Back to prior page            Go to next page

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.



(From Old Corral image collection)
 
(Courtesy of Donn & Nancy Moyer)


Kenne Duncan

(Kenne is pronounced "Kenny")

Real name: Kenneth Duncan MacLachlan

1902 - 1972


Born in Chatham, Ontario, Canada, Kenne Duncan started in films in the late 1920s. His early appearances occurred in movies made in Canada, England and the United States. Circa 1937, he settled in Hollywoodland and began a long run as a villain and supporting player in serials and westerns. In a career that spanned 30+ years, Duncan labored for most of the B film studios and production companies.

Les Adams has him pegged in about 235 films, of which 160 are westerns and 25 are serials.

Duncan has one of my favorite death scenes. As "The Mesa Kid", he goes up against Tim McCoy (as "Trigger" Tim Rand) in FRONTIER CRUSADER (PRC, 1940). Kenne and a couple henchies get into a saloon gunfight with McCoy ... there's some shots, but you don't see the outcome ... Duncan walks out through the swinging saloon doors and mounts his cayuse ... then falls off the hoss, dead from McCoy's bullets.

His most important work - and most remembered - occurred from 1937 - 1950 in about 120 films for Republic Pictures, and most were oaters and cliffhangers. He was under a term player contract(s) at Republic from July, 1943 through July, 1946, and that seems to be his most prolific period. That contract provided him with security and a regular paycheck, but it also allowed Republic to utilize him in a lot of films ... and they did. In Republic westerns, Kenne was most often a member of a gang bossed by either Roy Barcroft or LeRoy Mason.

I recall a couple good Duncan roles in cliffhangers. He was hero Warren Hull's helper "Ram Singh" in THE SPIDER'S WEB (Columbia, 1938) and THE SPIDER RETURNS (Columbia, 1941). And he was the main henchman working for "the Scorpion" in THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL (Republic, 1941).



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above - Kenne Duncan vs. Wild Bill Elliott in a lobby card from CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH (Republic, 1946), one of the best of the Red Ryder adventures. The background is the Republic cave set.


As the B western and serial productions began to fade in the post World War II period, Kenne picked up paychecks doing Johnny Mack Brown, Jimmy Wakely and Whip Wilson yarns at Monogram Pictures. He was friendly with Gene Autry and can be spotted in about two dozen of Gene's Columbia movies and television program. Duncan also appeared in many episodes of THE RANGE RIDER, BUFFALO BILL JR., and ANNIE OAKLEY TV series which were produced by Autry's Flying A production company. He also did other early TVers including WILD BILL HICKOK, ADVENTURES OF KIT CARSON, THE LONE RANGER, more.

Duncan was close with director Ed Wood, Jr. (who brought us PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE and other films), and he starred in two of Wood's anemic creations, NIGHT OF THE GHOULS (1959) and THE SINISTER URGE (1961). He was also cast in an unsold color TV pilot from Wood titled CROSSROAD AVENGER (1953) which had Tom Keene as the lead.

For many years, Duncan did personal appearances and tours showcasing his trick shooting skills. Couple of examples: he and Cactus Mack McPeters did a 1947 theater personal appearance in Phoenix, Arizona; and in 1950, Kenne toured Japan as well as several U.S. military bases. More on this in images and a YouTube video link below.

A talented performer who added much to the B movie genre, Duncan passed away on February 7, 1972. There was confusion about his death:

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has information on Kenne Duncan: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0242010/

Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website has a photo of the marker for Kenne Duncan at Grand View Memorial Park, Glendale, California: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=10023661

The color "Trick Shooting With Kenne Duncan" (which was written and directed by Ed Wood and produced by Ronald Ashcroft) is available on YouTube and runs about 9 minutes. The opening title says "MacLachlan Bros. Present", and then "Kenne Duncan" ... "THE FACE That Is Known To Millions of TV and Western Movie Fans". Filmed circa 1953, Duncan is sponsored by Remington Arms (which provided him with his .22 caliber rifles). Setting up targets for him is a cowgirl named "Ruthie", but no mention of her last name or if she's Kenne's wife. There's newsreel footage at the end showing Kenne riding in a parade during his tour of Japan. Go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLSg8usUAUw

YouTube also has various clips from NIGHT OF THE GHOULS (1959). This link will take you to Kenne Duncan doing the seance ... and pay attention as a very old and grey Bud Osborne is sitting at the table: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qp51Y3jmqg
YouTube also has the Charles Starrett mountie adventure UNDERCOVER MEN (J. R. Booth/Dominion, 1935): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EumX7aQTCxQ

Daniel Neyer's "The Files of Jerry Blake" website has more on Kenne Duncan doing serials: http://filesofjerryblake.com/serial-henchmen/kenne-duncan/

There's information and photos of Duncan starring as "Dr. Acula" in the Ed Wood NIGHT OF THE GHOULS (1959): http://brightlightsfilm.com/blog/2009/07/ed-wood-blogathon-screwy-details-in-the-night-of-the-ghouls.html


The search for Kenne Duncan's family and history was reasonably successful, and information is below. Highlighted in Red font are his parents and siblings - there were at least two brothers (Malcolm, Donald) and two sisters (Ruth and Louise). And in the 1940s, Kenne, his mother and brother Malcolm are living at 1842 North Edgemont, Hollywood, California.

The Family Search website (free), Ancestry.com (subscription), California Death Records database, and Social Security Death Index (SSDI) have information on Duncan:

  • 1930 census: 28 year old Kenneth Duncan (born Canada) and his 24 year old brother Donald Mclachlan (born Canada) [sic] are living in Los Angeles: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XCJ1-J3P
    Ancestry has the 1930 census takers worksheet: Kenneth Duncan immigrated to the U.S. in 1922, and his occupation is "Actor - Stage". Brother Donald immigrated in 1929 and his occupation is "Accountant - General".
  • 1940 census: 38 year old Kenneth Duncan (born Canada) and 39 year old Walter D. Goss (born New York) are living in Beverly Hills, California: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/K97H-YVR
    1940 census takers worksheet: Kenneth Duncan is one of many people renting at 132 Bedford in Beverly Hills, California. He is single; resided in New York in 1935; occupation is "Actor - Motion Picture", and in 1939, he worked 10 weeks and earned $1050.00. Living with Duncan is 39 year old Walter D. Goss (born New York) who is also an "Actor - Motion Picture". Goss is the real name of actor Roland Drew who played "Prince Barin" in the third FLASH GORDON serial: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1961-27791-13423-48?cc=2000219&wc=M9Q8-TFC:1111270696
  • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, Central Division (Los Angeles) - March 9, 1955 official name change of Kenneth Duncan MacLaghlan to Kenne Duncan. His birth date is February 17, 1902, and his address was 1842 North Edgemont, Hollywood, California. Note that his real last name is spelled MacLaghlan, not MacLachlan: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1-14863-23448-37?cc=1849628&wc=M99X-SQF:n532796296
  • Go to the In Search Of ... page on the Old Corral, and then visit the California Death Records database and Social Security Death Index (SSDI). You'll find records for Kenne Duncan, born 2/17/1902 in Canada, and he passed away on 2/7/1972 in the Los Angeles area.

The Family Search website (free) has information on Duncan's family:



(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above, a handbill hawking Duncan's live theater show along with a couple of films at George West, Texas (near Houston) on April 26, 1947. Note the admission prices. BLONDIE'S HOLIDAY (Columbia, 1947) was a new film but the second half of the bill, PANAMINT'S BAD MAN with Smith Ballew, was originally released by 20th Century Fox in 1938.



(Courtesy of Dale Berry)

Above - Kenne Duncan, Smiley Burnette and Dale Berry. Dale recalled that this photo was taken around 1952 while all three were performing at the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis.  Other performers at the Fair were the Lennon Sisters (from the Lawrence Welk TV show); The Rin Tin Tin TV troupe including Jim Brown, Lee Aaker, Rinty and stuntman Doyle Brooks; and Leon McAuliffe and the Cimarron Boys provided the music.



(Courtesy of Dale Berry)

Above - Duncan and Dale Berry posing at Kenne's trick-shootin' rig during the 1952 Indiana State Fair at Indianapolis.  Note that Remington Arms was the sponsor.  Also check Duncan's billing on the sign --- "the Notorious Movie and Tele-Villain".


Larry Blanks recalls seeing a performance with Kenne Duncan:

"Growing up in Chattanooga, TN, I hardly every missed a B-Western movie on Saturday. We had five theaters on Market street and one theater on Broad. I would start out in the morning and 'work' my way to most all of them, or at least as far as my dollar would take me. After all, it only cost ten cents to see the movie, ten cents for popcorn and ten cents for a coke. Then I had to eat lunch at the Krystal which was twelve cents for a hamburger and another dime for chocolate milk. It took some creative accounting to make that dollar last!

Anyway, each year we had the Hamilton County Fair and there was usually a cowboy star in a booth set up by the fire eaters, or fat lady or 'Freaks of Nature' displays. Around 1951 or so, I must have been about 8 years old, my mother took me to the fair. We walked into the tent show at the last minute to catch the start of the act. I was real excited but upset because we were so late and we probably wouldn't get to sit up close.

As we paid the money and entered the tent through the curtain, a cowboy jumped out from behind the side of the tent and yelled, "stick 'um up!". It was Kenne Duncan and I recognized him right away as one of the bad guys I would usually boo. But, he put his arm around my shoulder and escorted my mom and I up to the front row of the tent, set us down and jumped up on the stage to begin. After the show, he autographed a photo and brought it down to me.

From that point on, I knew that even though he played a bad guy, he was a good guy at heart. I never forgot him or that night. The only problem is, neither my mom nor I know what happened to the photo. It stayed under the glass top of my dresser for years, but just disappeared."




(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Left is a pressbook ad for the made-in-Canada UNDERCOVER MEN (J. R. Booth / Dominion, 1935) which was distributed in the U.S. by Columbia Pictures.

In addition to appearing in front of the camera as the main heavy in this Charles Starrett mountie yarn, current information indicates that Duncan was the uncredited author of the story (not the script).



(Courtesy of Mark Heller)

Above is a cast and crew shot during the filming of the made-in-Canada mountie adventure UNDERCOVER MEN (J. R. Booth/Dominion, 1935) which starred Charles Starrett. Standing from left to right are: unidentified woman, director Sam Newfield, heroine Adrienne Doré, unidentified man, a very young Kenne Duncan (in hat and suit, and billed as Kenneth Duncan), unidentified woman, and Wheeler Oakman. Left to right kneeling in the front row are: unidentified man, Charles Starrett, unidentified man (appears to be actor Eric Clavering; definitely not I. Stanford Jolley), and actor Phil Brandon (who portrayed one of the mounties).



(Courtesy of Randy Laing)

Above - Duncan as hero Warren Hull's helper "Ram Singh" in cliffhangers THE SPIDER'S WEB (Columbia, 1938) and THE SPIDER RETURNS (Columbia, 1941).



(Courtesy of Les Adams)
On the left is a pressbook ad for the lost/missing short POWDER RIVER GUNFIRE (Universal-International, 1948), which had Duncan as the star/lead.

At the time, U-I was also doing western shorts with songster Tex Williams.



Back to prior page            Go to next page