(From Old Corral image collection)
Russell 'Russ' 'Lucky' Hayden
His California Birth Certificate has his name as JAMES MICHAEL LUCID, born June 11, 1911.
1911 - 1981
(From Old Corral collection)
(Pressbook ad courtesy of Les Adams)
(Courtesy of Donn & Nancy Moyer)
Russell Hayden, circa 1980.
Two tall, good lookin' range riders became personal friends as well as memorable sidekicks to Hopalong Cassidy. And in 1950, they came together for a series of six low budget oaters for Lippert Pictures. They are Hayden "Pate" Lucid (Russell Hayden) who hailed from Chico, California and James Ellison Smith (James/Jimmy Ellison) from Guthrie Center, Iowa.
In the 1930s, Ellison did some bit parts at Warners/First National, MGM and Republic. Hayden's Hollywood experience began with various production crew jobs. Both were working at Paramount in the mid 1930s.
In 1935, James Ellison signed with producer Harry "Pop" Sherman for Paramount's new Hopalong Cassidy series, and he appeared in eight of the early Cassidys. After about a year and half as Hoppy's saddle pal "Johnny Nelson", he left with hopes of becoming a leading man in classier, higher budgeted films. Ellison's first major film role was portraying Buffalo Bill Cody in Cecil B. Demille's THE PLAINSMAN (Paramount, 1936) which had Gary Cooper as Wild Bill Hickok.
Russell Hayden worked on the Paramount lot as a laborer, laboratory technician, assistant cameraman, and film cutter. In the mid 1930s, he got promoted to business manager for "Pop" Sherman's production company.
Sherman recruited Hayden as Ellison's replacement and Russ portrayed "Lucky Jenkins" in 27 consecutive Cassidy adventures released during 1937-1941. Sherman also used him in four of Paramount's Zane Grey films. In KNIGHTS OF THE RANGE (Paramount, 1940), Hayden got to play the lead. His last Hopalong was WIDE OPEN TOWN (Paramount, 1941), and then Russ left for greener pastures. (Want to see the complete Hopalong Cassidy filmography with Ellison, Hayden, Hayes, others? Click HERE and a separate window will open.)
Russ became the new helper to Charles Starrett in eight films released in 1941-1942 by Columbia Pictures. In addition to Starrett, Wild Bill Elliott was Columbia's other resident range rider and for 1941-1942, they paired him up in eight with Tex Ritter. When those were completed, Elliott departed for a better deal at Republic Pictures and Tex went to Universal to assist Johnny Mack Brown. Columbia gave Hayden his own series which featured Dub "Cannonball" Taylor as his comic assistant and Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys doing tunes. These are among my favorites for they are slick and cram full of action. And Hayden, one of filmdom's best riders, looks good in the saddle ... and he could also handle the action, brawls and fisticuffs. The Hayden group consisted of seven oaters and one mountie adventure and filming was done in mid to late 1942. However, the films were released over an extended period, from the Fall of 1942 through the Summer of 1944. Russ even worked in some non-westerns while he was a Columbia contractee and an example is shown in the pressbook ad on the right. But his western series was not renewed. Columbia decided to concentrate on Charles Starrett.
While Hayden's last Columbias were hitting the theaters, he was at Universal doing a pair. There was MARSHAL OF GUNSMOKE (Universal, 1944) with Russ again playing second string, this time to Tex Ritter. Earlier, when Tex was recuperating from an injury, Russ starred in FRONTIER LAW (Universal, 1943) and Dennis Moore pulled second hero duty. Alas - more bad timing for Russ. Universal was going through another of their periodic re-evaluations on their B grade cowboy series. After many years on Universal's payroll, Johnny Mack Brown left and headed to Monogram. Also exiting was Ritter who signed on with PRC as the replacement for Jim Newill in the Texas Rangers trio series. When the dust finally settled circa 1944-1945, Rod Cameron and Kirby Grant were Universal's new sagebrush stars.
Hayden's next boss was the United States Navy. I have March and May, 1944 newspaper articles and following are some excerpts: "Russell Hayden was inducted into the Navy 24 hours after finishing his role in Paramount's "Gambler's Choice", new William Pine - William Thomas production ..."; and, "when Russell Hayden went into the Navy ... he put in storage one of Hollywood's finest collections of frontier model pistols ... more than a 100 guns, some of them being real museum pieces."
Records indicate his Navy enlistment ran from December 27, 1943 through October 24, 1945. A newspaper article from August, 1944 has Hayden as a member of a Navy movie unit in Florida that was filming a short subject to be used in the promotion of a war loan drive. The "BACK IN CIVVIES" column in the November 14, 1945 Film Daily tradepaper noted his return from military duty: "RUSSELL HAYDEN, from the Navy, resumes screen career at Paramount Studio."
Russ may have dropped by Paramount or Columbia to check on future movie projects ... but there was nothing for him. His first film after returning to civilian life was the thirteen episode THE LOST CITY OF THE JUNGLE (Universal, 1946). In that, Russ and sidekick Keye Luke faced off against Lionel Atwill. Released in April, 1946, LOST CITY was among Universal's last batch of cliffhangers. It was also Lionel Atwill's final performance as he passed away during the filming and a stand-in/double had to be used.
Hayden wore a redcoat in a quartet of 1946-1947 Royal Canadian Mounted Police yarns for Screen Guild, all of which had running times of 40-45 minutes. At Republic, he starred in SONS OF ADVENTURE (Republic, 1948), a "movie within a movie" about westerns and stuntmen which was directed by Yakima Canutt. And there was a couple support roles for Pine-Thomas Productions and Paramount: Russ was an Air-Sea Rescue pilot in the World War II aviation flick SEVEN WERE SAVED (1947) and a freight line operator in the Randolph Scott ALBUQUERQUE (1948).
In the mid to late 1940s, Hayden - along with movie baddie Dick Curtis, Roy Rogers and others - were investors responsible for the development of the Pioneertown, California movie location. Russ later acquired property south of Pioneertown and constructed his "Hayden Ranch" town set.
Circa 1950, Hayden and James Ellison were about forty years of age. The pair signed on with producer Ron Ormond for a group of six oaters directed by Republic Pictures veteran Thomas Carr and Lippert Pictures handling the film releasing. The impetus for the series may have been the television broadcasts of the Hoppy films. Because of that TV exposure, someone may have figured that partnering up the former Hopalong Cassidy sidekicks could generate box office success. Producer Ron Ormond was responsible for some other sagebrush flicks during the closing years of the B western programmer - click HERE for an example.
For the Ormond/Lippert series, Russ 'Lucky' Hayden put on chaps and a blue jean jacket while Jimmy 'Shamrock' Ellison wore buckskins, high-top moccasins, and a brace of six-shooters. The six films were shot together over a one month period using the same cast - Raymond Hatton and Fuzzy Knight were there along with Dennis Moore, Tom Tyler, John Cason, I. Stanford Jolley, George J. Lewis, and a few other familiar faces. Pretty Julie Adams (then billed as Betty Adams) was the heroine - remember her as the female lead in THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON. Once shooting was completed, Tommy Carr and his crew edited the miles of film into six respectable B westerns.
Johnny Mack Brown and stuntman Dave Sharpe were among a few Hollywood gun handlers that could spin and twirl a sixgun and flip it in the air and over their shoulder. While not as proficient as Brown and Sharpe, Hayden and Ellison demonstrate their gun twirlin' talents beginning around the 32 minute mark in MARSHAL OF HELDORADO (Lippert, 1950), the best of their half dozen adventures for Carr and Ormond. For those into trivia and minutiae, there is an error with the Ellison credits. In the lobby cards shown on a later webpage, you'll see that Jimmy 'Shamrock' Ellison is first billed over Hayden. The opening of all six films have the titles and credits superimposed over a scene of Raymond Hatton, Hayden, Ellison and Fuzzy Knight riding together. Ellison still gets first billing ... but the film credits list him as Jimmie 'Shamrock' Ellison.
Though busy with Pioneertown and his Hayden Ranch, Russ continued to take an occasional movie job. Examples: he was the villainous Indian "Black Wolf" in APACHE CHIEF (Lippert, 1949), a no good in the Jon Hall DEPUTY MARSHAL (Lippert, 1949), and out to get Gene Autry in TEXANS NEVER CRY (Columbia, 1951) and VALLEY OF FIRE (Columbia, 1951).
His last starring role occurred in the 1952-1953 syndicated COWBOY G-MEN TV oater with one-time child star Jackie Coogan as his partner. And in the mid to late 1950s, Russ was behind the camera, producing the 26 MEN and JUDGE ROY BEAN television shows. 26 MEN starred Tris Coffin and Kelo Henderson as Arizona rangers. Edgar Buchanan portrayed JUDGE ROY BEAN and the program was shot in color at the Hayden Ranch.
Hayden's first wife was actress Jan (Jane) Clayton, the original Mom in the LASSIE TV show with Tommy Rettig. They met during the filming of the Hopalong Cassidy adventure IN OLD MEXICO (Paramount, 1938) and were married from 1938-1943. Newspaper reports indicate they tied the knot on October 9, 1938 in the home of Clayton's parents in Tularosa, New Mexico, and Frank Lucid Jr., Russ' older brother, was best man. Clayton filed for divorce in 1941 claiming incompatibilities, and there were one or more (failed) reconciliations. Jan and Russ had a daughter named Sandra (Sandy), but tragedy struck on September 22, 1956 when fifteen year old Sandra Jane Hayden was killed when she ran a stop sign and collided with a vehicle.
Hayden's second wife was actress Lillian Porter (nicknamed "Mousie") and they married in July, 1946. Russ and "Mousie" were together through his passing in 1981, and they lived at the Hayden Ranch in their later years.
In March, 2000, Larry Imber sent me an e-mail about his visit with Russ Hayden and "Mousie" at Pioneertown: "He lived in the Judge Roy Bean house (set), a big room with a heater. On the wall was a large and lovely painting of Hoot Gibson. Being a Gibson fan, I was surprised by it. I asked if he was a fan as I was. He told me he loved Hoot. That opened him up and we had a long delightful conversation. He was blind at this time and enjoyed sitting in the sun. Mousie (Hayden's wife) left us alone but hoped I would come back on July 4th when Russ had a barbeque for the whole town. A stable nearby was covered with one sheets and stills from his career. He pointed off to roads used in stagecoach chases and other spots. It was one of my most memorable visits."
Bobby J. Copeland interviewed Russ Hayden. In summary, Harry "Pop" Sherman, the producer of the Hoppy films for Paramount, offered Hayden $1000.00 per film to play "Lucky Jenkins". Hayden, who had no prior acting experience, said yes! Russ had kind words about Sherman ("he was just like a father to me"). But "Bill Boyd was not easy to work with" and referring to his exit from the Hoppy films, "... I was glad to get out. I wouldn't have gone back for $5,000 a picture."
Russell Hayden passed away on June 9, 1981 from viral pneumonia at the Desert Hospital in Palm Springs, California.
Most folks remember Hayden as one of Hoppy's helpers. This multi-talented guy deserves more credit. Other than an occasional stray, he stayed with the western for all of his career. He was moderately successful as both a star and producer of early television programs. His series for Columbia should be viewed by fans of the genre. He could ride, fight and handle a sixgun with the best of them. His career consisted of about 75 films, and his movie and television work spanned about twenty years, from 1937 through the mid 1950s. If I had to pick a word or phrase to describe Russell Hayden, it would be "under appreciated".
The Motion Picture Herald and Boxoffice polls were conducted from about the mid 1930s through the mid 1950s. With a few exceptions, the annual poll results would list the "Top Ten" (or "Top Five") cowboy film stars. In most cases, the winners were what you would expect - Autry, Rogers, Holt, Starrett, Hoppy, etc. Russell Hayden was ranked in the Motion Picture Herald Poll during his cowboy films at Columbia and Universal.
|Popularity Rankings of Russell Hayden|
|Year||Motion Picture Herald Poll Ranking||Boxoffice Poll Ranking|
(From Old Corral collection)
Above - Hayden as "Lucky Jenkins" circa 1940. There were a total of 66 Hopalong Cassidy films released from 1935-1948 and Hayden did 27 during the period from 1937-1941. He appeared in more Hoppys than George Hayes (as "Windy Halliday"), but is beaten out by Andy Clyde's 36 film run as "California Carlson".
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above L-to-R: William Boyd, George Hayes and Russell Hayden have Steve Clemento / Clemente (as 'Lone Eagle') under wraps in this crop from a lobby card from the Hopalong Cassidy adventure HILLS OF OLD WYOMING (Paramount, 1937).
(From Old Corral collection)
Above is a re-release lobby card for IN OLD MEXICO (Paramount, 1938). The gal lead in this film was Jan (Jane) Clayton (of LASSIE TV show fame) and she and Russell Hayden married in 1938 and divorced in 1943.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above are Hayden and Jane (Jan) Clayton in a publicity still from IN OLD MEXICO (Paramount, 1938). Jan did two other Hoppys, SUNSET TRAIL (Paramount, 1939) and THE SHOWDOWN (Paramount, 1940), and when those were filmed, she and Russ were husband and wife.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
From left to right are Andy Clyde, Chief Thunder Cloud (Victor Daniels), William Boyd, Henry Hall, Eleanor Stewart and Russell Hayden in a still from the Hopalong Cassidy oater PIRATES ON HORSEBACK (Paramount, 1941).
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above from left to right are William Boyd, Russell Hayden, Andy Clyde and Morris Ankrum in a lobby card from WIDE OPEN TOWN (Paramount, 1941). Released in August, 1941, this was Hayden's 27th and final Hoppy film. His next job was assisting Charles Starrett at Columbia. Replacing Hayden in the Cassidy series was Brad King ... who was replaced by Jay Kirby ... and then George "Superman" Reeves was in one film ... and then came Jimmy Rogers ... and lastly, Rand Brooks.