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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.


Riley Hill

Real name:
Roy Lawrence Harris

1914 - 1993


Right is a youthful and slim Roy Harris, circa 1940, when he worked at Universal ... and several years before he became "Riley Hill".

(Image courtesy of Jack Tillmany)


One of the more familiar faces in Monogram oaters of the 1940s was Riley Hill. As B western supporting work and bit parts faded, he successfully migrated to television, and during the 1950s, you can spot him in lots of TV westerns including RANGE RIDER, LONE RANGER, GENE AUTRY, ROY ROGERS, CISCO KID, WILD BILL HICKOK, more.

Something occurs in the mid 1950s, and this busy TV and movie performer exits the film/TV business ... but not completely. Over the next twenty-five years - roughly the mid 1950s to 1980 - he pops up in an occasional bit role on a TV show or in A or B grade film.

Consensus is that Riley Hill was born Roy Harris in Texas, and he used the Harris name in his early film work at Universal and Monogram in the late 1930s - early 1940s. He had some fairly meaty roles during his "Roy Harris at Universal period", including several with Johnny Mack Brown. Examples: he was "the Wolverine Kid" in LAW OF THE RANGE (Universal, 1941), and was a lawman and JMB's brother, who gets killed by the outlaws, in RAWHIDE RANGERS (Universal, 1941).

Then he was off the screen for about three years (1942 - 1944) for World War II service. Tradezines had news about Roy Harris:

In late 1944, Roy Harris is back making westerns ... but using the name "Riley Hill". As Hill, he gets to play another "Kid something-or-other" - this time as "the Sonora Kid", the crooked and downright nasty brother of Sunset Carson in SHERIFF OF CIMARRON (Republic, 1945). Then he becomes a member of Monogram's stable of baddies and appears in many oaters starring Johnny Mack Brown, Jimmy Wakely, and Whip Wilson.

In later years, Harris/Hill may have resided in Arizona, and/or New Mexico, and/or Texas ... or all three states or some combination thereof. Among his last film jobs was an uncredited role playing a reporter in WANDA NEVADA (1979) which starred Peter Fonda and Brooke Shields. That was filmed in Arizona, and Harris/Hill may have been living there at that time.

Les Adams has Harris/Hill identified in about 85 films, and that number includes 58 westerns as well as 3 Universal serials.

The 1940 census and World War II military enlistment records indicates that Riley's real name was Roy L. Harris and he was born in Texas in 1914. You'll find links below to that info.

In their Best Of The Badmen book, Boyd Magers, Bob Nareau and Bobby Copeland have a profile on Hill, and note that in his later years, he may have lived in the Tucson, Arizona area as well as Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico and Las Cruces, New Mexico.

The photo and information below from Johnny Hawk confirms that Hill resided in the Tucson, Arizona area circa 1975.

A family tree on Ancestry.com has Riley born Roy Lawrence Harris in 1914; parents were Charles Morris Harris and Irene Bowers Harris; and siblings included sisters Marjorie and Doris. See 1920 census below.

Also below are links to his birth certificate and Social Security Death Index (SSDI) - in summary, Roy Lawrence Harris was born March 20, 1914 in Forth Worth, Texas and he passed away on December 16, 1993 in Dona Ana, New Mexico. His last residence zip code indicates Las Cruces, New Mexico (which is located in Dona Ana County).

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Riley Hill: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0384610/

The Family Search website and Social Security Death Index (SSDI) provide more on Riley Hill / Roy L. Harris:




(Image courtesy of Johnny Hawk)


Special thanks to Johnny Hawk for the above photo of Riley Hill. Below are remembrances that I've summarized from several e-mails from Johnny:

I met Riley in Tucson in the early to mid 1970s. The photo was taken in his hay day in a Hollywood studio back lot. The horse was one of the Silvers of Lone Ranger fame. Riley was living in a small house on a ranch that Lee Marvin owned. Lee was a common sight in Tucson, riding around in his Pontiac convertible. Riley had a 1965 BMW and a 1963 Lincoln convertible with suicide 4 doors. I last saw him in the late 1980s while I was repairing the road outside his apartment in north Tucson. He was disappointed in me for not staying in the music business. As far as I know, he had no wife. He said his Mom had a whole block of buildings in down town Austin, Texas. He complained quite a bit about stomach/gastro problems. We played a lot of gin together when we lived in Tucson.

I'm still playing music and I wish he could see me now. And I him. He was a great friend. I hope this helps and keeps a little of Riley alive.

(I got the photo from Riley when) I was singing in a band at the Hilton in Tucson in 1975 where all the players stayed when doing work at Old Tucson and such.

The autograph in the bottom right is difficult to read. It says:
Johnny Hawk
You have the talent
Your break will come.
Riley
1975


Johnny Hawk
September, 2010




(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

Above from L-to-R are Max Terhune, Nell O'Day, Riley Hill (billed as Roy Harris), Ray Corrigan and John King in a scene from the Range Busters' ARIZONA STAGECOACH (Monogram, 1942). In this film, Harris/Hill is Nell O'Day's brother and gets involved with a gang run by Charlie King. Released in late Summer, 1942, ARIZONA STAGECOACH was one of Harris/Hill's last film appearances before a couple year break for World War II military service.



(Courtesy of Les Adams)

From L-to-R are stuntman Eddie Parker, Johnny Mack Brown and Riley Hill in a scene from TRIGGER FINGERS (Monogram, 1946).



(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

Above from L-to-R are Johnny Mack Brown, Gerry Patterson, Riley Hill, Max Terhune and Terhune's dummy Elmer in a scene from LAW OF THE WEST (Monogram, 1949).



(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

Above from L-to-R are Riley Hill, Johnny Mack Brown and Max Terhune in RANGE JUSTICE (Monogram, 1949).



(From Old Corral collection)

Above from left to right are Kenne Duncan, Andy Clyde, Riley Hill and Reno Browne in a still from the Whip Wilson SHADOWS OF THE WEST (Monogram, 1949).



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