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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.



(From Old Corral image collection)
 
John Merton
Real name:
Myrtland Vivian Lavarre
1901 - 1959

In the picture on the left, John Merton is the bald and fanged "Loki", one of the Dacoits, in the chapterplay, DRUMS OF FU MANCHU (Republic, 1940). Henry Brandon is Fu Manchu.

Lane Bradford
Real name:
Myrtland Vivian Lavarre, Jr.
1923 - 1973

In the picture on the right, Lane Bradford is "Marex" in the serial, ZOMBIES OF THE STRATOSPHERE (Republic, 1952).

 
(From Old Corral image collection)

Tracing our John Merton through various sources has been a bit chaotic because of all the name variations that have been found. Based on his World War I draft registration, Merton's real name was Myrtland Vivian Lavarre. Other spelling variations include LaVarre/La Varre/Levarre and Vivian (with an a) / Vivien (with an e).


There were some big, burly actors who portrayed villains and heavies in the old B westerns and serials --- names that come to mind are Roy Barcroft, Harry Woods, Le Roy Mason ... and John Merton.

Merton was born in Washington, D. C. in 1901, and in the 1920s, he was doing stage work in the New York area.

He began his cinema career in the late 1920s, and the earliest mention I could find was a tidbit in the January 23, 1927 issue of Film Daily: "Myrtland La Varre has been added to the cast of "Knockout Riley," starring Richard Dix." He did a name change to John Merton and became typecast as a heavy, and for about twenty years, he menaced a variety of cowboy and serial heroes and heroines. His film credits at Republic Pictures is only about 35 films, mostly serials and westerns, that are scattered over the years 1936 - 1949.

One of Merton's best remembered screen roles is one of the "dacoits" in the serial, DRUMS OF FU MANCHU (Republic, 1940) - the photo at the top of this page shows a shaven (and long-toothed) Merton in that role, and on his left is Henry Brandon as Fu Manchu.

Lane Bradford was Merton's son and he began filmwork in the mid 1940s as the serial and B western were in decline.  Generally portraying a heavy, Bradford worked at Republic, Monogram and PRC.  When the movie work began to fade, Bradford migrated to TV and became a prolific performer in series such as BONANZA, GUNSMOKE, ANNIE OAKLEY, ZANE GREY THEATER, 26 MEN, WILD BILL HICKOK, BUFFALO BILL JR., more.  Bradford has 32 film credits at Republic for the period 1943 - 1954, of which seven are serials and the rest are cowboy flicks.

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has film appearance information on John Merton and his son, Lane Bradford:
     John Merton: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0581611/
     Lane Bradford: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0103048/

The Family Search website has info:

You may want to search the California Death Records database. There, you will find two records for our John Merton: one is for "Myrtland F Lavarre" and the other is for "John Merton Lavarre", and both have a September 18, 1959 death date.

There's more about John Merton and Lane Bradford's work in cliffhangers at Daniel Neyer's "The Files of Jerry Blake" serial website:
     John Merton: http://filesofjerryblake.com/serial-henchmen/john-merton/
     Lane Bradford: http://filesofjerryblake.com/serial-henchmen/lane-bradford/

Boyd Magers' Western Clippings website has profiles on:
     John Merton: http://www.westernclippings.com/heavies/johnmerton_charactersheavies.shtml
     Lane Bradford: http://www.westernclippings.com/heavies/lanebradford_charactersheavies.shtml

Lane Bradford



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above - Lane Bradford portraying an outlaw in one of countless post World War II B westerns.


(From Old Corral image collection)

Above is the treacherous trio from the serial DON DAREDEVIL RIDES AGAIN (Republic, 1951).  From L-to-R are Lane Bradford (John Merton's son), the great Roy Barcroft and left handed John (Bob) Cason.


(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from left to right are Rand Brooks (back to camera), Lane Bradford, I. Stanford Jolley, Jimmy Ellison and Johnny Mack Brown in MAN FROM THE BLACK HILLS (Monogram, 1952). There were only a couple more Monograms before Brown hung up his spurs. And this was one of the final appearances for Ellison before retiring from film work and concentrating on his California home construction and contracting business.



John Merton



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above from left to right are Stanley Andrews, George Cleveland, Charlie King (background wearing hat), Lynn Roberts and John Merton in a scene from the cliffhanger, THE LONE RANGER (Republic, 1938). Andrews was the head villain in the serial and Merton was the henchman. Tidbits: George Cleveland was a screen veteran, but is probably best remembered as "Gramps" in the first TV series of LASSIE (with Tommy Rettig).  Andrews also did TV work and is recalled as "the Old Ranger" who introduced the stories on DEATH VALLEY DAYS.


(From Old Corral image collection)

Above from L-to-R are Mary Hayes, star Kermit Maynard and John Merton in a scene from ROARING SIX GUNS (Ambassador/Conn, 1937).


(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from left to right are John Merton, Hank Bell, Harley/Harlene Wood (Jill Martin) and Kermit Maynard in a crop from a lobby card from Kermit's VALLEY OF TERROR (Ambassador/Conn, 1937).


(From Old Corral image collection)

Above from left to right are Jack Rockwell, Karl Hackett, John Merton, Tim McCoy, Joe Girard and Lafe McKee in a lobby card from LIGHTNIN' BILL CARSON (Puritan, 1936).


(From Old Corral image collection)

Above from left to right are Harry Strang, Lane Chandler, Tim McCoy (in his Mexican disguise), John Merton and Betty Compson in the McCoy oater, TWO GUN JUSTICE (Monogram, 1938).


(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from left to right are Kermit Maynard, Art Davis and John Merton in PRAIRIE PALS (PRC, 1942), one of the six Frontier Marshals trio series which starred Davis, Bill 'Cowboy Rambler' Boyd and Lee Powell.


(From Old Corral image collection)

From L-to-R are John Merton, Dave 'Tex' O'Brien, Buster Crabbe (seated), Lynton Brent and Curley Dresden in SHERIFF OF SAGE VALLEY (1942), one of the entries in Crabbe's long running series at PRC during the 1940s.  Crabbe had a dual role in this oater, and "the other Crabbe" is facing him on the far left.


(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

Above - John King is pummeling prolific baddie John Merton in Range Busters adventure number 14, BOOT HILL BANDITS (Monogram, 1942).


(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are Johnny Mack Brown, an older Jack Perrin, John Merton and Pierce Lyden in SHADOWS OF THE RANGE (Monogram, 1946).


(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

Above, from L-to-R are Myron Healey, Steve Clark, Marshall Reed, John Merton, Max Terhune, and on the far right wearing the suit is Hugh Prosser. From WESTERN RENEGADES (Monogram, 1949), an entry in the Johnny Mack Brown series.


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