|The 'brains' and 'action' heavies who had meaty roles and lots of dialog ... and the players who were fathers, ranch owners, lawman, mayors, judges, lawyers, storekeepers, newspaper editors, wardens, etc.|
(Courtesy of Jack Tillmany)
sometimes spelled Glen Strange
Glenn George Strange
George Glenn Strange
"Peewee", "Pee Wee"
1899 - 1973
Glenn Strange is one of the most recognized of the B western baddies and character players and his movie and television career spanned about forty years, from the early 1930s through his death in 1973. His reputation was that of a genuine nice guy who loved music and cooking. And his many friends included bad guy Roy Barcroft and singing cowboy Eddie Dean.
(From Old Corral image collection)Glenn Strange - circa 1940 (From Old Corral image collection)
Above - Glenn Strange as "Sam Noonan", the Long Branch saloon bartender, on TV's GUNSMOKE. He appeared in 200+ GUNSMOKE episodes which originally aired from 1962-1973 on CBS. Lots of lines and creases in that face.
Biographies on Glenn Strange have him born August 16, 1899 in Weed, New Mexico Territory. And some profiles have Glenn and his father as ranchers. Both assertions lead to questions:
He completed schooling through the eighth grade, worked on the family farm, and learned to play fiddle and guitar by ear and performed at local dances. Circa 1930, he and his cousin, Taylor Curtis 'Cactus Mack' McPeters (1899-1962), began performing on radio and personal appearances with groups of singing cowboys including the Arizona Wranglers and Range Riders. (Sarah Byrd, the mother of Glenn Strange, and Leona Byrd, mother of "Cactus Mack" McPeters were sisters.)
- Glenn was consistent in indicating he was born in Weed, New Mexico. Instead, he MAY have been born a Texan. For the 1900 census, nine month old Glenn and the Strange family resided in McCulloch County, Texas. The distance between Weed, New Mexico and McCulloch County, Texas is about 450 miles, a significant distance for 1900 travel.
- Glenn and the family were in Cross Cut, Brown County, Texas for the 1910 census and Oklahoma in the 1920 census.
- Further down this webpage, you'll find details and links for the 1900, 1910 and 1920 census as well as Glenn's World War I draft registration. Note the occupation of Glenn and his father as farmer / farming / farm hand (not rancher, ranching or ranch hand). And Glenn's dad was always renting and never the owner of his home and land, perhaps indicating he was a sharecropper or tenant farmer. Whether his early life was farmer or rancher, Glenn had to learn to ride, wrangle horses and drive wagons.
From those musical beginnings, Cactus Mack and Glenn got their start in motion pictures. Scuttlebutt is that Glenn also worked on the Hoot Gibson rodeo and his early film appearances were unbilled roles in a half dozen of Hoot's 1930-1932 films for Universal and Allied.
Glenn became a prolific performer in B westerns. In his early westerns, he was sometimes a cowhand, gang member/henchman, stagecoach driver, etc. Bigger roles followed and Glenn often portrayed the brains heavy/boss baddie or the second-in-command and he even did duty as a hero helper/sidekick. You can spot him in Poverty Row independents as well as films for Monogram, PRC, RKO, Warners, Universal, and Hopalong Cassidys at Paramount and United Artists. But he didn't get many paychecks from Republic Pictures. At Republic, Glenn was in about two dozen films and one serial scattered over the years 1935-1958.
In the late 1930s, Strange briefly played sidekick "Pee Wee" to melodious Dick Foran at Warner's. One of his meatiest roles was as "Tex", one of Dick Foran's Riders (along with Buck Jones, Leo Carrillo, Noah Beery, Jr. and Big Boy Williams) in Universal's 15 chapter RIDERS OF DEATH VALLEY (Universal, 1941). And Strange could do humor - in the Technicolor short THE SUNDAY ROUND-UP (Warners, 1938), Dick Foran plays a preacher who arranges a stage show to collect money for the poor and needy. Steve Clemento/Clemente is one of the acts and shows off his knife and axe throwing skills ... and his target is a very nervous and scared Glenn Strange.
His height was about 6' 4" or so, and he towered over everyone else in the scene. His size got him to Universal Pictures where he played the Frankenstein monster on three occasions, including one of my favorites, ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (Universal, 1948). He also portrayed other creatures and critters: Glenn was "Atlas the Monster" vs. the Bowery Boys in MASTER MINDS (Monogram, 1949); and at Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC), there was THE MAD MONSTER (PRC, 1942) and THE MONSTER MAKER (PRC, 1944) which were churned out by producer Sigmund Neufeld and his brother, director Sam Newfield (Neufeld).
As the B western faded, Strange stayed busy doing television shows. A few highlights: he was "Butch Cavendish", the outlaw gang leader that bushwhacked the Texas Rangers in the opening three-parter of the LONE RANGER TV show; and he had a recurring role as "Sam Noonan", the Long Branch saloon barkeep, on television's GUNSMOKE from 1962 until shortly before his death from lung cancer in 1973.
Les Adams has him identified in 250+ sound era films - that includes 215 westerns and a half dozen serials. And there's more on Glenn Strange's involvement with the singing groups the Arizona Wranglers, Range Riders, Radio Buckaroos, and others in the Singers-Musicians-Groups section on the Old Corral.
Glenn was a talented songwriter and singer and a close pal to singin' cowboy Eddie Dean. They collaborated on various tunes - an example is their opening title song for Dean's TUMBLEWEED TRAIL (PRC, 1946).
Minard Coons noted that in one of his conversations with Eddie Dean, that Dean had mentioned that he (Dean) and Strange would write songs on the bus ride to location shootings. In an interview in 1975, Dean talked about his friend, Glenn Strange ... he and Strange were hunting and fishing buddies ... Glenn liked to cook ... he was a terrific guy ... when Dean had his starring series at PRC in the 1940s, he wanted Strange in the cast, but the producer said "nope - Glenn Strange is just too tall!". Another of Strange's buddies was Republic Pictures bad guy Roy Barcroft.
There were two marriages. In 1920, Glenn and the Strange family were living in Oklahoma. That year he married Flora Eola Hooper, the daughter of a neighbor farmer and they had two daughters, Vera Wynema Strange (born 1921) and Eva Juanita Strange (born 1923). Unknown when they divorced. In 1936, he married Minnie Pearl Thompson, and they had a daughter named Janine. That pairing lasted until Glenn's death in 1973.
Glenn Strange passed away from lung cancer on September 20, 1973 at St. Joseph Hospital, Burbank, California. At the September 24, 1973 Memorial Service at Chapel of the Hills, Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills, the eulogy was delivered by John Mantley (1920-2003), executive producer of the GUNSMOKE TV show.
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has information on Glenn Strange: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0833363/
Boyd Magers' Western Clippings website has a profile on Glenn Strange, which includes an interview: http://www.westernclippings.com/heavies/glennstrange_charactersheavies.shtml
Strange was a member of various singing groups ... including the Arizona Wranglers, Range Riders, Radio Buckaroos, Wranglers, Texas Cow Town Boys and Girls, more group variations. Some appeared in the B westerns and most did radio and personal appearances. Click HERE and a separate window will open with an Old Corral webpage showing various singing/musical groups which included Glenn Strange.
The BMI Broadcast Music, Inc. website has a search function where you can check the tunes authored/co-authored by Glenn Strange. When you get to the BMI search page, enter "Strange" in the name box, select "Songwriter/Composer", and then click on the search. Go to: http://repertoire.bmi.com/startpage.asp
You should find several name variations in the listing including "Strange G", "Strange Glen", etc. listed and some of his song writing credits include "On The Banks Of The Sunny San Juan" (Banks of the Old Rio Grande) by Strange and Eddie Dean, and "My Tumbleweed Trail" by Strange and Dean.
Norris Chambers mentions Glenn Strange and Cactus Mack McPeters in his Brief History of Crosscut, Texas: http://www.norrisc.com/crosscut/xcut.html
Julie Ann Ream has been involved in the Silver Spur Awards, Rex Allen Days, more. "Cactus Mack" Mc Peters was Julie's grandfather. The Arizona Range News website has an article with comments from Julie about Cactus Mack, Glenn Strange, Rex Allen and their Arizona connections: http://www.willcoxrangenews.com/news/article_a17617d4-b76f-11e2-bc14-0019bb2963f4.html?TNNoMobile
The National Music Museum at the University of South Dakota, Vermillion, South Dakota has a Ray Whitley Custom Gibson "party guitar" which was originally owned by Ray Whitley and later, by Glenn Strange. Photos and info can be found at: http://orgs.usd.edu/nmm/PluckedStrings/Guitars/Gibson/5991/WhitleyGuitar.html
Margie's Chuck Connors' THE RIFLEMAN website includes some images of Strange guesting on the Chuck Connors TV series: http://www.riflemanconnors.com/glenn_strange.htm
There's an interview with Don Glut which includes comments about Glenn Strange: http://www.janalanhenderson.com/Articles/Don_Glut_Interview.html
The Frankenstein Blog Frankenstenia has comments and a great photo of Strange as the Frankenstein monster: http://frankensteinia.blogspot.com/2009/07/monster-glenn-strange.html
YouTube has many films and TV programs with Glenn Strange:
THE MAD MONSTER (PRC, 1942): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HB81HSHRauo
THE MONSTER MAKER (PRC, 1944): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssghfgUKvmU
Trailer for the HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (Universal, 1944): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5m2SvwLBmM
Various Glenn Strange westerns with Buster Crabbe, Range Busters, Bob Steele, others: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=%22glenn+strange%22&lclk=long&filters=long
On the trail of Glenn Strange
The Family Search website (free), Ancestry.com (subscription), California Death Index and the death certificate provide more about Glenn Strange and family:
- 1880 census - Sarah Byrd, the mother of Glenn Strange, and Leona Byrd, mother of "Cactus Mack" McPeters were sisters. 1 year old Leona Byrd (born about 1879 in Texas) and 10 year old Sarah E. Byrd (born about 1870 in Texas) reside with their parents and siblings in Brown County, Texas: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MFFP-TD2
- 1890 census is unavailable - it was lost in a 1921 fire (and water damage) at the Commerce Building in Washington, D.C.
- 1900 census - 30 year old William R. Strange (born Arkansas), 30 year old wife Sarah E. Strange (born Texas) and children Lennie, Shirley and 1 year old George A. L. Strange (born New Mexico) are living in Justices Precinct 4, McCulloch County, Texas: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/M3P6-Y47
1900 census takers worksheet - William and Sarah have been married about 10 years and had 4 children, 3 of which are living. They are renting and father William's occupation is "Farmer". The census was taken June 1, 1900 and son George is listed as 9/12 years of age (meaning nine months old) with an August, 1899 birth date: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-267-11900-127976-84?cc=1325221
- 1910 census - 10 year old George G. Strange (born New Mexico) is living with his family in Justice Precinct 8, Brown County, Texas. Parents are 39 year old W. R. Strange (born Arkansas) and 39 year old Sarah E. Strange (born Texas): https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/M29X-9JC
Ancestry had the 1910 census takers worksheet - location information at the top of the form is Cross Cut, Justice Precinct 8, Brown County, Texas. 39 year old W. R. Strange's occupation is "Farmer - Farm Labor". 39 year old Sarah E.'s occupation is "House work - House farm". They are renting. They have been married for 18 years; this is his first marriage and her second; they've had 6 children and 5 are still living. 10 year old George G. has an occupation of "Farmer - Farm Labor".
- World War I draft registration dated September 12, 1918 - 19 year old Glenn George Strange was born August 16, 1899, but birth place is not specified; home is Stuart, Hughes County, Oklahoma; occupation is "Farming"; and nearest relative is father W. R. Strange: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-25078-18999-26?cc=1968530
- 1920 census - 20 year old George Strange is single and living with his parents in Texas township, Cotton County, Oklahoma. Parents and siblings were 49 year old William Strange (born Arkansas), his 49 year old wife Sarah E. (born Texas), 17 year old son Lawrence (born Texas) and 14 year old daughter Alpha (born Texas): https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MN14-33M
Ancestry had the 1920 census takers worksheet - 49 year old William Strange's occupation is "Farming" and son George is a "Farm Hand". They are renting. Living next door to the Strange farm are farmer Charles E. Hooper, wife Ruth, and two daughters, one of which is 15 year old Flora. She and Glenn would marry in April, 1920.
- Family trees on Ancestry.com have Glenn marrying Flora Eola/Ella Hooper on April 29, 1920 in Hastings, Cotton County, Oklahoma. Several of the family trees on Ancestry.com have their April 28, 1920 marriage application and Flora is sixteen years old and her middle name is Eola (not Ella); Glenn is listed as Glenn W. Strange.
- February 25, 1936 Los Angeles County marriage license of 36 year old Glenn George Strange (born New Mexico) to 24 year old Minnie Pearl Thompson (born New York) in Glendale, California. He was divorced and this is his second marriage; occupation is "Actor - Universal Studios"; parents were Russell Strange (born Arkansas) and Sarah Byrd (born Texas). Minnie's occupation is "Beauty operator - Beauty Shop":
- 1940 census - 40 year old Glenn G. Strange (born New Mexico), 28 year old wife Minni [sic] P. (born New York) and daughter Janine L. (born California) are residing in the Glendale, California home of Minnie's parents, Henry A. Thompson and Blanche M. Thompson: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K97L-51Z
1940 census takers worksheet - Strange completed eight years of schooling. His occupation is "Actor - Motion Picture", and in 1939, he worked 52 weeks and earned $3100.00: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-27792-2116-60?cc=2000219
- Death certificate - 74 year old Glenn George Strange, AKA George Glenn Strange, passed away from lung cancer on September 20, 1973 at St. Joseph Hospital, Burbank, California. He was born August 16, 1899 in New Mexico; parents were William R. Strange and Sarah E. Byrd; and his occupation was "Actor - C. B. S. Television". Death certificate informant was wife Min T. Strange, and they lived at 926 East Valencia Street, Burbank, California. Funeral director was Forest Lawn and burial at Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles, California.
- The California Death Index has dual records, one for Glenn G. Strange and the other for George G. Strange. Both have a birth place and date of New Mexico and 8/16/1899, and he passed away on 9/20/1973.
- Excerpt from the funeral notice in the September 22, 1973 Los Angeles (California) Times newspaper: "STRANGE, Glenn, beloved husband of Mrs. Min T. Strange, father of Mrs. Janine L. Nix ... "
- In her later years, Glenn's wife Minnie lived with daughter Janine Nix and her husband, and she passed away September 7, 2004 in Klamath Falls, Oregon.
Jim Tipton's Find-A-Grave site has a (distant) photo of Strange's grave marker at Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles, California: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=4340
Glenn's wife Minnie is interred next to Glenn: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=79329346
There are two genealogy websites about Glenn and family, including two marriages prior to his marriage to Minnie Thompson:
The Google Newspaper archive has death announcements on Glenn Strange:
Was he born in Weed, New Mexico ... or Texas?
In the 1900 census, the Strange family resided in McCulloch County, Texas and Glenn is 9/12 years old (meaning 9 months of age) and his birth place is listed as New Mexico. The distance between Weed, New Mexico and McCulloch County and Brown County, Texas is about 450 miles, a significant distance and challenge for 1900 travel.
At the time of Glenn's birth, New Mexico was a territory. It became the 47th state on January 6, 1912. From the New Mexico Department of Health website: "In 1919, Vital Records and Health Statistics was created to register births and deaths that occurred in New Mexico. Prior to this time, birth and death records were collected by a variety of institutions which were not health-related, including counties and churches. For the most part these statistics are not currently available from us."
The June 29, 1970 Abilene (Texas) Reporter-News had a lengthy article about Glenn Strange, his Hollywood career, and role as Sam the bartender on GUNSMOKE. And there's lots of comments about whether he was born in New Mexico or Texas. Excerpts from that article:
"Glenn Strange, 'Sam', is no New Mexican. He's an old Brown County boy, reared hard by the Callahan County line in the Cross Cut area. The publicity people have their states mixed. He's from Texas, not New Mexico."
"Mrs. W. L. (Les) Byrd of Cross Cut, whose husband is one of the cousins, provided a rundown on the actor's clan."
"Strange was born in Brown County and lived in the Cross Cut region until the early 1920s, she said."
"The actor's immediate family left Brown County in the '20s, moving to Oklahoma."
The Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at San Angelo has a partial map of central Texas. Note that northern border of McCulloch County and southern border of Brown County, Texas touch: http://sanangelo.tamu.edu/extension/agronomy/small-grain-production-in-west-central-texas/west-central-texas-district-7/
Some tidbits and questions on his early years before Hollywood.
Various profiles on Glenn Strange have him as an El Paso, Texas fireman ... a lawman in Texas and Oklahoma ... a real life cowboy ... a rancher ... a boxer ... he was with Hoot Gibson's rodeo circa 1930 ... more. Difficult to confirm any/all of this as the trail is old and cold.
As mentioned earlier, the 1900, 1910, and 1920 census as well as Glenn's World War I draft registration have the occupations of he and his father as farmer / farming / farm labor ... not rancher / ranching / ranch hand. In those same census years, the Strange family were renters, not owners of the home and land where they lived.
October 20, 1933 Amarillo (Texas) Globe newspaper: Headline: "Cowboy Policeman Says Carnera 'Won't Last Long'." Article excerpt: "Primo Carnera had better take his fun and glory as the World's Champion heavyweight boxer while he can. It won't last long. That is the opinion of Glenn Strange, boxer, wrestler, singer, movie cowboy, and former policeman of Durant, Okla., and Stamford (Texas), and former fireman at El Paso, who is appearing at the Paramount Theater with Sheriff Loyal Underwood and his 'Range Riders.' And Strange should know for he once fought Carnera. That was in 1930 and Strange was fighting under the name of Jack Williams."
In a 1970 interview and newspaper article, Glenn commented that "... he tried fighting professionally, too. Once he was on the same card with Jack Dempsey. Jack watched Strange get Ko'd, badly. 'He (Dempsey) advised me to quit the ring' Strange says, 'before I got my brains scrambled'."
The September 29, 1933 issue of the Breckinridge (Texas) American newspaper had a lengthy article on Hollywood cowboy Glenn Strange who was in the area performing with the Range Riders. The article headline reads "TEXAS BOY, GLENN STRANGE, KNOWN IN PICTURE COLONY, FROM STAMFORD (Texas) AND TEXAS RANCHES - PLAYS WESTERN ROLES" : http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth71855/m1/4/zoom/?q=%22glenn%20strange%22&zoom=2&lat=4126&lon=2788&layers=BT
However, the October 20, 1933 Stamford (Jones County, Texas) American newspaper had a rebuttal to that September 29, 1933 Breckinride (Texas) American article - a few quotes from that rebuttal: " ... never seen him on a horse"; "Four or five years ago he drifted here. He eked out a living barbering and occasionally boxing and wrestling around the carnivals."
The August 4, 1938 edition of the El Paso (Texas) Herald-Post newspaper had an article on the Hopalong Cassidy film IN OLD MEXICO. Excerpts: "Glenn (Pewee) Strange, Bad Man in Picture, Quit Job As El Paso Fireman to Start Theatrical Career With Band."; "... Glenn (Pewee) Strange of Weed, who was an El Paso fireman attached to the Central Station ..."
Glenn Strange's cousin, Taylor Curtis "Cactus Mack" McPeters (1899-1962)
Cactus Mack - circa 1936
Cactus Mack - circa 1947
|Sarah Byrd, the mother of Glenn Strange, and Leona Byrd, mother of "Cactus Mack" McPeters were sisters:|
1880 census - 1 year old Leona Byrd (born about 1879 in Texas) and 10 year old Sarah E. Byrd (born about 1870 in Texas) are with their parents and siblings in Brown County, Texas: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MFFP-TD2
There is a profile on Cactus Mack in The Henchies section on the Old Corral.
(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
Above - Lee 'Lone Ranger' Powell and Charles 'Slim' Whitaker are about ready to jump this quartet of no-goods in RAIDERS OF THE WEST (PRC, 1942), one of the Frontier Marshals trio series. Unaware of their pending doom, the four baddies are, from left to right: Rex Lease, Charlie King, Eddie Dean and Glenn Strange. Note the lineup as being shortest to tallest - and check the height of Glenn Strange vs. Rex Lease.
(From Old Corral image collection)
Above - Tex Ritter has the drop on Glenn Strange in a lobby card from PALS OF THE SILVER SAGE (Monogram, 1940). Strange did nine oaters with Tex at Grand National, Monogram and Universal.
(Courtesy of John F. White, Dan White's grandson)
Above and below - snapshots from November, 1959 showing western movie actors Glenn Strange and Dan White "wrenching" an old Cadillac ... and using a 2X4 to hold up the hood.
(Courtesy of John F. White, Dan White's grandson)
(From Old Corral image collection)
Above is Glenn Strange reading the comics and relaxing at the makeup table as he preps for another day of playing the Frankenstein monster.
| |(From Old Corral image collection)
Above is a scene from ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (Universal, 1948). From L-to-R are Strange as the Frankenstein monster, Lenore Aubert as the villainess and Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula.
Strange portrayed the monster in three films: HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (Universal, 1944), HOUSE OF DRACULA (Universal, 1945) and ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (Universal, 1948).
(Courtesy of Joel Towler) |Left are Glenn Strange and Joel Towler at the annual Chuck Wagon Trailers barbeque in Hansen Dam Park in Pacoima, California, circa 1964. Buddy Roosevelt was behind the camera.|
Joel Towler writes about Glenn Strange:
"As for Glenn Strange, I will say this - I have never met a kinder, nicer gentleman than Glenn. I originally started going to Chuckwagon Trailers because of hearing that Glenn was a loyal member from their founding days. So I went to see what it was all about. The cost of a steak outdoor barbeque, cooked by Glenn, was a whopping $1.50! I had an opportunity to talk to him for quite a while, and had him sign a photo of himself in Frankenstein make-up from "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein". I learned from him, that he was spending his weekends away from "Gunsmoke" working on old television sets in his garage. He had a keen interest in electronics, and it was kind of a new venture for him at the time. As I was in the telephone business at the time, we talked about current, capacitors, diodes, etc. After we met at the barbeque, we began exchanging letters, and he sent me several fine autographed photographs. I don't think Glenn was capable of saying an unkind remark about any human being. For such a big guy, he was gentle in spirit, and always polite. I saw him on several occasions after that, and he was more than gracious. He did tell me that he would like to have more "Gunsmoke" shows to feature more of Sam. James Arness told him that he wanted other tall guys on the series, and Glenn was his choice. Great choice!"