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Prologue:

Hollywood history is chock full of myths and misinformation and Raymond K. Johnson / Raymond K. Johnston is an example. For years, those name variations were assumed to be aliases for low budget movie producer / director Bernard B. Ray.

C. Jack Lewis (1924 - 2009) was a retired Marine officer, movie screenwriter, co-founder of Gun World magazine, more. In his memoir White Horse, Black Hat: A Quarter Century on Hollywood's Poverty Row (Scarecrow Press, 2002), Lewis reinforced the notion that Johnson / Johnston was another name used by Bernard B. Ray. From Lewis' book:

" ... he worked under various names, mostly to keep his projects from looking like one-man shows! Names he used were Ray Bernard, Raymond Johnson, Raymond K. Johnson, Raymond Johnston, Raymond K. Johnston, Bernard Ray, Raymond Samuels, and Franklin Shamroy."

Raymond K. Johnson / Johnston were NOT Bernard B. Ray pseudonyms. Many years ago, I did an Old Corral biography on B film producer Harry S. Webb, with info and photos from his son Bob Webb. One of Bob's comments related to Raymond K. Johnson:

"This is an actual person who I had the pleasure of meeting in the sixties at MGM, where he had become head of the camera department."

May, 1957 issue of American Cinematographer magazine confirms Johnson at MGM: "The ASC last month elected to Associate Membership in the Society Raymond K. Johnson, head of the camera department at M-G-M studio ..." (ASC is the American Society of Cinematographers.)

Here's Raymond K. Johnson.


Raymond K. Johnson / Raymond Kingsbury Johnson
1901 - 1999


(Courtesy of the Estate of Marion Johnson Hayter,
half-sister to Gladys Johnson and Raymond Johnson)

Above - Ray Johnson at M-G-M. From the mid 1940s through mid 1950s, Johnson was assistant to John Arnold, the head of M-G-M's camera department. When Arnold retired in 1956, Johnson became camera department boss.


Raymond Kingsbury Johnson was born November 24, 1901 in Leeds Township, Benson County, North Dakota to Andrew L. and Myrtle Alice Kingsbury Johnson. His movie career began in the 1920s, and one of his early jobs was the filmed-in-Alaska THE CHECHAHCOS (Alaska Moving Pictures/Associated Exhibitors, 1924). Filmed in 1923, Raymond K. Johnson was a cameraman and his sister Gladys Johnson had a supporting role. Chris Beheim has been researching that film and more details are further down on this webpage.

Then Raymond directed a couple of silents. First was NORTH OF NOME (Great Northern Film Company/Arrow, 1925) which was originally titled THE ETERNAL FRONTIER. Sister Gladys was the female lead. Next was the filmed-in-Utah THE EXODUS / ALL FACES WEST (1928). EXODUS got tied up in a bankruptcy and wound up being auctioned off. A few years later, some opening narration was added and the film was released in 1931 by Syndicate as CALL OF THE ROCKIES.

Trade publications have a few traces of "Raymond Johnson Productions" being formed and creating some aviation shorts in 1933 for Perfex Pictures Corporation which was headquartered in New York City.

In 1935 - 1940, Johnson helmed about twenty B grade features - westerns and non-westerns - for independent, Poverty Row producers C. C. Burr (1891 - 1956) and Harry S. Webb (1892 - 1959). His films for Burr included four singing cowboy yarns with melodious Fred Scott. And for Harry S. Webb, he did a couple of Rin-Tin-Tin Jr. adventures, a Bob Steele western, and a half dozen oaters with Monogram's sagebrush crooner Jack Randall.

In July, 1942, forty year old Raymond K. Johnson enlisted in the Army for World War II service. The 1943 Film Daily Yearbook has listings of Hollywood people serving in the military. Under the category of "directors, assistant directors and unit managers" were Frank Capra, George Cukor, John Ford, William Witney ... and "Raymond K. Johnson, U. S. A."

Below are military photos of Raymond with Staff Sergeant or Technical Sergeant (Sergeant First Class) stripes. One was taken in 1942 at Camp Young, Indio, California, and Camp Young was headquarters of General George S. Patton's Desert Training Command. An undated photo has him withTechnical Sergeant stripes (three stripes and two rockers - equivalent to a Sergeant First Class). Unsure of his discharge date, but indications are that he was home in late 1945 and re-connected with C. C. Burr. That was short-lived as Burr's time as a film producer was over.

In the mid 1940s, Johnson did a career change and joined MGM's camera department which was headed by John Arnold (1889 - 1964). When Arnold retired in 1956, Johnson became camera department boss.

He passed away March 23, 1999 in Thousand Palms, Riverside County, California.



Above - 1926 theater ad for NORTH OF NOME (Great Northern Film Company/Arrow, 1925), Raymond K. Johnson's first directing job ... and his last name is misspelled "Johnston".



1938

Above is the 1938 organization chart for C. C. Burr's company which produced singing cowboy Fred Scott's last four westerns. Raymond K. Johnson was multi-functional, serving as Vice President, production supervisor (producer), and he directed the four Scotts.

In the 1937 issues of the Film Daily Yearbook and Motion Picture Almanac, the C. C. Burr organization has Johnson as Secretary-Managing Director, producer, and scenario writer.



Above - screen capture from the opening titles and credits with Raymond K. Johnson directing the Fred Scott CODE OF THE FEARLESS (Spectrum, 1939) for producer C. C. Burr.


Above - screen capture from the opening titles and credits from Fred Scott's IN OLD MONTANA (Spectrum, 1939). Johnson directed this and also got partial credit for the script and story.

Above - pressbook ad for Bob Steele's PINTO CANYON (Metropolitan, 1940) which Johnson helmed for producer Harry S. Webb.

In the late 1930s, Johnson connected with low budget producer Harry S. Webb, who with Bernard B. Ray, had operated Reliable Pictures. After Reliable folded, Webb formed Metropolitan Pictures company, and had Johnson directing oaters and some non-westerns. Johnson's films included Bob Steele in PINTO CANYON (Metropolitan, 1940) and Rin-Tin-Tin Jr. adventures, FANGS OF THE WILD (Metropolitan, 1939) and LAW OF THE WOLF (Metropolitan, 1939). Soon after, Webb took his production unit to Monogram Pictures and Johnson directed a half dozen with Jack Randall.


(From Old Corral collection)

Above is the title lobby card from the Jack Randall starrer WILD HORSE RANGE (Monogram, 1940), one of the half dozen Randalls directed by Raymond K. Johnson. Notice a problem with the lobby 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 Randall, who is wearing a single holster on the right side and his kerchief tied on the left. The large image was reversed by the folks doing the lobby card design.


Raymond K. Johnson directed these SOUND films.
Title / Company / Release year Star Producer
KENTUCKY BLUE STREAK (Puritan, 1935) Eddie Nugent C. C. Burr
SKYBOUND (Puritan, 1935) Lloyd Hughes C. C. Burr
SUICIDE SQUAD (Puritan, 1935) Norman Foster C. C. Burr
I'LL NAME THE MURDERER (Puritan, 1936) Ralph Forbes C. C. Burr
THE RECKLESS WAY (Puritan, 1936) Kane Richmond C. C. Burr
SPECIAL AGENT K-7 (Puritan, 1936) Walter McGrail C. C. Burr
DAUGHTER OF THE TONG (Metropolitan, 1939) Grant Withers Harry S. Webb
LAW OF THE WOLF (Metropolitan, 1939) Rin-Tin-Tin Jr., Dennis Moore Harry S. Webb
FANGS OF THE WILD (Metropolitan, 1939) Rin-Tin-Tin Jr., Dennis Moore Harry S. Webb
CODE OF THE FEARLESS (Spectrum, 1939) Fred Scott C. C. Burr
IN OLD MONTANA (Spectrum, 1939) Fred Scott C. C. Burr
TWO-GUN TROUBADOR (Spectrum, 1939) Fred Scott C. C. Burr
RIDIN' THE TRAIL (Spectrum, 1939) (See note below) Fred Scott C. C. Burr
PINTO CANYON (Metropolitan, 1940) Bob Steele Harry S. Webb
CHEYENNE KID, THE (Monogram, 1940) Jack Randall Harry S. Webb
COVERED WAGON TRAILS (Monogram, 1940) Jack Randall Harry S. Webb
LAND OF THE SIX GUNS (Monogram, 1940) Jack Randall Harry S. Webb
THE KID FROM SANTA FE (Monogram, 1940) Jack Randall Harry S. Webb
RIDERS FROM NOWHERE (Monogram, 1940) Jack Randall Harry S. Webb
WILD HORSE RANGE (Monogram, 1940) Jack Randall Harry S. Webb
Note: filmed in 1939, Fred Scott's RIDIN' THE TRAIL got lost in Spectrum's financial meltdown and collapse in 1939. Trades indicate that Monogram had the film and planned a June 27, 1940 release ... and then it's listed as postponed. Independent distributor Arthur Ziehm acquired the film and released it in late 1941 - early 1942.



(Courtesy of the Estate of Marion Johnson Hayter,
half-sister to Gladys Johnson and Raymond Johnson)

Centered between two unidentified soldiers is Raymond K. Johnson, and rank on his right sleeve is either Staff Sergeant or Technical Sergeant. Writing on the back of this photo reads: "Raymond at Camp Young, Indio, California 1942".

Johnson enlisted in the U. S. Army on July 31, 1942 in Los Angeles. He had to have some speciality or talent in order to receive Sergeant stripes that quickly.

Camp Young was the headquarters of General George S. Patton's Desert Training Command. More at Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camp_Young




(Courtesy of the Estate of Marion Johnson Hayter,
half-sister to Gladys Johnson and Raymond Johnson)

No date on the above photo - and no unit insignia on his left shoulder. His rank is Technical Sergeant which became Sergeant First Class in the late 1940s (SFC E-7 in today's Army).

Wikipedia has info on the Technical Sergeant and Sergeant First Class ranks: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergeant_first_class


Highlights from trade publications and newspapers

Below are a highlights from various trades and newspapers which provide a timeline on Raymond K. Johnson:

  Alas - the Internet Movie Database has 20+ Raymond K. Johnson directing jobs mixed in with producer and director Bernard B. Ray. We need to get this fixed: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0712748

The IMDb does have Raymond Johnson with a few film credits including THE CHECHAHCOS and NORTH OF NOME: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1262881
His sister Gladys Johnson did a few films in the mid to late 1920s, and the IMDb has info on her: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm8956022

The American Cinematographer website has an interview with Fred J. Koenekamp (1922 - 2017) and his credits include THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974), PATTON (1970), and TV show THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (1964). Koenekamp mentions John Arnold and Ray Johnson as "terrific people" at MGM's camera department: https://theasc.com/magazine/feb05/koenekamp/page2.html#


Raymond K. Johnson / Raymond Kingsbury Johnson (1901 - 1999)
and his sister Gladys Lillian Johnson (1899 - 1989)

Info on Raymond K. Johnson and sister Gladys Johnson came from Family Search (free), Ancestry.com (subscription), Fold3 Military records (subscription), Rootsweb (free), Newspaper Archive (subscription), California Death Index, and Social Security Death Index (SSDI).

Raymond:

Gladys:

(Courtesy of Chris Beheim)
Above - Gladys Johnson, circa 1923 - 1924.

As noted, Raymond's sister Gladys had roles in THE CHECHAHCOS (Alaska Moving Pictures/Associated Exhibitors, 1924), NORTH OF NOME (Arrow, 1925), and THE EXODUS / ALL FACES WEST (1928).

Her profession was playing the cello and she's a "Musician" in the 1920, 1930 and 1940 census. A syndicated AP story in March, 1927 newspapers reported on cellist Gladys at radio station KGW (Portland, Oregon) ... and concentrating on a musical career in radio:

"Portland, Ore., March 14 (1927) - The lure of the microphone was strong enough to pull Gladys Johnson of Portland away from the movie studio. Although she was featured in two motion picture productions and was offered new contracts, she returned to the musical field. As cellist of station KGW, Miss Johnson is widely known to radio fans of the northwest. Besides playing in solo selections and in orchestra numbers, Miss Johnson devotes much of her time to program arrangement."

Trade and newspaper articles also mention her as a cellist at KTM (Los Angeles), KMTR (Los Angeles), and in the mid 1930s, she was assistant program director at ABC in San Francisco.

Gladys passed away October 11, 1989 in Thousand Palms, Riverside County, California:



More on THE CHECHAHCOS (Alaska Moving Pictures/Associated Exhibitors, 1924) and THE EXODUS / ALL FACES WEST (1928).

Chris Beheim has been researching that film. Cast and crew included cameraman Raymond K. Johnson and his sister Gladys Johnson had a supporting role. Chris writes:

"Raymond and Gladys' mother was Myrtle Johnson who was a divorcee. (Census records report that she was a widow, but that was not correct.) She married George Edward Lewis in the early 1920s. In 1924, the year after filming THE CHECHAHCOS, Lewis, Raymond and Gladys returned to Alaska to film NORTH OF NOME. The interiors were shot in Portland. Raymond was listed as the Director.

In 1928, Raymond, Gladys, George Edward Lewis, and Lewis Moomaw (who directed THE CHECHAHCOS) traveled to Utah to make a movie about the Mormons, called THE EXODUS, starring Ben Lyon and Marie Prevost and Gladys in a supporting role. On December 16, 1928 the Los Angeles Times newspaper reported that film director Raymond was "arranging to have a Movietone accompaniment, making this the first big western to have sound effects." The title of the movie was changed to ALL FACES WEST and premiered in Salt Lake City in March of 1929. I'm not sure if it contained talkie features. George Edward Lewis' company went bankrupt, and the film was sold at public auction for $10,000. The title of the film was changed to CALL OF THE ROCKIES with a run time of 71 minutes, and contained talking and sound sequences. It was released to theaters in 1931.

60 minutes of CALL OF THE ROCKIES is available on DVD (from Alpha Video / oldies.com). For some reason, Bernard B. Ray's name appears on the DVD cover as the director of CALL OF THE ROCKIES, although Raymond K. Johnson's name appears in the movie credits."

Chris Beheim
February, 2019

The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has photos and more on THE CHECHAHCOS (Alaska Moving Picture Corp./Associated Exhibitors, 1924) which was filmed in 1923 and released in 1924: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0014770/

Alaska's Digital Archives website has about forty photos from THE CHECHAHCOS: https://vilda.alaska.edu/digital/search/searchterm/Chechahcos,%20The%20(Film)/mode/exact

A 35mm print of THE CHECHAHCOS (1924) was found and preserved by the Alaska Film Archives at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the National Film Preservation Foundation: https://www.filmpreservation.org/preserved-films/screening-room/t1-the-chechahcos-1924

The Utah Department of Heritage and Arts of has many stills from THE EXODUS / ALL FACES WEST (1928). Raymond directed and Gladys was in the cast: https://collections.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6pp18kx



(Courtesy of Chris Beheim)

Above - camera crew in Alaska filming THE CHECHAHCOS in 1923.
Raymond K. Johnson is on the far right ... and in the crop/blowup.



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