|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.|
Howard Harold Ravenscroft
(not Howard Clifford Ravenscroft)
1902 - 1969
From July 12, 1943 through July 11, 1953, Roy Barcroft was under a term player contract(s) at Republic Pictures and his initial pay was $125.00 per week which escalated to $300.00 weekly at the contract end. While this offered security and an ongoing paycheck, the contract also allowed the studio to utilize the performer in as many roles and films as they could ... and they used him a lot. His work at Republic is spread over the years 1937 - 1957 and totals around 250 films, mostly of the western and serial variety. Les Adams has Barcroft identified in about 300 sound era films, of which 201 are westerns and 35 are chapterplays.
(From Old Corral collection)Above - a clean shaven Roy Barcroft at Republic Pictures.
Gary L. Currington sent an e-mail in November, 2007 with his remembrance of a chance encounter with Roy Barcroft. Gary writes:
" ... in 1959, when I was a 19 year old college student working as a desk clerk at Old Faithful Campers Cabins in Yellowstone National Park, I registered Roy and his family for a one night stay in an unfurnished cabin - no indoor plumbing, wood stove, and bring your own bed linens for $2.75 a night. When I recognized his name, I asked if he was the Roy Barcroft of B movie western fame, the proverbial bad guy. He seemed surprised that he was recognized. We had a nice but brief conversation ... and like an idiot, I failed to ask for an autograph."
Roy's parents were William and Lillian Ravenscroft and father William was a farmer and later, a medicine salesman. According to Roy's World War II draft registration, he was born September 7, 1902 in Crab Orchard, Nebraska and the family resided in Crab Orchard at the time of the 1900 census.
The Ravenscrofts moved around - a lot. In the 1910 census, they're in Auburn, Nemaha County, Nebraska which is about 35 miles from Crab Orchard. In 1916 and 1917, Roy attended school in Gage, Ellis County, Oklahoma. And in 1920, the family is in Seattle, Washington and Roy is a carpenter helper. While in Seattle, Roy applied for a Seaman's Certificate from the Department of Commerce in 1920.
Barcroft biographies have him fibbing about his age and enlisting in the Army during World War I. And he was wounded in France, sent home, and discharged. There was also a second hitch in the Army circa 1923 - 1926 and serving in Hawaii and Fort Lewis, Washington. Some or all of that military service seems questionable based on 1916 - 1917 Oklahoma school enrollment records, marriage license, and other records ... including the 1930 census when Roy self reported that he was NOT a veteran.
He married Lela Wade in 1927 in Seattle, Washington and daughter Roberta Jean was born in Oregon in 1928. In the 1930 census, they're living in Oak Park, Cook County, Illinois and Roy was an automobile salesman.
With the Depression in full swing, the family moved to sunny and warm California and a son was born in 1931. Scuttlebutt is that he attended acting school to gain confidence and speaking skills. And he may have been employed as extras in Greta Garbo's MATA HARI (MGM, 1931) and Pola Negri's A WOMAN COMMANDS (RKO, 1932).
There was a divorce and another marriage. Circa 1932, Roy tied the knot with Vera Virginia Doris Thompson and son Michael was born in 1944.
Jump forward to 1936. Barcroft was in his mid thirties and begins his movie career, freelancing wherever he could find work and a payday. His initial screen appearances were uncredited parts in serials DICK TRACY (Republic, 1937) and SOS COAST GUARD (Republic, 1937). Early billed roles include the Johnny Mack Brown chapterplay FLAMING FRONTIERS (Universal, 1938) and his first western for Republic Pictures, the Three Mesquiteers' HEROES OF THE HILLS (Republic, 1938). There were lots more cowboy adventures for various production companies including Hopalong Cassidy, Renfrew of the Mounted, Monogram's Rough Riders, pre-war Tim Holts at RKO, others.
Early on, Roy showed he could play a real nasty - he's the suit-wearing villain "Stiff-Hat Bailey" in the Hopalong adventure RENEGADE TRAIL (Paramount, 1939). About eleven minutes into the film, Roy slaps youngster Sonny Bupp and kicks Sonny's dog.
It was with Republic Pictures in the 1940s that Barcroft "hit his stride", portraying the brains / dress heavy or second in command in scores of westerns. While he menaced all of Republic's heroes, he was a frequent antagonist to Allan Lane (in 40 films), Roy Rogers (22 films), Bill Elliott (17 films), Monte Hale (13 films), and Rex Allen (11 films).
He also appeared in many Republic cliffhangers - memorable examples include him as the titled villain in THE PURPLE MONSTER STRIKES (Republic, 1945); as evil "Captain Mephisto" in MANHUNT OF MYSTERY ISLAND (Republic, 1945); and as "Retik" in RADAR MEN FROM THE MOON (Republic, 1952).
He was a big, imposing figure with a big voice - 6 feet, 2 inches tall and 215 pounds on his World War II draft registration. And when I saw him on a theater screen or TV, I wondered how those smallish heroes could best this large sized villain.
As the B western and serial faded away, Roy migrated to television, and in the 1950s and 1960s, he's in many episodes of DEATH VALLEY DAYS, RAWHIDE, HAVE GUN - WILL TRAVEL, 26 MEN, ANNIE OAKLEY, more. In the mid 1950s SPIN AND MARTY western ranch series on TV's Mickey Mouse Club, Roy played "Colonel Jim Logan", the good guy owner of the Triple-R spread. He was "storekeeper Roy" on GUNSMOKE beginning in 1964, and continued in that role in many of the later shows.
He also pops up in some A grade films - an example is Roy wearing a black suit and hat, string tie, and a badge as "Marshal Cord Elam" in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical OKLAHOMA (20th Century Fox, 1955) which starred Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones. Found an interesting tradepaper blurb on Roy and OKLAHOMA: the world premier was at the Tivoli theater in New York City in late 1955. Emceeing the opening night gala and ceremonies was Barcroft.
The people with whom he worked noted that Roy's real personality was just the opposite of his screen persona - in real life, he was easy going, a prankster, and a genuine nice guy. Heroine Peggy Stewart appeared in over a dozen films with Roy and described him as a "wonderful man". Peers and friends recall him as a talented musician, playing both clarinet and saxophone; Roy loved riding his motorcycle which he often drove to the Republic Studios lot; and close friends included Kenne Duncan and Bill Elliott. And Barcroft always credited baddie Harry Woods as his inspiration.
Film historian, author, and Old Corral contributor Ken Jones interviewed Roy. His favorite role was playing "Captain Mephisto" in MANHUNT OF MYSTERY ISLAND (Republic, 1945). And he wasn't a great horseman and had to enhance his riding skills in order to survive the dangerous chases.
Some biographies incorrectly report that Roy's real name was Howard Clifford Ravenscroft. Various records show his full name as Howard Harold Ravenscroft / Howard H. Ravenscroft.
Bobby Copeland had his death certificate and other info. Roy passed away November 28, 1969 at the Motion Picture Home and Hospital of kidney cancer and was survived by his second wife Vera, two sons, and a daughter. His remains were given to the UCLA School of Medicine and Anatomy for research.
As to his Barcroft screen name - Ravenscroft was too difficult to spell and remember, especially when dealing with casting calls and casting offices. He kept "croft" and settled on "Bar" for the beginning. His rationale - "Barcroft" would get him near the top of casting lists for extra and character jobs.
Of all the players in westerns and cliffhangers, most fans fondly recall Roy Barcroft and consider him as the "King of the badmen". He was so good that his screen presence was often more dominant - and memorable - than the hero.
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Roy Barcroft: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0054117/
There's a lengthy biography and lots of photos of Roy Barcroft doing cliffhangers at Daniel Neyer's "The Files of Jerry Blake" serial website: https://filesofjerryblake.com/serial-villains/roy-barcroft/
There's images and info about Barcroft and the SPIN AND MARTY TV series at: http://www.originalmmc.com/barcroft.html
The Rodgers and Hammerstein website has a photo of Roy as "Marshal Cord Elam" in the Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones musical OKLAHOMA (20th Century Fox, 1955): https://www.rnh.com/photos.html?img=3733&gallery=155&gpg=2
|Roy Barcroft's's movie work from the mid 1930s through 1970 in westerns, serials, and other films. Does NOT include TV roles. I've used the RELEASE dates (not filming dates) from the Internet Movie Database so the results may be a little skewed. Red indicates the years in which Barcroft was under term player contracts at Republic Pictures. Total film count in this chart = 296.|
The Family Search website (free), Ancestry.com (subscription), Fold3 Military records, California Death Index, and Social Security Death Index (SSDI) provide additional information on Roy Barcroft and family. I've highlighted Howard Harold Ravenscroft / Howard H. Ravenscroft names in this color.
- 1900 census summary and census takers worksheet (prior to Roy's 1902 birth) - renting in Western Precinct, Crab Orchard village, Johnson County, Nebraska are 48 year old William Ravencroft (born Ohio; occupation "Farmer"), his 45 year old wife Lillian (born Illinois), 15 year old son Earl (born Nebraska), 12 year old daughter Lora (born Nebraska), 10 year old daughter Mable (born Nebraska), 7 year old son Daniel R. (born Nebraska), and 4 year old son William (born Nebraska): https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M3BH-QBS
- 1910 census summary and census takers worksheet - 57 year old William Ravenscroft (born Illinois; occupation "Salesman - Medicine"), 55 year old wife Lillian (born Illinois), 19 year old daughter Mabel (born Nebraska), 12 year old son Willie (born Nebraska), and 7 year old son Howard (born Nebraska) live in Auburn, Nemaha County, Nebraska: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/ML4R-N3C
- 1916 and 1917 school registration / enrollment cards for Howard Ravenscroft (born September 7, 1902; mother is Lillian Ravenscroft). He's attending school in Gage, Ellis County, Oklahoma:
13 years old and the card is dated January 25, 1916: https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q2JW-NRXH
14 years old and the card is dated January 26, 1917: https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q2JW-RG9H
- 1920 census summary and the census takers worksheet - 17 year old Howard Ravenscroft (born Nebraska; occupation "Carpenter Helper - Building"), his 22 year old brother William (born Nebraska) and his 64 year old mother Lillian (born Illinois; widowed) are in-laws living with John H. and DeLora Posey at 147 East 54th Street, Seattle, King County, Washington. (DeLora is probably Roy's sister Lora in the 1900 census above): https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MHNK-HR9
- Ancestry.com had the July 26, 1920 Application for Seaman's Certificate (from the Department of Commerce) for Howard Harold Ravenscroft. He was born June 2, 1901 in Crab Orcgard [sic], Nebraska and his father was William Ravenscroft (born Illinois). He was living at 147 East 54th Street, Seattle, Washington (same as 1920 census).
- April 23, 1927 Pierce County, Washington marriage license of Howard H. Ravenscroft and Lela Wade at Holy Rosary Church, Tacoma, Washington. He was living in King County, Washington and she in Union County, Oregon: https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QKNB-SW7R
- 1930 census summary and census takers worksheet - 27 year old Howard H. Ravenscroft (born Nebraska; occupation "Salesman - Automobile"), his 26 year old wife Lela (born Illinois), and 1 9/12 year old daughter Roberta J. (born Oregon about 1928) are renting in Oak Park, Cook County, Illinois. And he was not a military veteran: https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XSTG-DP5
- California Birth Index for son Rockne Francis Ravenscroft, born May 12, 1931 in Alameda, California, and mother's maiden name of Wade: https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VL58-J1T
- 1940 census summary and census takers worksheet - 37 year old Howard Ravenscroft, 30 year old wife Vera (born Illinois), and 68 year old mother-in-law Tillie Thompson (born Sweden) live at 6241 Palm Avenue, Bell, Los Angeles County, California. They own their home; his birth location is Nebraska and he completed eight years of schooling; occupation is "Actor - Motion Picture Studio", and in 1939, he worked 26 weeks and earned $2800.00. Wife Vera is employed as a "Buyer - Gas Stoves", and in 1939, she worked 52 weeks and earned $1800.00 https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/K9WH-8T3
- Fold3 Military records had the World War II draft registration for 39 year old Howard Harold Ravenscroft. He was born September 7, 1902 in Crab Orchard, Nebraska; occupation was "Self - Free lance actor"; height and weight were 6 feet, 2 inches and 215 pounds. His contact was wife Vera and they lived at 6241 Palm Avenue, Bell, Los Angeles County, California.
- Ancestry.com had the 1944 North Hollywood, California City Directory - Howard H. Ravenscroft and wife Vera live at 4455 Elmer Avenue.
- California Birth Index for son Michael Roy Ravenscroft, born March 8, 1944 in Los Angeles, and mother's maiden name of Thompson: https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VGKV-L1N
- California Death Index has dual records for Roy Barcroft and Howard H. Ravenscroft. He was born September 9, 1902 in Nebraska, mother's maiden name of Williams, and passed away on 11/28/1969. You will find a corresponding record in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI), but his birthdate is listed as September 7, 1902:
Roy's two wives and three children:
- Roy's first wife was Lela J. Wade, and they married April 23, 1927 in Tacoma, Pierce County, Washington. They had a son and daughter, and divorced in the early 1930s.
Daughter Roberta Jean Ravenscroft was born June 23, 1928 in Oregon, and is in the 1930 census above.
Son Rockne Francis Ravenscroft was born May 12, 1931 in Alameda, California, mother's maiden name of Wade, and there is a record in the California Birth Index above.
- Roy's second wife was Vera Virginia Doris Thompson, and she was born in 1909 in Chicago, Illinois. They married circa 1932 and had a son.
Son Michael Roy Ravenscroft was born March 8, 1944 in Los Angeles, mother's maiden name of Thompson, and there is a record in the California Birth Index above.
Noted singer and voice actor Thurl Ravenscroft is sometimes mentioned as the brother of Roy Barcroft. Not so. Thurl and Roy were cousins. Thurl did lots of voice work and is best remembered for mouthing Tony the Tiger's "They're grrreat!" in Kellogg's Frosted Flakes commercials. He was born in Nebraska in 1914 to Arthur and Blanche Ravenscroft: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XQ23-237
Thurl's biography: http://www.allthingsthurl.com/biography.htm
(Courtesy of Gregory R. Jackson, Jr.)
(Courtesy of Gregory R. Jackson, Jr.)
Above is a very grey and bearded Roy Barcroft, 1960s photo.
(From Old Corral collection)
|As noted - from July, 1943 through July, 1953, Roy Barcroft was under a term player contract(s) at Republic Pictures.|
During that period, Roy had several meaty cliffhanger roles - he was the titled villain in THE PURPLE MONSTER STRIKES (Republic, 1945); the evil "Captain Mephisto" in MANHUNT OF MYSTERY ISLAND (Republic, 1945); and "Retik" in RADAR MEN FROM THE MOON (Republic, 1952).
Roy's favorite role was playing "Captain Mephisto" in MANHUNT OF MYSTERY ISLAND (Republic, 1945).
|(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above from L-to-R are Jean Carmen, James Newill, Milburn Stone, and Roy Barcroft in a scene from CRASHING THROUGH (Monogram, 1939), one of the 'Renfrew of the Mounted' northwoods adventures. On the stairs - and about to deliver a crushin' blow to Jim Newill's noggin - is Iron Eyes Cody. Jean Carmen's most remembered role was as the rider of the paint horse in the Republic serial, THE PAINTED STALLION (1937), in which she was billed as Julia Thayer. In later life, Milburn Stone became 'Doc' on TV's long running GUNSMOKE.
(Courtesy of Bart Romans)
Above from L-to-R are Roy Barcroft, Ray 'Crash' Corrigan, Le Roy Mason, Max Terhune and Bob Livingston in a still from the Three Mesquiteers' HEROES OF THE HILLS (Republic, 1938). Roy got billing credit in this ... and HEROES was his first western for Republic Pictures.
(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
Above - Hopalong Cassidy has the drop on three nasties. From left to right are John Merton, Roy Barcroft, Bob Kortman and William Boyd in a still from RENEGADE TRAIL (Harry Sherman Prod/Paramount, 1939). This has Roy at his meanest - he kicks a dog and slaps around youngster Sonny Bupp.
(From Old Corral collection)
Above - two of western film's greatest bad guys, Roy Barcroft (left with white hat) and Harry Woods (wearing a suit), listen in as Buck Jones chats with Tim McCoy in WEST OF THE LAW (Monogram, 1942), the last of the eight Rough Riders adventures.
(From Old Corral collection)
Above from L-to-R are Bill Elliott, George 'Slim' Summerville, Roy Barcroft, and Robert Fiske in a scene from Elliott's third (and last) serial, THE VALLEY OF VANISHING MEN (Columbia, 1942). A year or so later, both Elliott and Barcroft would be under contract at Republic Pictures.
(From Old Corral collection)
From L-to-R are Robert 'Bobby' Blake (as 'Little Beaver'), Roy Barcroft, Jack Kirk, Tom London and Bill Elliott in a lobby card from CHEYENNE WILDCAT (Republic, 1944), one of the Red Ryder adventures.
(Courtesy of Boyd Magers)
Above from left to right are Douglas Fowley, Emmett Vogan, Roy Rogers and Roy Barcroft in a 1954 blue duotone re-release lobby card from ALONG THE NAVAJO TRAIL (Republic, 1945). Fowley and Barcroft report to Vogan who is the president of an oil drilling company that needs Dale Evans' ranch for a pipeline.
(Courtesy of Ed Phillips)
Above - Ken Curtis attends to Gene Roth (Gene Stutenroth) while Roy Barcroft looks on. There are several unidentified players in the background - in the center, with checkerboard shirt and hands hanging at his side is an older Chick Hannon / Chick Hannan. From the chapterplay, DON DAREDEVIL RIDES AGAIN (Republic, 1951).