long BEAST OF BORNEO (1934) can be viewed/downloaded from:
Internet Archive:

(Image courtesy of Cherryl Rylee Bacot)

From left to right in this August, 1924 photo are:
     Nema Rylee (Cherryl's Grandmother and Preston's wife)
     Andrew Jackson Rylee / John Preston (Cherryl's Grandfather)
     Cecile Rylee (Cherryl's Aunt and Preston's sister).

The California Death Records database has a record for Preston's sister:
Cecile G. Elliott, born 11/2/1901 in Texas, Mother's maiden name of Pierce, Father's last name of Rylee, and she passed away in the San Francisco area on 10/7/1981.

(Image courtesy of Cherryl Rylee Bacot)

Above - Andrew Jackson Rylee (John Preston) with new son Jack Rylee in Fresno, California, August 1924. Jack Rylee (1924-1985) was Cherryl's father.

(Image courtesy of Cherryl Rylee Bacot)

Above - portrait photo of Rylee/Preston, probably from the 1930s.

In Search of ... John Preston / Andrew Jackson Rylee
There's traces of Andrew Jackson Rylee in a few 1930s newspapers and Hollywood tradepapers and magazines. Note the references to both President Andrew Jackson and Civil War Confederate General 'Stonewall' Jackson.
  • March 26, 1932 edition of Hollywood Filmograph had a review of the play "Window Panes". Excerpts: "During the past week the Spotlight Theater ... has been playing Olgra Printzlau's popular play, 'Window Panes,' to a capacity house ... in the cast deserving mention are ... Jackson Rylee ..."
  • May 21, 1932 edition of Hollywood Filmograph: "Some of these days some smart director or producer will discover that ANDREW JACKSON RYLEE, who came to Hollywood recently from New York where he had been appearing in the 'Green Hat,' has not only had several years experience in stock but can ride a horse and rope a steer like nobody's business."
  • April, 1933 newspaper article about famous ancestors of Hollywood movie people. Excerpt: "... there's Andrew Jackson Rylee, descendant of the president for whom he is named, but who uses the name of John Preston in the movies. Preston, tall, young, good-looking, athlete, is grand-nephew of the fighting leader of other days ... he was reared on a Texas ranch ..."
  • June 26, 1934 edition of Film Daily - excerpt: "Empire Pictures has signed John Preston, socialite whose real name is Andrew Jackson Rylee and who is a descendant of 'Stonewall' Jackson, for seven pictures of the frozen Northwest."

John Preston/Andrew Jackson Rylee information from Family Search (free), (subscription), and the death certificate:

  • 1930 census - 30 year old Andrew J. Rylee (born Texas) is living in Los Angeles, California:
    1930 census takers worksheet - Rylee's occupation is "Salesman - Shoe Store", he was not a World War I veteran; and he is married but there is no wife listed:
  • 1930 census - Preston's first wife, Nema M. Rylee (26 years old; born Oklahoma) and 5 year old son Jack Rylee (born Oklahoma) are living in Fresno, California:
    Ancestry had the 1930 census takers worksheet: Nema M. Rylee and son Jack are living in Fresno, California. She is divorced.
  • Ancestry had many Fresno, California City Directories from the 1920s and 1930s. Following are four of those with Nema:
    1923 Fresno, California city directory:
    Mrs. Nema Rylee (clerk - Probation Officer) and A. J. Rylee (bookkeeper).
    1924 Fresno, California city directory:
    Mrs. Nema Rylee (no occupation listed) and Andrew J. Rylee (clerk - S Oil Co (which I assume is Standard Oil)).
    1929 Fresno, California city directory:
    Mrs. Nema M. Rylee (bookkeeper) and son reside at 1527 Thomas Avenue. Andrew Jackson Rylee is not listed.
    1932 Fresno, California city directory:
    Mrs. Nema Rylee (office secretary) is still residing at 1527 Thomas Avenue. Andrew Jackson Rylee is not listed.
  • 1940 census - Family Search has the last name spelled "Agler". Living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin are 36 year old Andrew Jackson Agler [sic] (born Texas) and his 42 year old wife Pearl (born Illinois):
    1940 census takers worksheet - was easy to interpret the last name of Rylee as Agler. Andrew Jackson Rylee and wife Pearl are renting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; they lived in Manhattan, New York in 1935. He completed four years of college; occupation is "Salesman - Wholesale Building Material", and in 1939, he worked 52 weeks and earned $2400.00:
  • There are some user created family trees on which indicate Preston passed away in 1953 in Kansas City, Missouri.
    The death certificate confirms that information - 48 year old Andrew J. Rylee was born February 8, 1905 in Grandburg, Texas, and parents were Andrew Rylee and Lucy Pierce. He passed away at his home at 7300 Summit, Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri on July 30, 1953 and cause of death was mitral and aortic stenosis and rheumatic heart disease. He had lived in Kansas City, Missouri for about 8 years; he was the owner - manager of D&J Hobby Craft Center; and he was not a military veteran. Wife Denise Rylee was the death certificate informant. Burial at Mount Olivet cemetery, Kansas City, Missouri.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above is a pressbook cover from COURAGE OF THE NORTH. Note the mention of "ONE OF THE" and the large number 6 in the background ... meaning there were six Preston "Northwest Action Thriller" mountie films planned.

(From Old Corral image collection)

Above is John Preston, with "Dynamite, the Wonder Horse" and "Captain, the King of Dogs" during his two starring roles as "Morton of the Mounted".

Les Adams writes: "the Weiss Bros. provided partial or full financing on all three of the Mountie films in exchange for full distribution rights; those, in turn, were sold off to various states rights distributors, including distribution companies controlled/owned by Weiss and some that weren't."

The two John Preston mountie adventures were produced and directed by Robert Emmett "Bob" Tansey, the jack-of-all-trades who may be best remembered for the Monogram Trail Blazers and the early Eddie Dean films at PRC.

On the right is a late 1935 announcement from Stage & Screen Productions, Inc. which includes the continuation of their "NORTHWEST MOUNTED ACTION THRILLERS" along with Rex Lease westerns, the CUSTER'S LAST STAND serial, more.

The third and last film in the abbreviated series was produced by Louis Weiss and helmed by Stuart Paton. John Preston was gone and Kane Richmond was the new hero, but he was demoted from Sergeant to Corporal rank. And there was no longer any reference to "Morton of the Mounted".

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above is a pressbook ad for THE SILENT CODE (1935), the third and last of the mountie yarns. John Preston was gone and replaced by Kane Richmond.

Left - a John Preston COURAGE OF THE NORTH poster from a pressbook. One of the pressbook blurbs from Les Adams mentioned that Preston hailed from San Antonio, Texas.

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