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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.



Above - Frank Ellis circa 1931, and about 34 years old.
Frank Ellis

Full name:
Frank Birney Ellis

1897 - 1969
>

Above - Frank Ellis circa 1942, and about 45 years old.


One of the players at the top of Les Adams' Prolific Performers list - in both western and cliffhanger categories - is Frank Ellis.

He was born in the Oklahoma Territory in 1897 and his screenwork began in early 1920s silents.

He had a unique voice which I can immediately recognize. And when I originally did this webpage on Ellis, I was surprised at his 1897 birth year - he just seemed older to me.

In his 1930s appearances, he still was relatively thin (so to speak). During that decade, he did oaters at Columbia with Charles Starrett and Bill Elliott, at Republic with the Three Mesquiteers, at Universal with Johnny Mack Brown, lots of Hopalong Cassidy films, more.

In the 1940s, he became a member of Monogram and PRC's stable of bad guys and bit players ... and his waistline had considerably expanded. At Monogram, you can spot Ellis in over three dozen oaters with the Range Busters, Trail Blazers, Rough Riders, Jimmy Wakely, Whip Wilson, and Johnny Mack Brown. He did over four dozen 1940s westerns at Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC). At PRC, he worked with Eddie Dean, the Texas Rangers, in Lone Rider adventures starring George Houston and Bob Livingston, and with Bob Steele and Buster Crabbe in the Billy the Kid/Billy Carson series.

In most cases, Ellis was relegated to playing "the second or third or fourth henchmen through the door". Once in a great while, he portrayed the lead villain such as his role in the Jack Randall starrer COVERED WAGON TRAILS (Monogram, 1940).

Ellis was another of the B western and serial performers who successfully transitioned to TV, and he shows up in episodes of GUNSMOKE, BONANZA, WAGON TRAIN, THE VIRGINIA, GENE AUTRY SHOW, ANNIE OAKLEY, lots more. Most of his television appearances were minor background roles as a townsman, barfly, etc.

Les Adams has Ellis identified in 425+ sound era films, and of that number, 361 are westerns and 49 are chapterplays. His work for Republic Pictures consisted of about 75 films during the period 1935-1953.

In summary, Frank Ellis was one of the dependable western and serial performers - otherwise he would never have gotten so much work over so many years.



(Courtesy of Les Adams)

From L-to-R in the front are Bud Geary, Bob Wilke and Roy Barcroft. Behind this threesome is Frank Ellis as "the fourth man through the door". Still from CODE OF THE PRAIRIE (Republic, 1944) which starred Smiley Burnette and featured Sunset Carson.



(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

Above - Ray Corrigan tries to teach the milk drenched Frank Ellis how to drink the white liquid in an amusing bit from one of the weakest of the Range Busters, TEXAS TROUBLE SHOOTERS (Monogram, 1942). Ellis was about 45 years old when he did this film.


Frank Ellis did film roles prior to 1930 and after 1950. But 1930-1950 was his busiest movie making period. Below
are his film quantity totals by year in westerns, serials, shorts, and other films. Was he injured or ill in 1934?
14
14
30
21
9
30
27
33
21
27
27
38
41
25
18
17
18
13
11
11
13
1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949 1950


You may want to go to the In Search Of ... page on the Old Corral, and check the California Death Index. There you will find a record for Frank B. Ellis, born 2/26/1897 in Oklahoma, and he passed away on 2/23/1969. There is a corresponding record in the Social Security Death Index.

Mike Newton provided a story about a friend of his meeting up with Frank Ellis: "I had a friend who was Ray Johnston's office boy at Monogram in the summer of 1940. He would tell me about meeting all the movie actors and cowboy stars while he was visiting the sets. This one day, he happened to be off and went over to PRC Studios where they were making a Lone Rider western with George Houston. Apparently security was not too tight, or they figured he belonged there. But as he stood watching the action, he felt a tap on his shoulder. "What the h--- are you doin' here, boy." Bob turned around to see Frank Ellis standing behind him, glowering. "Nothing, sir. I was just watching." "Get the h--- out of here, boy, now." Bob didn't feel it was prudent to argue the situation, having seen Mr. Ellis handle himself on the screen, so he "git". I told him that reality had a way of mirroring fantasy and that the tenderfoot got run out of town by the bully."


  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has information on Frank Ellis: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0254834/

The Family Search website (free) and Ancestry.com (subscription) have info on Frank Ellis:

Boyd Magers' Western Clippings website has a profile on Frank Ellis: http://www.westernclippings.com/heavies/frankellis_charactersheavies.shtml




(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from left to right are Monte Montague being subdued by Bob Custer while oldster Richard Carlyle is restrained by a young and thinnish Frank Ellis in Custer's QUICK TRIGGER LEE (Big 4, 1931).



(Courtesy of Ed Phillips)

Above from L-to-R are Robert Walker, a thinnish Frank Ellis, Dick Rush, Edmund Cobb, John Doe #3, Charles Starrett, George Morrell (behind and right of Starrett).  In the background on horseback are Steve Clark and Tex Cooper (Buffalo Bill-looking character). Scene from TWO-FISTED SHERIFF (Columbia, 1937).



(Courtesy of Bill McCann)

Above from left to right are Veda Ann Borg, Charles 'Slim' Whitaker, Bill Elliott and Frank Ellis in THE LAW COMES TO TEXAS (Columbia, 1939).



(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above - Range Busters' Dave Sharpe and John 'Dusty' King have the drop on Frank Ellis in TEXAS TO BATAAN (Monogram, 1942). This was the 17th of 24 films in the Range Busters series and the plot involved the trio delivering Army horses to the Phillipines. At the end, there's a radio broadcast announcing the Pearl Harbor attack and the three heroes decide to enlist.



(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

Above from left to right are Ray 'Crash' Corrigan, Weldon Heyburn, Carl Mathews, Max 'Alibi' Terhune, Frank Ellis and John 'Dusty' King in a scene from the Range Busters adventure ROCK RIVER RENEGADES (Monogram, 1942).



(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are Fuzzy St. John, I. Stanford Jolley, and stage driver Frank Ellis in a lobby card from BLAZING FRONTIER (PRC, 1943), one of the Buster Crabbe oaters. Note the expanded waistline on Ellis.



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above from L-to-R are Kermit Maynard, Buster Crabbe, Frank Ellis, and Charlie King in a lobby card and crop/blowup from FRONTIER OUTLAWS (PRC, 1944), another entry in the Crabbe "Billy Carson" series



(Courtesy of Ken Jones)

Hoot Gibson on the left and Chief Thunder Cloud on the right, have apprehended a trio of henchies in OUTLAW TRAIL (Monogram, 1944), an entry in the Trail Blazers series. In the center from L-to-R are Jim Thorpe, Al Ferguson and Frank Ellis. James Francis 'Jim' Thorpe (1888 - 1953) won the decathlon and pentathlon at the 1912 Stockholm Olympic games, but was later stripped of his medals since he had played pro sports.



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above from left to right are Jack Hendricks (AKA Ray Henderson), Buster Crabbe, Frank Ellis, Al 'Fuzzy' St. John, Ray Jones and Lorraine Miller in a still from BORDER BADMEN (PRC, 1945).



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above from left to right are Ted Adams, Frank Ellis, Shirley Patterson (Shawn Smith) and singin' cowboy Eddie Dean in Dean's TUMBLEWEED TRAIL (PRC, 1946). Shirley Patterson was the heroine in the first BATMAN (Columbia, 1943) serial. One of her last films - when she had re-named herself to "Shawn Smith" - was THE LAND UNKNOWN (Universal, 1957), a tale of a military expedition landing inside of a volcano and finding dinosaurs.



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