Addison Owen Randall
1906 - 1945
(Courtesy of Jack Tillmany)
|You want nitty-gritty on Jack Randall, his brother Bob Livingston, and all kinds of tidbits about western movie making and Hollywood of the 1930s and 1940s. After many years of research, Merrill T. McCord issued his Brothers of the West in 2003, a lengthy and detailed biography of the Randall Brothers. This book is absolutely superb!|
The 8 1/2 x 11 softcover contains about 450 pages and over 200 photos and can be ordered directly from:
10208 Fleming Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20814
for $37.95 (includes postage). July, 2007 update: you can still order directly from Merrill McCord at the above price. For more info, click HERE.
|Thanks also to Merrill for his assistance in the preparation of these webpages on Jack Randall.|
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
The top pressbook ad has Jack on 'Rusty the Wonder Horse' while in the bottom ad, Randall is on a white horse which is probably Jack Perrin's 'Starlight'.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
A variety of actors tried unsuccessfully to become a "big-gun" among the Hollywood cowboy elite. These folks were tried in a series or two by a studio or two ... and then moved into supporting and bit parts, or decided to pursue other professions. Some names that come to mind are: Jack Luden and Bob Allen at Columbia, Eddie Dew at Republic, Fred Scott at Spectrum, and Reb Russell in his series for Willis Kent. There was also a good lookin' range rider with a pretty good voice by the name of Addison "Jack" Randall who toiled for little Monogram Pictures prior to World War II.
Jack Randall was the younger brother (some sources incorrectly mention half-brother) to Three Mesquiteers star Bob Livingston (real name: Robert Edgar Randall, 1904-1988).
Bob was born in Quincy, Illinois in 1904. The father was in the newspaper business and the family moved to California and Addison (Jack) was born in San Fernando, California in 1906.
Merrill McCord's biography of the Randall Brothers includes lots of photos and details on the Randall family including various issues and problems (such as the parent's divorce; the boys living/returning to Quincy, Illinois; living with other relatives; more).
Both Randall brothers were doing film work in the 1930s. By the mid-point of the decade, Addison had become a contract player at RKO, but he was released and began to freelance wherever he could find work (Universal, Republic and Chesterfield). Livingston was the first to become a "star" when he got the lead in THE VIGILANTES ARE COMING serial and became a member of the Three Mesquiteers series at Republic Pictures, both of which occurred in 1936.
Republic Pictures was formed with the merger of Consolidated Film Industries, Mascot Pictures, Monogram Pictures, et al in 1935. A year or two later, W. Ray Johnston split with Republic and resurrected Monogram. The re-established production company needed some quick and cheap cowboy flicks to attract the distributors and theater owners. W. Ray Johnston/Monogram was also aware that Gene Autry and his "singing westerns" were becoming quite popular.
In 1937, Jack Randall signed as the melodious hero of a new series of musical westerns for Monogram Pictures Corporation.
However, after about a half-dozen, the singing was reduced, and by the middle entries, the films became traditional B western programmers. There were other changes which gave the Randall westerns an inconsistent look and feel. But the fault was not with Jack. Chalk the inconsistencies up to 5 different producers, 9 directors, and more than a dozen sidekicks. And Jack rode several different horses and went through various uniform changes ... and he sang ... and then he didn't sing. Take a gander at the Randall film listing in a later webpage and you'll find names of the many producers, directors and saddle pals.
There was one constant which Merrill notes in his writings - the primary stuntman/double for Randall was Tom Steele. Steele was several years away from becoming the "ramrod" (stunt boss) at Republic Pictures from Dave Sharpe who entered WW2 service in late 1942 or early 1943.
Jack Randall had the looks and talent to do well in the low budget western. It's easy to hindsight manage. Perhaps Monogram made an error by not providing production consistency which would showcase him properly and allow him to build a fan following. Or perhaps Randall was simply a stopgap cinema range rider that Monogram needed to fulfill their film release promises. Or Monogram just didn't care and their priority was slapping together cheap westerns and getting those into the theaters.
RIDERS OF THE DAWN (Monogram, 1937) was the first of the Randall series, and is often identified as his best. That film had a superb ending with lots of action as bunches of baddies ride into battle against bunches of lawman ... and there's even a runaway stagecoach. But it was marred by Randall's baritone singing during some ridin' sequences. In THE MEXICALI KID (Monogram, 1938), "Rusty, the Wonder Horse" became Jack's mount and does some neat tricks. Rusty was a good lookin' and talented movie horse but is totally forgotten today. And if you want a chuckle, catch poor Jack chewing his way through ropes tied around his wrists in COVERED WAGON TRAILS (Monogram, 1940).
Want to see a good Randall? I'd suggest ACROSS THE PLAINS (Monogram, 1939) which was directed by veteran Spencer Gordon Bennet. This solid and respectable film used the well-worn good brother (Randall) vs. bad brother (Dennis Moore) theme. Also take a look at GUN PACKER (Monogram, 1938), a unique film in that black actor Raymond Turner portrays Jack's sidekick. U.S. Marshal Randall and Turner ride against a band of stagecoach robbers led by prolific badman Charlie King.
Let's backtrack a bit. The situation with Randall can be better understood by briefly reviewing Monogram's western film heroes during that late 1930s:
- During 1937, Monogram had Tom Keene and Jack Randall headlining their westerns.
- 1938 releases included Randall, a few more with Keene, a brief tour for Tim McCoy ... and Tex Ritter came onboard.
- 1939 entries included Ritter, Randall, and Renfrew of the Royal Mounted.
- For 1940, there was Randall, Ritter and Renfrew. Plus, Monogram inked a deal with producer George W. Weeks for the new Range Busters trio series starring Ray Corrigan, John King and Max Terhune.
The Tex Ritter series as well as the Renfrew mountie films with Jim Newill were originally released through Grand National Pictures. But Grand National was in deep financial troubles and ultimately went bust. Because of these financial woes, the Ritter and Renfrew films moved to Monogram.
There has been some conjecture that Randall's singing was downplayed/halted due to the arrival of Tex Ritter - i.e., the rationale was that Monogram opted to spotlight one singing cowboy, and Tex had better credentials and more fan appeal. In actuality, the decision to downplay/halt Jack's singing occurred prior to Tex's arrival. Monogram had received feedback from the theater owners - Randall was good looking and seemed to fit the bill as a sagebrush hero. On the negative side - please stop the singing! Thus, the Randalls changed from musical westerns to traditional cowboy programmers. I've said it before, and it applies here also. There were sagebrush troubadours like Autry, Rogers, Wakely, Ritter, Eddie Dean and Rex Allen who had an easy going, downhome, western flavor to their crooning. Others, such as Randall, Dick Foran and Fred Scott, seemed to be from the Nelson Eddy school with voices that were too booming, too operatic, too formal for the low budget cowboy film.
As noted earlier, Randall was unlucky enough to be under the control of many producers/production units. Bob Steele's father, Robert North Bradbury (real name: Ronald Bradbury (1886-1949)), did double-duty by producing and directing the first three. Then came Maurice Conn (1906-1973). Earlier, Conn headed up Ambassador Pictures and churned out a variety of B films, including mountie and western adventures starring Ken Maynard's younger brother Kermit. Randall's next boss was Robert Emmett Tansey (1897-1951), a workhorse and jack-of-all-trades who did about everything including scripts, assistant directing, directing and producing. He's best known for bringing Ken Maynard and Hoot Gibson back to the screen in Monogram's Trail Blazers. Shortly thereafter, Bob Tansey was at PRC putting together the Eddie Dean Cinecolor oaters. Even veteran Lindsley Parsons, who was in charge of the Frankie Darro group at Monogram, wound up supervising a Randall.
Below is the title lobby card from Randall's last, WILD HORSE RANGE (Monogram, 1940). The producer of this and six others was Harry S. Webb (1896-1959). Earlier, Webb and Bernard B. Ray ran Reliable Pictures and that company is best remembered for an 18 film series starring Tom Tyler. When Reliable folded around 1937, Webb formed a short-lived production outfit named Metropolitan (with Bob Steele starring in a group of eight).
Webb and his production unit wound up at Monogram, and were in charge of the final seven entries in Jack's series. Harry directed one and Raymond K. Johnson, a Webb team member for many years, helmed the remaining half dozen. There were better directors floating around Monogram.
Overseeing all of this shuffling and chaos was Monogram production chief Scott R. Dunlap (1892-1970) who was a close friend and business manager of Buck Jones, was injured in the Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire which killed Jones, and is best remembered for Monogram's Rough Riders series which starred Buck, Tim McCoy and Raymond Hatton.
Notice a problem with this WILD HORSE RANGE title card? Randall has his sixgun in his left hand and his neckerchief is tied on the right side. Note the reddish colored inset on the bottom left with Charlie King, George Chesebro and Jack, who is wearing a single holster on the right side and his kerchief tied on the left. The large image was probably reversed by the folks doing the lobby card design. Errors in movie adwork were not unusual - click HERE for a Tom Keene Monogram lobby card and take a look at which side the holsters are slung.