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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.

Richard Fiske

Real name:
Thomas Ralph Potts

1914 - 1944

Born November 20, 1914 in Mason County, Washington, 24 year old Tom Potts wound up in Hollywood in 1938. Army records and census information note that he had a year or so of college and he may have picked up some stage/acting experience there.

Fiske became a very busy Columbia contract player, doing credited and uncredited roles in a mix of shorts, features and serials. His movie career spanned about ninety films over a four+ year period from 1938 through early 1942.

Below is an overview of Fiske at Columbia - not everything, but some highlights including B westerns and cliffhangers. He worked in:

Some memorable Fiske roles:

Above - 1941 newspaper ad.
In the late 1930s - early 1940s, Boris Karloff was doing films for RKO, Universal, Warners, Monogram ... and five for Columbia Pictures: THE MAN THEY COULD NOT HANG (1939; directed by Nick Grinde), THE MAN WITH NINE LIVES (1940; directed by Nick Grinde), BEFORE I HANG (1940; directed by Nick Grinde), THE DEVIL COMMANDS (1941; directed by Edward Dmytryk), and THE BOOGIE MAN WILL GET YOU (1942; directed by Lew Landers).

Fiske had roles in two of the five. There was a minor, unbilled part in BEFORE I HANG. In THE DEVIL COMMANDS, he gets lots of dialog and screen time and is second billed in a rather dull story about Karloff using brain waves to contact his dead wife.

(Courtesy of Boyd Magers)

Above are Bill Elliott (as Wild Bill Hickok) and Richard Fiske in a still from ACROSS THE SIERRAS (Columbia, 1941).

Fiske was good looking, talented, had a flair for comedy, and seemed comfortable in front of the camera. And he was able to handle a variety of roles, be it an uncredited B western henchman, a helper to a serial or western hero, the younger man who took a wrong turn ... and a target for the Three Stooges. As mentioned - Columbia took full advantage of contractee Fiske - they used him often.

His career was interrupted by World War II and he enlisted in the U. S. Army in May, 1942. In his last film for Columbia, he wore a mountie uniform in PERILS OF THE ROYAL MOUNTED (Columbia, 1942), a cliffhanger starring Robert Kellard (AKA Robert Stevens) and Nell O'Day which was released in May, 1942. Between his Columbia exit and Army start date, Fiske free-lanced in a couple of movies - there were minor but credited roles in VALLEY OF THE SUN (RKO, 1942) with James Craig and Lucille Ball and THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR (Paramount, 1942) with Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland.

First Lieutenant Thomas Ralph Potts, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, participated in the Normandy invasion and was killed in action on August 10, 1944 in LeCroix, France. He was a few months shy of his thirtieth birthday. Potts was awarded the Bronze Star, the Oak Leaf Cluster (signifying a second Bronze Star equivalent), and the Purple Heart. He is interred at the Brittany American Cemetery, St. James, France.

  Although some of the data may be incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Richard Fiske:

The website has info on Fiske with the Three Stooges:

Daniel Neyer's "The Files of Jerry Blake" serial website has a detailed writeup on Fiske in Columbia serials:

Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website has a photo of the marker for U. S. Army Lieutenant Thomas R. Potts who is interred at the Brittany American Cemetery, St. James, France:

The Family Search website (free), (subscription), various articles from the Newspaper Archive, and other sources have information on Richard Fiske:

Note the mention of Fiske being a nephew of noted stage actress Minnie Maddern Fiske (1865-1932). Her real name was Mary/Marie Augusta Davey and her husband was theatrical producer Harrison Grey Fiske. In 1912, Adolph Zukor formed the Famous Players film company and signed various Broadway stars including John Barrymore and Minnie Maddern Fiske.
The Internet Broadway Database has many New York stage plays in which she performed, wrote, directed or produced:
The Internet Movie Database lists her two films:

Fiske was a cousin to Emily Stevens (1882-1928), another Broadway and film actress:
The Internet Broadway Database has a long list of her New York stage performances:
The Internet Movie Database has her film credits:

If you read the IMDb biography on Emily Stevens, someone has mistakely identified her as the sister of actor Robert Kellard (1915-1981), who was sometimes credited as Robert Stevens. She was the sister of theatrical producer, director and actor Robert Stevens (1882-1963). That error also occurs in the IMDb biography of Minnie Maddern Fiske who is listed as the aunt of Robert Kellard.
Info on New York City and Rochester, New York theatrical producer, director and actor Robert Stevens (1882-1963):

Above on Minnie Maddern Fiske and Emily Stevens is from the June, 1923 issue of Shadowland magazine which is available at the Internet Archive.

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