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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.



(Courtesy of Jack Tillmany)
Frank La Rue

Full name:
Frank Herman La Rue

1878 - 1960




Frank La Rue - 1938


Special thanks to Elsimae 'CiCi' Morse, Frank La Rue's granddaughter, for the photos and assistance in the creation of this webpage on her grandfather.

In sound era B westerns, Frank Herman La Rue specialized in playing the harassed ranch owner and father of the heroine ... and he also did "suit" and authority roles as a judge, lawyer, banker, politician, cavalry officer, etc. He possessed a striking voice, which I can easily recognize without even looking at his face.

He was born December 5, 1878 in Ridgeway, Ohio. About thirty miles east of Ridgeway is Marion, Ohio and the La Rue family lived there at the time of the 1900 census.

He was a latecomer to Hollywood and movies, arriving in Tinseltown about 1931. Circa 1898 - when Frank was about twenty years old - he began a 30+ year career on stage and with traveling repertory companies and vaudeville. Ohio newspapers highlighted Frank's early acting work and his ties to Marion, Ohio:

During those stage and vaudeville days, Frank married three times. His first was to Alice Clark, and this may be actress Alice Clark who worked with Frank circa 1905. In 1912, he married Elsie May Payne, stage name of Elsie Gresham, and they were together in plays and vaudeville - and as husband and wife - until about 1921. Elsie had an earlier marriage to actor Frank Clayton Cormier. Family trees also mention a 1923-1924 marriage and divorce to a "Stella W.", but I found nothing about her or the marriage.

By the late 1920s - early 1930s, vaudeville was fading away. Reasons included the stock market crash, the Depression, and the arrival of talking pictures. One of the major events that confirmed vaudeville's demise was the late 1932 conversion of New York City's famed Palace Theatre to a movies only operation.

Circa 1931, Frank was in Hollywood. And he married a fourth time, to Florence Ronette Smith (nee Techa) and they would be together through Frank's passing in 1960.

Les Adams has him in about 175 sound era films, and that number includes 121 westerns and 7 serials. Frank did about twenty films for Republic Pictures during the period 1935-1942. There were a few with Autry, Rogers, Three Mesquiteers, John Wayne and Don Barry. Others included A. W. Hackel productions (Supreme Pictures) starring Bob Steele and Johnny Mack Brown which were released under the Republic name during the startup of that company in the mid 1930s.

Roughly half of Frank's westerns were at Columbia and Monogram. At Columbia, he was in 30+ oaters with Charles Starrett, Wild Bill Elliott, Buck Jones, Russell Hayden and Ken Maynard. At Monogram, there were 40+ sagebrush adventures with Johnny Mack Brown, Jimmy Wakely, Jack Randall, Tex Ritter, more.

While Frank was mostly on the side of the law, he did step out of character to do villainy. Examples: he was a crooked banker in Gene Autry's RED RIVER VALLEY (Republic, 1936) and a member of the rustler gang in the Rough Riders' GUNMAN FROM BODIE (Monogram, 1941). Frank's standout bad guy portrayal occurred in the Bill Elliott HANDS ACROSS THE ROCKIES (Columbia, 1941). In that, Frank is just plain mean "Rufe Crawley" ... who takes his quirt to heroine Mary Daily ... and he and his two no-good sons (Donald Curtis and Tom Moray) team up with Kenneth MacDonald for ultimate skulduggery.

He appeared in about a half dozen cliffhangers including two each with Johnny Mack Brown and Buck Jones at Universal. Frank's biggest serial role was playing "Police Commissioner Weston" in THE SHADOW (Columbia, 1940) which starred Victor Jory.

A summary of Frank La Rue's westerns and western themed serial appearances follows:

The bulk of Frank La Rue's westerns and western themed serials were with these heroes and companies.
22 westerns and 2 Universal serials with Johnny Mack Brown during the years 1937-1948. 17 of those oaters were 1944-1948 releases from Monogram.
18 Charles Starrett oaters for Columbia scattered over the years 1940-1948.
At Monogram with Tex Ritter (in 7), Jimmy Wakely (5), Jack Randall (5), Tim McCoy (2), Gilbert Roland (Cisco Kid) (1), Rex Bell (1), Range Busters (2), Rough Riders (1).
4 Columbia westerns, 4 Universal oaters, and 2 Universal serials with Buck Jones.
At Columbia Pictures with Wild Bill Elliott (in 6), Russell Hayden (2), and Ken Maynard (1).
At Republic with Gene Autry (in 4), Don Barry (2), Roy Rogers (1), and John Wayne (1). And Frank also did two Three Mesquiteers adventures, one of which starred Wayne.
8 westerns with Bob Steele for A. W. Hackel (Republic), Metropolitan and PRC.
6 with singing cowboy Fred Scott.

Who didn't he work with?
Frank didn't do any oaters with Tom Mix, Hoot Gibson, William Boyd (Hopalong), Dick Foran, Tom Tyler, Lash Larue, Allan Lane, Bob Allen, George O'Brien, Tom Keene, Reb Russell, Bill Cody, Whip Wilson, more. Nor did he appear in PRC's Texas Rangers or Monogram's Trail Blazers.

Frank's last movie jobs were in Johnny Mack Brown and Jimmy Wakely oaters at Monogram in the late 1940s.

Frank suffered for years with heart problems and entered the Motion Picture Home and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California on September 25, 1960. 81 year old Frank Herman La Rue suffered a heart attack and passed away there on September 26, 1960.

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Frank LaRue: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0479008/



(Courtesy of Elsimae 'CiCi' Morse)

Above - Frank LaRue's letterhead circa 1900 when he was billing himself as the 'Trombone Tramp'.



(Courtesy of Elsimae 'CiCi' Morse)
Left is Frank La Rue circa 1912, when he was in his mid thirties.

The photographer name in the bottom right is "Repro. Celebrity Chicago".





Above - crop from a 1920 theater ad with Frank and wife Elsie Gresham among the vaudeville acts at a Charleston, West Virginia theater.


Right is Frank's second wife, actress Elsie May Payne (about 1877-1961). He married her on June 19, 1912 in Chicago, and they performed together for about ten years until a 1921 divorce. Her stage name was Elsie Gresham.

Frank and Elsie's granddaughter, Elsimae 'CiCi' Morse, adds:

"Frank's second wife, Elsie May Payne (my grandmother) was in vaudeville with Frank. After their divorce, she went to Hollywood about 1922 as far as I can tell, and appeared in silent movies. Frank went later. They had one child, Loa May LaRue (singer and dancer, mostly nightclubs). My sister 'Mikki' and I are their only grandchildren."

(Courtesy of Elsimae 'CiCi' Morse)


Above is a crop from a 1919 vaudeville ad for a Pennsylvania theater with Frank and Elsie doing the playlet (short play) "Along Came Kate". Her stage name was Elsie Gresham but newspapers and trade publications often mangled her last name (and sometimes it was Gresham or Gresam or Graham).



(Courtesy of Elsimae 'CiCi' Morse)

Circa 1939 family photo. Above from L-to-R are Frank's second wife Elsie May (Payne) LaRue (stage name: Elsie Gresham), Frank's daughter Loa May (LaRue) Robinson, Grandpa Frank, the baby is CiCi's sister 'Mikki' Marijane Robinson, and on the far right is Loa May's husband, James William Robinson. James was career Navy, rose up through the ranks, became a pilot, and retired as a Commander. He met and married Loa May in Panama, and 'Mikki' was born there.



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above from left to right are Tom London, Frank La Rue and Tex Ritter in a lobby card from ROLL, WAGONS, ROLL (Monogram, 1940). La Rue was in his early sixties when he did this film.



(Courtesy of Elsimae 'CiCi' Morse)

Above - September 29, 1960 Western Union Telegram from Tex Ritter to the La Rue family. La Rue made seven westerns with Ritter, all Monogram releases during 1938-1940. Nice that Tex remembered Frank and the La Rue family.



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