Keene attempted a return to the stage during the World War II years when he was in his mid forties. In early 1943, he became "Richard Powers" for the short-lived Broadway play "The Barber Had Two Sons". It was about a family in Norway just as the Nazis invaded. Starring was Blanche Yurka and Powers was her "good son" who was fighting for the resistance. There were California tryouts (in Santa Barbara and San Francisco) and then the company headed east for a Febrary 1, 1943 opening at the Playhouse Theater in New York City.
The February 10, 1943 issue of Variety had an explanation for the name change. Article excerpts:
"... 'The Barber Had Two Sons' which opened at the Playhouse, N. Y. last week ..."; "The Richard Powers, liked by critics in 'Barber', is Tom Keene, former cowboy star in pictures. Feeling that the broad differential between the Broadway stage and the open range might reach to the drama's disadvantage, coauthor and bankroller James Hogan, film director, decided to borrow a stage name from one of his friends, Richard Powers, ASCAP's western division head."
Reviews and ticket sales were lukewarm and 'Barber' ran for three weeks and closed. Keene/Richard Powers returned to Tinseltown and picked up movie jobs wherever he could find work. He wound up as a contract player at his earlier home, RKO, and you can spot him playing heavies in Tim Holt's post World War II oaters. Examples: Keene/Powers was the crooked Indian Agent in INDIAN AGENT (RKO, 1948); he's one of the land grabbers in THUNDER MOUNTAIN (1947 RKO); he's the leader of the Tonto Rim gang in UNDER THE TONTO RIM (1947 RKO); he's a gambling hall boss killed by Steve Brodie in BROTHERS IN THE SADDLE (RKO, 1949); and in WILD HORSE MESA (RKO, 1947), Keene/Powers meets his villainous end under the smashin' hooves of the stallion leader of the hoss herd. He also turns up in some bigger budgeted RKOs - for example, he's one of the Younger brothers in the Randolph Scott RETURN OF THE BADMEN (RKO, 1948).
A bit of strangeness at Republic Pictures in 1950. He starred as Richard Powers in the Republic cliffhanger, DESPERADOES OF THE WEST (Republic, 1950). But he reverted to his Tom Keene moniker as one of the guest stars in the Roy Rogers' TRAIL OF ROBIN HOOD (Republic, 1950).
(From Old Corral collection)
Above from left to right are Tom Keene (as Richard Powers), Dale Evans and Arthur Loft in a 1955 re-release lobby card from the Roy Rogers' LIGHTS OF OLD SANTA FE (Republic, 1944). Crop/blowup below of Keene, Evans and Loft.
(From Old Corral collection)
In the lobby card above are, from L-to-R: Allan "Rocky" Lane, Monte Hale, Kermit Maynard, Tom Keene, Tom Tyler, Penny Edwards, youngster Carol Nugent, Roy Rogers, Gordon Jones, and on the white horse is Ray "Crash" Corrigan (with his hand on Tyler's shoulder).
(From Old Corral collection)
Above is a shot of most of the guest stars/heroes in the Roy Rogers Cinecolor TRAIL OF ROBIN HOOD (Republic, 1950).
Kneeling from L-to-R: Tom Keene, Roy Rogers, William Farnum.
Back Row from L-to-R: Tom Tyler, Ray 'Crash' Corrigan, Allan 'Rocky' Lane, Monte Hale, George Chesebro, Kermit Maynard.
Not pictured are Jack Holt and Rex Allen.
In the early 1950s, he became friendly with schlock director and film creator Edward D. Wood Jr. Circa 1953, Wood starred Keene in an unsold TV pilot titled CROSSROAD AVENGER - THE ADVENTURES OF THE TUCSON KID (with Lyle Talbot, Tom Tyler, Kenne Duncan, and a few other familiar B western faces).
He did many 1950s television shows, and if credited, he tended to be "Richard Powers". However, the March 17, 1952 and May 12, 1952 issues of Broadcasting-Telecasting magazine had coverage about a proposed TV program with Keene ... which didn't happen:
"Sidney R. Ross Productions Inc., Beverly Hills, plans 39 half-hour western TV film series in color. Tom Keene, former western film star, will be featured in untitled series with Morro and Yackinelli, vaudeville team. William Morris Agency, Beverly Hills, is program packager."
(Footnote: the Morro and Yackinelli reference is full of spelling errors. Nick Moro and Frank Yaconelli were a team for years. And Frank was Keene's sidekick in several of his 1941-1942 Monogram westerns.)
Among his last films was a cameo/guest role (as Tom Keene) in the western spoof ONCE UPON A HORSE (U-I, 1958), which starred the comedy duo of Dan Rowan and Dick Martin (of TV's LAUGH IN fame). Re-united with Ed Wood, Keene (as Tom Keene) portrayed "Colonel Tom Edwards" in the Bela Lugosi PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (1958).
In the 1950s, Keene also spent significant time in real estate and insurance businesses.
He was married twice. As mentioned earlier, his first wife was actress Grace Boyle, stage name of Grace Stafford, and they divorced in 1940. Grace married cartoonist Walter Lantz and she became the later voice of Woody Woodpecker. Wife number two was Florence Ramsey and they married on January 18, 1957 in Clark County, Nevada.
George Duryea/Tom Keene/Richard Powers suffered from prostate cancer and passed away on August 4, 1963 at the Motion Picture Hospital, Woodland Hills, California. Survivors were his second wife Florence and a stepson, Robert Ramsey.
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. Tom Keene never achieved a top ranking in those polls.
As to Keene's importance in the overall scheme of things - he was simply another western hero who rode the range ... though his sagebrush work was more sporadic than many others. From a quantity perspective, he was the lead/star in more westerns than Sunset Carson, Eddie Dean, Whip Wilson, Lash LaRue, Jimmy Wakely, Monte Hale, and several others.
If you want to see Keene at his best, take a gander at THE PAINTED TRAIL and WHERE TRAILS DIVIDE, two solid Monogram oaters. And if you want to see how good RKO was at making westerns, try GHOST VALLEY, COME ON, DANGER, SON OF THE BORDER and THE CHEYENNE KID, a quartet of Keene's early starrers. Speaking of RKO, most folks forget that Keene even did westerns for that company. Instead, they only recall the RKO hoss operas starring George O'Brien and Tim Holt.