Back to prior page

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.

(Courtesy of Sam Lawson)
Ray Bennett
Raphael Bennett
Rafeal Bennett

Birth name:
Raphael Fabian Bennett

1895 - 1957

Salutation on this photo reads: "To Ross - with the very best of wishes for his success, Raphael Bennett"

Ray Bennett was born Raphael Fabian Bennett on March 21, 1895 in Portland, Oregon to George S. and Ella Bennett. His mother Ella Costillo Bennett (1865 / 1866 - 1932) was a book author, drama critic, and feature writer for newspapers.

Before settling on a Hollywood career, Ray was a theater performer and playwright and there's traces of both in old newspaper articles and other sources:

  • Circa 1917 - 1920s, he played mostly juvenile / young adult roles with various amateur and professional stage groups - including the Patfo Players Community Stock Company of Los Angeles, Players Club in San Francisco, Harlequin Players in Los Angeles, Pasadena, California Community Playhouse, and Playcrafters in Los Angeles.
  • In the subsequent decade, Bennett was cast in character roles in "Snow in August" at the Spotlight Theater in Los Angeles (in 1935); "The Pursuit of Happiness" at the Little Theater of Beverly Hills (in 1936); and "The Doctor Said No" at the Renevant Theater (in 1936).

While he was honing his acting skills, the census and draft registration have him employed in non-theatrical jobs: in 1917, Bennett was operating a Standard Oil Company gas station; in 1920, he was a "Salesman - Retail Jewelry"; and in 1930, Ray was an "Interior Decorator - Furniture".

His Hollywood career spanned about twenty years, from about 1936 through the mid 1950s. In B westerns, he was often cast as a henchman / second-in-command gang member. In some, he got lucky and played the dress heavy / boss baddie.

Bennett's most frequent adversaries included Charles Starrett and Bill Elliott at Columbia Pictures and Johnny Mack Brown at Monogram. His earliest movie work occurred in four of Tom Keene's mid 1930s Crescent historical adventures; he did four Hopalong Cassidys and three with Lash Larue; he was at Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC) with Buster Crabbe, Bob Livingston, Bob Steele and the Texas Rangers; he did a few with Tex Ritter, Kirby Grant, Tim McCoy, Dick Foran, Tim Holt, Don Barry, Russell Hayden, the Three Mesquiteers, and Cisco Kid (Cesar Romero and Gilbert Roland); and he was at Republic Pictures in four Gene Autrys and three with Roy Rogers.

He had character and bit parts in serials, A grade westerns and non-westerns, as well as various 1950s television programs. Couple examples - you may be able to spot him in THE DARK COMMAND (Republic, 1940) with John Wayne and Roy Rogers as well as THE SPOILERS (Universal, 1942) with Wayne and Randolph Scott. TV work included series with Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, the Cisco Kid, Lone Ranger, others.

If he had a meaty role and received billing, he was credited as Rafael, Raphael, or plain ol' Ray Bennett. For example, he's Rafael Bennett in Tom Keene's DRUMS OF DESTINY (Crescent, 1937). But he's Raphael Bennett in Gene Autry's PRAIRIE MOON (Republic, 1938), Charles Starrett's THUNDERING FRONTIER (Columbia, 1940), the Hopalong Cassidy DOOMED CARAVAN (Harry Sherman/Paramount, 1941), and THE LONE RANGER (Republic, 1938) cliffhanger.

Les Adams has him in about 120 films - that number includes 86 westerns and 8 serials. Not many paychecks from Republic Pictures - during the period from 1937 - 1955, he worked in fourteen serials and oaters at Republic.

Appears his love was theater and writing:

  • There are copyright entries for several plays authored by Raphael Fabian Bennett: "This Lovely Lady" (three acts; copyright 1929) and "Wild Honey" (three acts; copyright 1937).
  • He dabbled in book authoring, and UCLA has an unpublished manuscript by Raphael Fabian Bennett titled "The Shelter of the Cloth" (1950).
  • In the 1950s, he directed plays, did makeup, and other functions with theater groups in Vista and Escondido, California.

Though he didn't have the size, booming voice, and malevolence of Roy Barcroft or Harry Woods, Ray Bennett was a memorable B western villain.

He was not a military veteran nor was he ever married. For years, he suffered from heart and coronary problems, and according to his death certificate, passed away on December 18, 1957 at his home at 450 South Kenmore Avenue, Los Angeles. His sister Mary Leonora Bennett was the informant on his death certificate.

But there's confusion and controversy with his newspaper death announcement (more on that below) - the notice has him passing on December 19, 1957 at the Motion Picture Home and Hospital, Woodland Hills, California. Also has him born February, 1894 in San Francisco; his home was Vista, San Diego County, California; and survived by sister Florence. NONE of that matches his birth record, census, draft registrations, and death certificate.

Above from a 1938 Players Directory.

On the trail of Ray Bennett

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Ray Bennett:

The Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, at UCLA has an unpublished book by Raphael Fabian Bennett titled "The Shelter of the Cloth" (1950): and

There are many newspaper articles on Raphael Bennett doing amateur and professional plays in California circa 1917 - early 1930s. Examples:

November 16, 1922 Los Angeles Evening Post-Record article on Raphael Bennett in 'The Prodigal Son' at the Gamut Theater:

July 6, 1931 Los Angeles Evening Post-Record has a blurb on Ray Bennett's one-act play "Sage" being performed by the Quill 'n' Buskin Club in Edendale, California:

1950's newspaper articles on Raphael Bennett working with theater groups in Vista and Escondido, California. Examples:

July 30, 1954 Escondido, California Times-Advocate article on on "Raphael Bennett of Hollywood" doing make-up for the Nor-San Players for the play "Kiss and Tell":

March 10, 1955 Escondido, California Times-Advocate article on Ray Bennett directing a play for Escondido's Little Theater group. Includes a few tidbits on Bennett's movie and TV career:

May 13, 1955 Escondido, California Times-Advocate article on Ray Bennett directing "Blithe Spirit" with the Hidden Town Players group:

A copy of Ray Bennett's 1937 play "Wild Honey" is available at the Oregon Historical Society Research Library, Portland, Oregon:

University of Memphis Digital Commons has a biography of Ray Bennett's mother Ella Costillo Bennett (1865 - 1932). She authored books, was a feature writer for newspapers, and her bio mentions Raphael and daughter Mary L. Bennett:

The University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries, Special Collections Department and the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley have Ella Costillo Bennett scrapbooks donated by her daughter, Mary Bennett:;titlesAZ=e;idT=UCb112363945

The Family Search website (free), (subscription), California Death Index, and the death certificate provide more on Ray Bennett and family:

  • had the Oregon Birth Index - Raphael Fabian Bennett was born March 21, 1895 to George S. and Ella Bennett.
  • 1910 census has the family residing in San Francisco. Parents were George S. Bennett (occupation "Inventor") and Ella C. Bennett and three children: 18 year old son Miles A., 16 year old daughter Mary L., and 15 year old son Raphael F., and all three children were born in Oregon:
  • World War I draft registration dated June 5, 1917 - 22 year old Raphael F. Bennett was born March 21, 1895 in Portland, Oregon. He lived in San Francisco and was "Operator of oil service station" for Standard Oil Co. The registration also notes a doctor's report that Bennett has a medical issue of "valvular leakage of the heart":
  • 1920 census has 24 year old Raphael F. Bennett (born Oregon; occupation "Salesman - Retail Jewelry"), 26 year old sister Mary (born Oregon; occupation "Nurse") and 53 year old mother Ella (born Tennessee; occupation "Saleslady - Dept Store") were renting in San Francisco. Mother Ella was divorced:
  • 1930 census has 35 year old Raphael F. Bennett (born Oregon; occupation "Interior Decorator - Furniture") was renting in Beverly Hills, California with his mother Ella C. Bennett and sister Mary L. Bennett (born Oregon; occupation "Nurse"). He answered "No" to the military veteran question:
  • Bennett's mother, Ella Costillo Bennett (1866 - 1832), was living with Ray at 13906 Magnolia Boulevard, Van Nuys, California. She passed away at home on January 24, 1932 from heart / coronary issues; was cremated and interred at Hollywood Cemetery; and Raphael F. Bennett was the informant on her death certificate.
  • 1940 census has 45 year old Raphael Bennett (born Oregon) living alone and renting at 13322 Magnolia Boulevard, Los Angeles area. He was single, occupation was "Actor - Motion Pictures", and in 1939, he worked 6 weeks and earned $1250.00:
  • had the 1942 World War II draft registration for 47 year old Raphael Fabian Bennett. He was born March 21, 1895 in Portland, Oregon. He still resided at 13322 1/2 Magnolia Boulevard, Van Nuys, California, and employer was the Screen Actors Guild.
  • had the 1946 Los Angeles County Voter Registrations - Raphael F. Bennett was living at 13322 1/2 Magnolia Boulevard.
  • 1950 census has 55 year old Raphael F. Bennett living alone at 18333 Hatt???, Los Angeles, California. He was born in Oregon; was single; and occupation was "Actor - Free Lance"):
  • Death certificate: 62 year old Raphael Fabian Bennett was born March 21, 1895 in Oregon; occupation was "Actor - Motion Pictures"; was never married; was not a military veteran; parents were George S. Bennett and Ella Costillo. He passed away on December 18, 1957 at his home at 450 South Kenmore Avenue, Los Angeles, California, and cause of death were myocardial fibrosis, coronary sclerosis, and pulmonary emphysema - five to ten years in duration. Death certificate informant was Mary L. Bennett (his sister). Utter-McKinley-Wilshire was the funeral director and cremation at Grand View Crematory.
  • California Death Index mirrors the death certificate - Raphael Fabian Bennett was born March 21, 1895 in Oregon and passed away on December 18, 1957 in the Los Angeles area:
  • Find A Grave notes that Bennett was cremated at Grand View Memorial Park and Crematorium, Glendale, California, and the location of his cremains are unknown:

Ray Bennett's sister, Mary Leonora Bennett (1893 - 1973):

  • Family trees on have his sister as Mary Leonora Bennett (1893 - 1973). She, Ray, and mother Ella were living together through the 1930 census. In the 1940 and 1950 census, she was a lodger / roomer renting in Los Angeles. Her occupation was "Nurse".
  • February, 1921 passport application with photo of Mary Leonora Bennett. Was born June 27, 1893 in Portland, Oregon and was a "Graduate Nurse". Birth affidavit signed by her mother Ella C. Bennett:
  • Find A Grave reports that she is interred at Grand View Memorial Park and Crematorium, Glendale, California:

Bennett's newspaper death notice is full of errors.

Found no obits for Bennett in issues of Variety, Motion Picture Daily, Los Angeles Times, etc. But there was a death notice for Bennett in the Escondido, California Weekly Times-Advocate. That newspaper served the Vista and Escondido, California areas where Bennett did some 1950s plays. But the notice is chock full of misinformation which doesn't match his birth record, census, draft registrations, and death certificate.

December 27, 1957 Escondido, California Weekly Times-Advocate newspaper had a death announcement for 63 year old stage, screen, and television actor Raphael F. (Ray) Bennett. This link will open in a separate window / tab:

Issues with his death notice are highlighted below. The big question is who provided this misinformation to that Escondido, California newspaper?

Death noticeFacts and comments
Headline reads: "Ray Bennett, Former Actor and Vista Resident, Succumbs".
Correct! Death notice does mention Bennett's 1950s work on several plays with theater groups in Vista and Escondido, California.

And he probably had a temporary residence in Vista / Escondido, California while working on those plays.
Has him born February, 1894 in San Francisco.No! He was born March 21, 1895 in Portland, Oregon.
His home was Vista, San Diego County, California (which is about 95 miles south of Los Angeles).

In June, 1957, he moved to the Motion Picture Home and Hospital, Woodland Hills, California, and passed away there on December 19, 1957.
No! According to his death certificate, he died December 18, 1957 - not December 19.

And he passed away at his home at 450 South Kenmore Avenue, Los Angeles.

The physician signing the death certificate had his practice in Los Angeles and noted that he had treated Bennett for about a year and a half (since June, 1956).
His survivor was sister Florence.Wrong! His only sister was Mary Leonora Bennett and she was the informant on Bennett's death certificate.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above is the title lobby card from the Astor release of Bill Elliott's THE RETURN OF DANIEL BOONE (Columbia, 1941). Elliott has his arm around Betty Miles who is best remembered as the great rider and stunt woman at Monogram with Tom Keene and the Trail Blazers. In the upper right photo, Elliott has the drop on Bud Osborne (mustache) and Francis Walker, and Ray Bennett is kneeling in front of the safe. Bennett was the brains heavy in this, portraying "Leach Killgrain" (what a name!). He was billed as Ray Bennett in this. Crop of that photo below:

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above - Ray Bennett and Charles Starrett are having an argument while prolific henchman and stunt man Carl Mathews sneaks into the scene. From Starrett's LAWLESS PLAINSMEN (Columbia, 1942). Bennett played brains heavy "Seth McBride". He's billed as Raphael Bennett in this.

(From Old Corral collection)

Above is a lobby card from Lash Larue's FRONTIER REVENGE (Ron Ormond / Western Adventure, 1948). Below is a cropped B&W still that was used for this lobby card.

(Courtesy of Pat LaRosa)

Above from left to right are Al St. John, bartender Cliff Taylor (he was producer Ron Ormond's father-in-law), Lash Larue, Ray Bennett (as brains heavy "Duce Rago"), and bearded barfly Jack Evans. Moustached Lee Morgan is leaning on the bar behind Bennett. He was billed as Ray Bennett in this.

Back to prior page