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Columbia In Transition
Bob Allen and Jack Luden

Jack Luden

Real name:
Jacob Benson Luden


(Courtesy of Ed Phillips)

(Courtesy of Richard S. Kumler)

(Courtesy of Richard S. Kumler)

(Courtesy of Richard S. Kumler)

Special thanks to Richard Kumler for his remembrances and photos of Jack Luden.  Richard's Mom was married to Luden in the 1940s.  Thanks also to Luther Hathcock for his investigative work and 1987 article in Classic Images titled "Whatever Happened to Cowboy Star Jack Luden?".

Jack Luden was born February 8, 1902 in Reading, Pennsylvania to Jacob C. and Anna Benson Luden. His father was a local jeweler. The Ludens cough drop company was founded in the 1880s by Jack's uncle, William H. Luden.

Jack went through several name variations - from his birth name of Jacob Benson Luden to John Benson Luden ... and that was later shortened to Jack Luden.

In 1925, he was a contest winner selected to attend Paramount Pictures' School of Acting at Long Island, New York. Graduates of Paramount's Class of 1926 included Jack along with Thelma Todd and Charles 'Buddy' Rogers. Luden got the call to Paramount's Hollywood studio and began doing films, both western and non-western varieties. And during the waning days of the silents, he made films for Paramount and FBO.

Luden was deemed to be star material ... but he didn't work out.

By the late 1930s, the only starring role left for him was at Columbia in four Larry Darmour produced low budget sagebrush adventures. Typical formula westerns of the period, Luden portrayed a character named "Breezy" and his helper was a talented dog named "Tuffy" (more on him below). Spencer Gordon Bennet had helmed all six Bob Allen oaters for Darmour. Director Joseph Levering was in charge of the Ludens and the films were:

     ROLLING CARAVANS (Columbia, 1938)
     STAGECOACH DAYS (Columbia, 1938)
     PIONEER TRAIL (Columbia, 1938)
     PHANTOM GOLD (Columbia, 1938)

After completing those four, Luden was out. To fulfill the remaining four in the eight film series, Darmour selected newcomer Gordon (Bill) Elliott as his new range rider, and Joseph Levering directed those.

Over the next half dozen or so years, Luden found an occasional bit part, and he also had minor roles in a few 1940s westerns (such as BORDERTOWN TRAIL (Republic, 1944) which starred Sunset Carson and Smiley Burnette). Most of this was uncredited/unbilled. His last film work occurred in 1945.

There were three marriages: first to Elizabeth Seltzer of Reading, Pennsylvania, and they divorced in the early 1930s; then to Charlotte Eckerd of Erie, Pennsylvania, and that pairing ended with a late 1930s divorce; Luden's third marriage was to Jay Kumler in 1947 and more information and photos are on the next webpage.

Luden got into several legal entanglements, initially in 1948 and again in 1950, and he died of heart / coronary problems in San Quentin Prison on February 15, 1951. He had been in San Quentin for slightly over eight months, serving time for issuing insufficient funds (bad checks) and a drug conviction. His occupation prior to his imprisonment was listed as "manager of a retail food store".

You may want to go to the In Search Of ... page on the Old Corral and check the California Death Records database.  There you will find a record for: John Benson Luden, born 2/8/1902 in Pennsyvania, Mother's maiden name of Benson, and he died on 2/15/1951. The death location is listed as Marin County in California (where San Quentin Prison is located).  There is no Social Security number listed.

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has information on Jack Luden:

Find A Grave reports that Jack Luden passed on February 15, 1951 at San Quentin Prison, Marin County, California and is interred at Napa Valley Memorial Park and Mortuary, Napa, Napa County, California:

David Priol had a webpage on Luden with a bio and many images, many of which were provided by Richard Kumler. David's website is no longer online, but a saved copy of his Luden webpage is available at the Internet Archive Wayback Machine:

Boyd Magers' Western Clippings website has a section on the four Luden Columbia westerns:

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above - Jack Luden seems to be the winner of this brawl with a young and curly-haired Fred Kohler, Sr. in the silent SHOOTIN' IRONS (Paramount, 1927). During the late 1920s, Kohler was a busy guy working under contract at Paramount.

(From Old Corral collection)

Above is a lobby card and crop/enlargement showing Jack Luden and his canine pal 'Tuffy' getting the best of prolific baddie Harry Woods in ROLLING CARAVANS (Columbia, 1938). Tuffy worked in all four of the Luden Columbias and the talented pooch can also be seen in other films, including Republic's HAWK OF THE WILDERNESS and DAREDEVILS OF THE RED CIRCLE cliffhangers.

Tuffy's trainer and owner was Gerhardt Orvedahl.

(Courtesy of Richard S. Kumler)

Above from left to right are Luden, Tuffy, pretty Eleanor Stewart and in the back is Buzz Barton in a still from ROLLING CARAVANS (Columbia, 1938).

Sometime in the 1930s, Luden obtained a longish scar which ran behind and under his right ear down toward his chin. How and when he received it is another Luden mystery. Below is a crop/blowup from the ROLLING CARAVANS still above showing the scar ... and is there a second scar underneath? The mark on his ear may be a blemish in the photo.

(Courtesy of Ed Phillips)

Above - Jack Luden confronts great screen bad guy Harry Woods in STAGECOACH DAYS (Columbia, 1938), which is the best of Luden's four starring adventures for Columbia.

(Courtesy of Ed Phillips)

Above - Luden with Jack Ingram in a scene from PHANTOM GOLD (Columbia, 1938), the last of Luden's four starring oaters for producer Larry Darmour at Columbia.

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