|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.|
Raphael Fabian Bennett
1895 - 1957
Ray Bennett's mother was Ella Costillo Bennett (1865-1932), a noted author, drama critic and feature writer for many newspapers.
Before settling on a Hollywood career, Ray was a theater performer as well as a playwrite and there's traces of both occupations in old newspaper archives. In the 1920s, he was with Patfo Players Community Stock Company of Los Angeles. In the subsequent decade, Bennett appeared 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). Additionally, 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). Later in life, he dabbled in book authoring, and UCLA has an unpublished manuscript by Raphael Fabian Bennett titled "The Shelter of the Cloth" (1950).
His film career spanned about twenty years, from about about 1936 through the mid 1950s. In B westerns, many of his roles were bit parts or henchman/second-in-command gang member. In some, he got lucky and played the dress heavy/boss baddie.
Bennett's most frequent adversaries were Charles Starrett and Bill Elliott at Columbia and Johnny Mack Brown at Monogram. But he also did several dozen other B westerns. 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 PRC with Buster Crabbe, Bob Livingston, Bob Steele and the Texas Rangers; he worked in one or more 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 also appeared in several Autry and Rogers films as well as their TV shows.
He did bit parts in serials, A grade westerns and non-westerns, and various 1950s TV programs. Couple of 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.
If he had a meaty role and received billing, he's credited as Rafael or Raphael or plain ol' Ray Bennett. 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 Bennett in about 120 films - that number includes 86 westerns and 8 serials. He did receive infrequent paychecks from Republic Pictures - during the period from 1937 - 1955, he appeared in fourteen serials and oaters at that studio.
Though he didn't have the size, booming voice and malevolence of a Roy Barcroft or Harry Woods, Ray Bennett was one of the better B western villains of the 1940s.
Bennett suffered from heart and coronary problems for years and passed away on December 18, 1957 at his home at 450 South Kenmore Avenue, Los Angeles.
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has information on Ray Bennett: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0071986/
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): http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/kt309nf0dm/ and http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/kt309nf0dm/entire_text/
The University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries, Special Collections Department and the The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley have Ella Costillo Bennett scrapbooks donated by her daughter, Mary Bennett:
The Family Search website (free), California Death Index, and the death certificate provide more on Ray Bennett:
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above is the title lobby card from the Astor re-issue of Elliott's 1941 THE RETURN OF DANIEL BOONE. He's got 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 inset, Elliott has the drop on Bud Osborne 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!).
(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 used for that lobby card.
(Image 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 lead villain "Duce Rago"), and bearded barfly Jack Evans. Moustached Lee Morgan is leaning on the bar behind Bennett.