|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 Ed Phillips)
James Llewellyn Meehan
1890 - 1951
On the left is Lew, with his crooked and flattened nose, mustache, scowl, and wearing his usual costume which consisted of a dark hat and a vest.
Born in Minnesota on September 7, 1890, Lew Meehan was a salesman for a states rights distributor/film exchange in Minneapolis circa 1918, and that connection to the movie business may have been the impetus that led him to Hollywood.
His movie career began around 1921. In silents, Meehan did villainy against Yakima Canutt, Jack Perrin, Pete Morrison, Bob Custer, Tom Tyler, more. The September 28, 1924 issue of Film Daily had a review of the Jack Perrin COYOTE FANGS (F&W Prod., 1924) which was helmed by Harry S. Webb. That review had a pretty good description of Meehan: "Cast .... Lew Meehan a regulation stock villain who stops at nothing to get his man out of the way."
In silents, he was often the principal heavy. In talkies, Lew found himself demoted to mostly gang member roles and he free lanced everywhere. He shows up in a one or a few oaters with Jack Perrin, Bill Cody, Reb Russell, Dick Foran, Buddy Roosevelt, Harry Carey Sr., Hoot Gibson, John Wayne, Lane Chandler, Rex Bell, the William Boyd/Hopalong series, the Three Mesquiteers, more. But the bulk of his 1930s screen work occurred with the following cinema range riders:
|In the 1930s, Lew Meehan worked most often with:|
|Buck Jones - 14 westerns||Tim McCoy - 8 westerns|
|Tom Tyler - 10 westerns||Charles Starrett - 8 westerns|
|Bob Steele - 10 westerns, 1 Mascot serial||Johnny Mack Brown - 4 westerns, 1 Mascot serial|
|Ken Maynard - 10 westerns, 1 Mascot serial||Gene Autry - 4 westerns|
The cliffhanger MYSTERY MOUNTAIN (Mascot, 1934) includes a typical Lew Meehan performance. For twelve chapters, hero Ken Maynard is on the trail of the mysterious "Rattler" whose main henchmen are Bob Kortman, George Chesebro, Tom London ... and Meehan. Lo and behold, Lew even gets billing in the opening titles and credits. But there's a spelling boo-boo and he's listed as Lou Meehan. MYSTERY MOUNTAIN was one of a half dozen serials that Meehan did for Mascot producer/owner Nat Levine - he also picked up paychecks for FIGHTING WITH KIT CARSON (Mascot, 1933), THE WOLF DOG (Mascot, 1933), THE MYSTERY SQUADRON (Mascot, 1933), THE LOST JUNGLE (Mascot, 1934), and BURN 'EM UP BARNES (Mascot, 1934).
As noted above, Lew menaced Bob Steele in ten 1930s oaters. He gets billing credit and lots of dialog in one of Steele's best, THE RED ROPE (A. W. Hackel/Republic, 1937). In that, Meehan is "Rattler Haynes", a gunslick hired to get rid of Bob. And in Steele's ARIZONA GUNFIGHTER (A. W. Hackel/Republic, 1937), Bob and reformed outlaw Ted Adams go up against Meehan (as "Snake Bralt").
Our "regulation stock villain" had a rough and tough look, accentuated by a crooked and flattened nose remindful of a prize fighter who took too many punches.
By the early 1940s, Lew had hit 50 years of age and his film work was infrequent. His last screen appearance was in 1944.
Les Adams has him in about 135 sound era films, and of these, 119 are westerns and 11 are chapterplays.
James Llewellyn Meehan was under medical care for about four months at Rancho Los Amigos, Los Angeles County, near Hondo and Downey, California. He passed away there from congestive heart failure on August 10, 1951. His remains were given to the University of Southern California.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above from L-to-R are Lew Meehan (with his flattened and crooked nose), Sherry Tansey and Bob Steele in a crop from a lobby card from THUNDER IN THE DESERT (A. W. Hackel/Republic, 1938).
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has information on Lew Meehan: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0576055/
The Family Search website (free), Ancestry.com (subscription), the death certificate, and California Death Index have more about Lew Meehan:
(From Old Corral image collection)
Above is a 1950 blue duotone re-release lobby card and crop/blowup from THE GUN RANGER (A. W. Hackel/Republic, 1937). Bob Steele has the drop on, from L-to-R, Earl Dwire, Lew Meehan, Archie Ricks, an unidentified guy, and Barney Beasley. The unidentified guy may be Dick Morehead.