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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.


Le Roy Franklin Mason

1903 - 1947

First name variations: Leroy, Le Roy, Roy


Le Roy Franklin Mason
(From Old Corral image collection)
Mason - clean shaven


Le Roy Franklin Mason
(From Old Corral image collection)
Mason - with a mustache
Le Roy Mason was born in North Dakota in 1903. He began his 20+ year Hollywood career at the tail end of the silent era in support/character parts as well as a few leading man roles. Some of his earliest movie work occurred in several Tom Tyler silent westerns for FBO (Film Booking Office). In 1928, he and actress Rita Carewe eloped to Yuma, Arizona. Rita was a 1927 WAMPAS Baby Star and daughter of silent era producer, director and actor Edwin Carewe. They divorced in 1936.

From about 1929-1931, Mason's movie work drops to near zero, perhaps due to the transition to talkies, the 1929 stock market crash, whatever. Some fan and trade publications had explanations which could be true or hype:

December, 1930 issue of Silver Screen magazine: "LeRoy Mason is one of the best looking chaps in Hollywood, but can't get a break." ; "... is married to Rita Carewe, daughter of Edwin Carewe, the director and producer." ; "During the recent slump in Heart Break Town, LeRoy took to selling radios for autos. He made good and has been promoted to assistant sales manager."

December, 1931 New Movie magazine: "LEROY MASON, son-in-law of Edwin Carewe by virtue of his marriage to Rita Carewe, raises alfalfa and hogs on his ranch at Las Vegas, Nev., but he is developing a swell sideline. Rancho Grande, as it is named, is becoming a popular place for eloping Hollywood couples." ; "Lew Ayres and Lola Lane are the latest to be married under the supervision of Cupid Mason."
(Other articles indicate that Mason was Ayres' best man and Rita was maid of honor.)

Circa 1932, he's back in Tinseltown and quickly becomes typecast as a villain, most often in oaters and cliffhangers. And he soon graduated to playing the "brains/dress heavy".

Over the years, his screen appearance changed ... often. Sometimes he was clean shaven. Sometimes he wore a mustache. And his clothing varied between a traditional cowboy uniform and a suit.

He was under a term player contract(s) with Republic Pictures beginning July, 1943, and continuing through his death on October 13, 1947. That Republic 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. His Republic film credits run from 1936-1947 and about 100 pictures, most of which are serials and westerns. Les Adams has Mason identified in about 175 sound era films - of these, 113 are westerns and 13 are chapterplays.

Following are a few examples of Mason's skullduggery:

  • Mason is the principal heavy out to steal an invention created by William Desmond in the Tom Tyler serial PHANTOM OF THE AIR (Universal, 1933).
  • He's the head of a gang of rustlers in the George O'Brien DUDE RANGER (Fox, 1934).
  • In COMIN' ROUND THE MOUNTAIN (Republic, 1936), Gene Autry and Ann Rutherford are out to sell horses to the Pony Express, but Mason has other ideas.
  • Mason is the Spanish ruler of California in THE PAINTED STALLION (Republic, 1937) serial.
  • In the Three Mesquiteers adventure SANTA FE STAMPEDE (Republic, 1938), crooked mayor Mason battles John Wayne, Ray Corrigan and Max Terhune.
  • Mesquiteers Wayne, Corrigan and Raymond Hatton vs. Mason in NEW FRONTIER (Republic, 1939) and WYOMING OUTLAW (Republic, 1939).
  • Tim Holt gets framed for murder and almost loses his ranch to crooked land agent Mason and gang in ROBBERS OF THE RANGE (RKO, 1941).
  • In THE SILVER BULLET (Universal, 1942), Johnny Mack Brown searches for his father's killer (Mason).
  • Mason is the boss of a toll road scam in the Ken Maynard and Hoot Gibson Trail Blazers adventure BLAZING GUNS (Monogram, 1943).
  • Mason and Roy Barcroft are the no-goods working for Jack Holt in the Roy Rogers MY PAL TRIGGER (Republic, 1946).

He suffered a heart attack during the filming of the Monte Hale western, CALIFORNIA FIREBRAND (Republic, 1948). The death certificate notes that he was a patient at a Veterans Administration hospital for 31 days, from September 12, 1947 through his passing on October 13, 1947. Cause of death was acute myocardial infarction due to coronary thrombosis. However, newspaper accounts missed that lengthy hospital stay and following is a quote from one October 14, 1947 news report:

"Suffering a heart attack in between takes on a Republic studio set yesterday, LeRoy Mason, 44, onetime leading man, was taken to Birmingham General Hospital, where he died a few hours later."

Other details in the obituaries were correct: he enlisted in the U.S. Signal Corps in 1942 but was honorably discharged in 1943 because of health reasons; he leaves his widow Bernice and his mother; there are no children mentioned; and his marriage to actress Rita Carewe was from 1928-1936.

My B western villain favorites are Harry Woods, Roy Barcroft ... and Le Roy Mason.



Left is an ad for a suave, debonair, and mustached Le Roy F. Mason from the 1925 Standard Casting Directory. He was about 22 years old.

Below is a 1936 tradepaper ad for the clean shaven Roy Mason.




Above - 1929 trade ad for Rita Carewe. Rita and Mason eloped to Yuma, Arizona in 1928 and she obtained a divorce in January, 1936.


Mason - as a hero.

Several folks have asked if Mason ever portrayed a good guy. The answer is yes ... a few times. Circa 1935-1937, producer Maurice Conn was churning out mountie and western adventures starring Ken Maynard's brother Kermit Maynard. During that same period, Conn also produced a series starring youngster Frankie Darro.

Assisting Darro in the initial films was Le Roy Mason (billed as Roy Mason). In the later films, Kane Richmond replaced Mason as Darro's adult helper. Mason had worked with Frankie about ten years earlier in Tom Tyler's FBO silent oaters. On the right are Mason and Darro in a pressbook image from VALLEY OF WANTED MEN (Conn, 1935).

Another good guy role for Mason occurred in the George O'Brien TRIPLE JUSTICE (RKO, 1940). He plays a lawman and a lifelong buddy of O'Brien. Early on, he gets shot (wounded, not killed) by Bud McTaggart, one of the henchmen working for Harry Woods.

(Image courtesy of Les Adams)



(From Old Corral image collection)

From left to right are Chief Thunder Cloud (Victor Daniels), stuntman Dave Sharpe, and Le Roy Mason in a photo of a lobby card from SILVER STALLION (Monogram, 1941). This was produced and directed by Ed Finney, best remembered for Tex Ritter's singing cowboy adventures at Grand National and Monogram. Sharp, Thunder Cloud and Mason are a trio of horse thieves who wind up helping Janet Waldo save her ranch from Walter Long. Good premise but exercised poorly as Finney loaded this film with mismatched wild horse stock footage.


Mason stats
Mason's filmography confirms lots of work in Republic westerns beginning in the mid 1930s when the company was formed. Over the years, he worked in Republic sagebrushers with Bill Elliott (11 films), Roy Rogers (10), Gene Autry (8), Don Barry (7), Allan Lane (5), Sunset Carson (4), Monte Hale (4), and the Three Mesquiteers series (5).

As for other heroes and production companies, Mason did oaters with Tim Holt at RKO (3), George O'Brien at Fox and RKO (6), Tom Keene at Monogram (2), Kermit Maynard mountie yarns (2), John Wayne Lone Stars (2), Bill Cody Monograms (2), and with Bob Baker and with Johnny Mack Brown at Universal (3).

What's more interesting is that he only worked in one Charles Starrett, one with Buck Jones, one Trail Blazers, and one Range Busters.

And he was never employed in a Hopalong Cassidy, Tex Ritter, Tim McCoy or Bob Steele western. And while he did work with Tom Tyler in FBO silents and THE PHANTOM OF THE AIR (Universal, 1933) serial, Mason never appeared in a Tyler sound western.


Links
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Le Roy Mason: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0556813/

Mason was married and divorced from silent screen actress Rita Carewe (real name: Violette Fox; 1909-1955). She was a 1927 WAMPAS Baby Star, and the daughter of producer and director Edwin Carewe. She and Mason were married from 1928-1936. The IMDb has info on her brief film career: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0136892/

Daniel Neyer's "The Files of Jerry Blake" website has more on Mason and his serial work: http://filesofjerryblake.com/serial-villains/leroy-mason/

It's always interesting to click through newspaper headlines and clippings at the Google newspaper archives. While some of the articles are free, many go to newspaper websites where you have to pay to retrieve the full article. The following links will take you to some free articles:

1928 article titled "OVERNIGHT STAR? YES, AFTER FIVE LONG YEARS": http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=950&dat=19280517&id=6OpPAAAAIBAJ&sjid=hFQDAAAAIBAJ&pg=1275,4397156

1929 - Le Roy Mason, Rita Carewe and others vs. movie actress Alma Rubens and her "noisy and wild parties":
http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=n_JPAAAAIBAJ&sjid=1lQDAAAAIBAJ&pg=4996,4830316&dq=carewe+alma-rubens&hl=en
http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=6kobAAAAIBAJ&sjid=9koEAAAAIBAJ&pg=3548,643602&dq=carewe+alma-rubens&hl=en
http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=2i8iAAAAIBAJ&sjid=_aMFAAAAIBAJ&pg=5788,148585&dq=carewe+alma-rubens&hl=en
http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=eUsbAAAAIBAJ&sjid=AUsEAAAAIBAJ&pg=2626,4697099&dq=carewe+alma-rubens&hl=en

1935 - Rita Carewe files divorce from Le Roy Mason:
http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=rmBgAAAAIBAJ&sjid=sXENAAAAIBAJ&pg=6982,2132248&dq=rita-carewe+divorce&hl=en


On the trail of Le Roy Mason.
The Family Search website (free), Army Enlistment Records database, trade publications, death certificate, and California Death Index provide additional information on Le Roy Mason and family:

  • 1910 census summary and census takers worksheet - 50 year old L. F. Mason (born Ohio; this was his second marriage), his 33 year old Bertha Mason (born Norway; this was her first marriage), and six children are living in Larimore, Grand Forks County, North Dakota. One of the children is 6 year old Leroy Mason (born North Dakota). Occupation of L. F. Mason is "hotel - Sherman House": https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MLGY-SLD
  • 1920 census summary and census takers worksheet - 42 year old Bertha Mason (born Norway; divorced), her 16 year old son Leroy (born North Dakota) and 13 year old daughter Florence (born North Dakota) are living in Larimore, Grand Forks County, North Dakota: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MC81-4K5
  • 1930 census summary and census takers worksheet - 26 year old Le Roy Mason (born North Dakota) and his 23 year old wife Rita (born New York) are renting at 408 Franklin Street, Los Angeles, California. His occupation is "Actor - Film Studio". No occupation listed for Rita: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XCJ1-D74
  • December 4, 1935 Variety: "Rita Carewe ... filed suit for divorce from Leroy Mason, film actor."
  • January 8, 1936 Variety: "Divorce granted Rita Carewe Mason from Franklin Mason ..."
  • 1940 census summary and census takers worksheet - 37 year old Le Roy F. Mason and 31 year old wife Bernice L. (born California) own their home at 10342 Zelzah Avenue, Los Angeles. Mason's birth location is listed as Minnesota (not North Dakota), and the occupations of Le Roy and wife Bernice are "Actor and Actress Motion Pictures". In 1939, Mason worked 13 weeks and earned $2600.00 and Bernice worked 3 weeks and earned $250.00: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/K9HJ-L3C
  • 1940 census summary and census takers worksheet - Le Roy's former wife, 28 year old Rita Carewe (born New York), is renting in West Hollywood, Beverly Hills Judicial Township, Los Angeles. She is divorced; occupation is "Actress- Free lance Motion Pictures", and in 1939, she worked 26 weeks and earned $600.00: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K97D-3QV
  • 1940 census summary and census takers worksheet - Le Roy's widowed mother, 63 year old Bertha Mason (born Norway) and 33 year old daughter Florence (born North Dakota) own their home in Los Angeles. There are 4 lodgers also residing in the home. Bertha's occupation is "Saleswoman - Moving Picture": https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K9C2-GP8
  • The National Archives, Army Enlistment Records database has info on Mason: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K85Q-9FK
       Leroy F. Mason
       Los Angeles County, California resident
       Enlisted 10/24/1942 in Los Angeles as a U. S. Army Private
       Born 1903 in North Dakota
       Has 3 years of High School
       Civilian Occupation: Actors and actresses
  • Death certificate - 44 year old LeRoy Franklin Mason, occupation "Actor - Motion Pictures", was born July 2, 1903 in Larimore, North Dakota; he was a World War II veteran; his father's name and birth place are unknown; mother was Bertha Nelson (born Norway); his wife was 27 year old Bernice Mason and they lived at 10342 Zelzah Avenue, Northridge, Los Angeles County, California. He passed away on October 13, 1947 at the Birmingham Veterans Administration Hospital, Van Nuys, California. He had been hospitalized for 31 days (from September 12, 1947), and cause of death was acute myocardial infarction due to coronary thrombosis. Pierce Bros. Valley, Van Nuys was the funeral director and burial at Forest Lawn - Glendale, California. Death certificate informant was Records Veterans Administration at the Hospital.
  • The California Death Index mirrors the death certificate: Leroy Franklin Mason was born 7/2/1903 in North Dakota, Mother's maiden name of Nelson, and he passed away on 10/13/1947: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VPQP-P92
  • Note the confusion on Mason's birth location. A blurb in the February 12, 1928 Film Daily tradepaper has Mason claiming St. Paul, Minnesota as his birth place. Minnestota is also listed on the 1940 census. However, his military enlistment, death certificate, etc. have him born in North Dakota.

Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website has a photo of the marker for Mason at Forest Lawn - Glendale. When viewing the photo, note the space in Mason's first name - spelled Le Roy, not Leroy or LeRoy: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=11552



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