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(Courtesy of Jack Tillmany)

John Merton
Real name:
Myrtland Vivien / Vivian LaVarre
1901 - 1959
 

(Courtesy of Jack Tillmany)

Lane Bradford
Real name:
Myrtland Vivien / Vivian LaVarre, Jr.
1922 - 1973



Links on John Merton and his son, Lane Bradford.
  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has film appearance information on John Merton, sons Lane Bradford and Bob Lavarre, and Merton's brother "Andre de La Varre":
John Merton (Myrtland Vivien / Vivian Lavarre) (1901-1959): http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0581611/
Merton's son, actor Lane Bradford (Myrtland Vivien / Vivian Lavarre, Jr.) (1922-1973): http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0103048/
Merton's son, actor and cameraman Bob Lavarre (Robert Edwin Lavarre) (born 1933): http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0491787
Merton's brother Franklin LaVarre (1904-1987) who changed his name to "Andre de La Varre" and became a prolific creator of film travelogues and documentaries: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0890186

The IMDb has a "people working together" search function. And the answer is Yes! John Merton and son Lane Bradford worked together in about a dozen films and TV shows: http://www.imdb.com/search/title?roles=nm0103048,nm0581611

The Internet Broadway Database has Myrtland La Varre in two New York plays, one in 1922-1923 and another in 1930: https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/myrtland-la-varre-48690

The Billy Rose Theater Collection at the New York Public Library has a great closeup of young Myrtland LaVarre, probably taken about 1922 when he appeared in the New York stage play "R.U.R. (Rossums Universal Robots)": https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47df-113f-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

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

Merton was one of producer Sam Katzman's regulars. He did seven serials and a couple of the Johnny Weissmuller 'Jungle Jim' adventures for Katzman: http://www.imdb.com/search/title?roles=nm0581611,nm0441947

Merton was also a regular in features helmed by prolific director Sam Newfield. During the years 1936-1956, Merton did about two dozen Newfield westerns: http://www.imdb.com/search/title?roles=nm0581611,nm0627864

Merton did nine films for Cecil B. de Mille during the years 1934-1956: http://www.imdb.com/search/title?roles=nm0581611,nm0001124

Merton appeared in about a half dozen of the Three Stooges shorts at Columbia Pictures: http://www.threestooges.net/cast/actor/580/

YouTube and the Internet Archive have several public domain films with Merton:
     YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/results?q=%22john+merton%22&sp=EgIYAg%253D%253D
     Internet Archive: https://archive.org/search.php?query=%22john%20merton%22&and[]=mediatype%3A%22movies%22


On the trail of John Merton and his son Lane Bradford.
The Family Search website (free), Ancestry.com (subscription), Newspaper Archive (subscription), California Death Index, Library of Congress newspaper archive, and the death certificate provide more on John Merton and his son Lane Bradford.

Tracing Merton through various sources was a bit chaotic because of all the name variations that were found. Merton's real name was Myrtland Vivien / Vivian LaVarre. Other spellings include LaVarre, Lavarre, La Varre, Levarre. Still unsure whether his middle name was Vivian (with an a) or Vivien (with an e). His World War I draft registration has his middle name as "Vivien".

  • Virginia marriage record for the October 12, 1897 marriage of Merton's parents, 23 year old William J. La Varre and 26 year old Leilia G. Haynes: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XRNL-KXT
  • 1900 census summary and census takers worksheet dated June 16, 1900 - prior to the birth of John Merton. 26 year old Wm. J. Lavarre (born Georgia), his 25 year old wife Leilia (born Virginia), and 2 year old son William J. (born Virginia) are renting in Port Orchard and Charleston Precincts, Sidney village, Kitsap County, Washington state. Occupation of father William is "Draftsman": https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MMPV-JQY
  • 1910 census summary and census takers worksheet - living 3744 Oliver Street, Washington D. C. are 29 year old William J. La Varre (born Georgia; occupation "Architect - Naval"), his 29 year old wife Leilia G. (born Virginia), 11 year old son William J. (born Virginia), 7 year old daughter Lucelle [sic] (born Virginia), 5 year old son Franklin M. (born Washington D.C.) and 9 year old son Vivien M. (born Washington D.C.): https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MKLN-SV9
  • May 31, 1917 Washington D. C. The Sunday Star newspaper: "Enlistments in the navy today were ... Myrtland Vivien La Varre, 903 Longfellow street ..."
  • World War I draft registration dated September 12, 1918 in Washington D. C. - appears that Myrtland Vivien La Varre fibbed on his birth year to appear older. His birth date is listed as February 18, 1900 (when it should be February 18, 1901; note that he was not born yet in the 1900 census above). He lives at 902 Longfellow Street, Washington D. C. and nearest relative is mother Leilia G. La Varre who also resides at that 902 Longfellow Street address. Occupation and employer is "None". Handwritten at the top of the card is "Released for re-enlistment to U. S. N. 10/18/18": https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KZFW-FQV
  • 1920 census summary and census takers worksheet dated January 10, 1920 - owning the home at 1215 Emerson Street, Washington D. C. are 49 year old Leila Lavaree [sic] (born Virginia), and she is married and head of the household. Children are 21 year old son William J. (born Virginia; occupation "Naturalist"), 18 year old son Myrtland (born Washington State), 16 year old daughter Lucille (born Virginia), 15 year old son Franklin (born Washington D.C.) and 8 year old son Claude (born New York). 18 year old son Myrtland (born Washington State) is John Merton and his occupation is "Artist (Dram) - Moving Pictures": https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MNGS-WJ4
  • Ancestry.com had the April, 1920 paperwork on 19 year old Myrtland La Varre's application for a Seaman's Certificate and passport. He was then living in New York City and the Seaman's Certificate and passport were needed to obtain a job as a "wiper" on the ship "West Lashaway". The application has his birth information as February 18, 1901 in Sydney [sic], Washington state. Also included are affidavits from his aunt Adelaide H. Graves and cousin J. M. Goddin who confirm that he was born February 18, 1901 in Sydny [sic], Washington state. There's no information on whether he was granted that Seaman's Certificate and whether he was employed on the "West Lashaway". We do know that he married Esther Swarts on September 26, 1921 in Manhattan, New York, and was doing plays in the early 1920s.
    Wikipedia has the "SS West Lashaway" identified as a World War I U.S. Navy cargo ship which was decommissioned in 1919 and placed in commercial service.
    The Sydney/Sydny Washington state birth location has spelling issues. The correct name is "Sidney village" which was a small community included in the 1900 census Enumeration District 120, Kitsap County, Washington and was the location of the LaVarre family in the 1900 census: http://www.us-census.org/states/washington/teams/Kitsap1900.htm
  • Marriage index record (not the marriage license) of 22 year old Esther Swarts (born New York) and 22 year old Myrtland V. Larse [sic] (born Seattle, Washington) on September 26, 1921 in Manhattan, New York: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:24WF-D9N
  • Family Trees on Ancestry.com and other sources have Lane Bradford born Myrtland Vivien / Vivian La Varre Jr. on August 29, 1922 in Yonkers, Westchester County, New York.
  • 1930 census summary and census takers worksheet - the La Varre family is among many renters in a apartment/mult-unit building at 85 Saint Andrews Place, Yonkers, Westchester County, New York. 29 year old Myrtland La Varre (born Washington; occupation "Actor - Stage"), his 30 year old wife Esther (born New York), 4 year old daughter Geraldine (born New York), 1 year old daughter Gloria Mae (born New York) and 7 year old son Myrtland La Varre Jr. (born New York; he would become actor Lane Bradford). Merton was a World War I veteran: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/X4G2-JTM
  • 1930 census summary and census takers worksheet for Merton's father, mother and brother Claude. Family Search has them with a last name of La Vane. 55 year old William La Varre (born Georgia; occupation "stock broker"), his 53 year old wife Lelia (born Virginia) and 18 year old son Claude (born New York) own their home in Washington, D. C.: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XM2W-CXW
  • California Birth Index for Merton's son Robert Edwin Lavarre, born February 16, 1933 in Los Angeles, and his mother's maiden name was Swarts: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VLP9-B3M
  • 1940 - there's two census summaries and worksheets for Merton in 1940:
    • 1940 census summary and census takers worksheet dated April 2, 1940 has a spelling error, apparently when the record was converted to a digital record - living in the Los Angeles area is 30 year old Myrtland LaVone [sic]: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/K9HT-CXV
      The census takers worksheet clearly shows the LaVarre name - 39 year old Myrtland LaVarre is one of many prisoners in the Lincoln Heights Jail in Los Angeles: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1971-27794-1311-24?cc=2000219&wc=MMYH-NZH:1365358974
      (Checked newspapers, trade publications and fan magazines to see if there's any mention of jail time for Merton. Alas - nothing found.)
    • 1940 census summary and census takers worksheet dated April 27, 1940 - renting at 1040 Laurel, Beverly Hills Judicial Township, West Hollywood, Los Angeles County is the large Myrtland LaVarre family. Family Search has their last name as LaNarre [sic]. 39 year old Myrtland Lavarre (born Washington), 40 year old wife Esther (born New York), 17 year old Myrtland Jr. (born New York; this is Lane Bradford), 14 year old daughter Geraldine (born New York), 11 year old daughter Gloria (born New York), 8 year old daughter Helen (born New York), 7 year old son Robert (born California), and 4 year old daughter Claudia (born California). Myrtland, Esther and Myrtland Jr. have completed 4 years of high school. The occupation of Myrtland (John Merton) appears to be an error as he's listed as "Photographer - photography": https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K97Z-32D
  • October, 1940 newspapers covered the divorce filing of Merton's wife Esther: "Mrs. Esther LaVarre has brought suit for divorce from John Merton ... whose non-professional name is John M. LaVarre. They were married 19 years ago." ; "She charged cruelty ..." ; asking for Merton to pay for "support of herself and their six children."
  • May 31, 1942 Los Angeles marriage license for 41 year old John Myrtland LaVarre (born Seattle, Washington) and 27 year old Ellen Margaret Curtan (born Colorado). His parents were Wm. S. Lavarre (born Macon, Georgia) and Lelia [sic] Goddin Haynes (born Richmond, Virginia). He was divorced, and this was his second marriage. His occupation is "Theatrical - Motion Pictures" and she is a "Reg. Nurse": https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K8V5-6SR
  • Death certificate - 58 year old Myrtland F. LaVarre, AKA John Merton La Varre, was born February 18, 1901 in Washington, and his parents were William J. LaVarre (born Virginia) and Lelia Haynes (born Virginia). His occupation was "Actor - Desilu Productions - Motion Pictures", and he was a World War I veteran. He and wife Ellen C. LaVarre (occupation "registered nurse") lived at 7629 Coldwater Canyon Avenue, Los Angeles, and he passed away at his home on September 18, 1959 from heart problems. Burial at Pierce Bros. Vallhalla.
  • California Death Index has dual records for "Myrtland F. Lavarre" and "John Merton Lavarre". He was born in Washington on February 8, 1901, mother's maiden name of Haynes, and he passed away September 18, 1959 in the Los Angeles area:
    https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VPDY-DW4
    https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VGRZ-LVX

Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website confirms that Merton is interred at Valhalla Memorial Park, North Hollywood, Los Angeles County, California: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=139725048

Family Search has 1940s-1950s marriage records on four of John Merton's children (Robert, Geraldine, Gloria and Claudia). The following link will take you to La Varre marriages in California, and you can scroll through the names: https://familysearch.org/search/record/results?count=75&query=%2Bsurname%3Alavarre&collection_id=(1804002%201949339)

Myrtland La Varre Jr. - movie actor Lane Bradford:

  • Family Trees on Ancestry.com and other sources have Lane Bradford born Myrtland Vivien / Vivian La Varre Jr. on August 29, 1922 in Yonkers, Westchester County, New York.
  • The National Archives, Army enlistment database has a record on Lane Bradford's Army enlistment - Myrtland La Varre Jr. enlisted February 24, 1943 in Los Angeles as a Private in the U. S. Army. He was born in New York in 1922; was married; and civilian occupation was Actors and actresses: https://aad.archives.gov/aad/record-detail.jsp?dt=893&mtch=1&cat=all&tf=F&sc=24994,24995,24996,24998,24997,24993,24981,24983&q=la+varre&bc=sl,fd&rpp=10&pg=1&rid=7985725
  • There was a lengthy death notice on Lane Bradford in the June 14, 1973 issue of the Van Nuys (California) The News newspaper. Excerpts: "Memorial services were held Saturday in Honolulu for veteran actor Lane Bradford, 50, who died at Kaiser Memorial Hospital there on June 6 (1973) after suffering a massive cerebral hemorrhage aboard his boat." ; "... survived by his widow Mary, mother Esther LaVarre ... brother Robert ... four sisters ..." (The article has lots of details on his movie and television career as well as his love for boating. It also has an incorrect death date of June 6, 1973. Should be June 7, 1973. If anyone wants a copy, shoot the Old Corral webmeister an e-mail.)
Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website has info on Lane Bradford. He was born August 29, 1922 in Yonkers, Westchester County, New York and passed away June 7, 1973 in Hawaii: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=81409795


More on Merton's parents and three brothers.
Merton's father, William Johanne LaVarre (Senior) (1875-1948), was born in Georgia, became a naval architect and spent years working for the U. S. Navy and Commerce Department. In the mid 1930s, he retired to his Macon, Georgia birthplace and passed away there in 1948. During World War II, he was an inspector at the Naval Ordinance plant in Macon. There's family history on John Merton's parents and siblings at: http://freepages.family.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~familiesacrosstime/families_lavarre.htm

More about John Merton's brother, writer and explorer William Johanne LaVarre, Jr. (1898-1991): http://freepages.family.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~familiesacrosstime/wjl_whoswho.htm

The William LaVarre papers are housed at Stanford University: https://searchworks.stanford.edu/view/4088917

More about John Merton's brother Franklin LaVarre (1904-1987). He worked for years with travel lecturer Burton Holmes, changed his name to "Andre de La Varre" and became a prolific creator of film travelogues and documentaries:
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0890186
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andr%C3%A9_de_la_Varre
http://www.burtonholmes.org/associates/andredelavarre.html

The Andre De La Varre Collection is housed at the Archives Center, National Museum of American History, the Smithsonian: http://sova.si.edu/record/NMAH.AC.0782

The Internet Archive has the 42 minute "Crystals Go to War", a 1943 color documentary from the Army Signal Corps and produced by Andre de LaVarre: https://archive.org/details/6101_Crystals_Go_to_War_01_20_16_21

YouTube has dozens of Andre de la Varre travel films: https://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=7733BBB8B490BB70

Claude Andrew LaVarre was brother number three and was born November 7, 1911 in Staten Island, New York and was a representative of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, New York City. With Singer, he lived and traveled extensively in South and Central America. Ancestry.com had several ship and airline passenger logs. In 1937, he was traveling from Chile. And in 1961, he was traveling from Colombia and Peru.


Open items ... to be determined ...
No question that Merton was born in Washington state. Several relatives - and Merton himself - report his birth place as "Sidney village" in Kitsap County, Washington state and the family was located there in the 1900 census. But on his two marriage records, Merton reports his birth location as Seattle, Washington.

The middle name of Merton and son Lane Bradford is still confusing - it may be Vivian (with an A) or Vivien (with an E). On Merton's World War I draft registration, he reports his full name as Myrtland Vivien La Varre.


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