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Lyle Talbot.LYLE TALBOT

For a man who hated horses, Lyle Talbot sure rode a lot of them. Under contract to Warner Bros., Lyle was offered the singing cowboy role that made Dick Foran famous in 1935 but, because of his dislike and fear of horses, he begged off. Finally, in 1944, his starring career at WB over, Lyle made his first Western, as a U.S. Marshal, supporting Eddie Dew in “Trail to Gunsight” at Universal.

Now in his early ‘40s, he began to accept a few Western and serial heavy roles, but tried to stay off horses as much as possible. In the ‘50s Lyle became a staple on early TV westerns, sometimes representing judges or doctors, but often the outlaw boss.

Rare shot of a smiling Lyle Talbot on horseback with (L-R) Ray Whitley, Maris Wrizon, Eddie Dew, Fuzzy Knight and young Buzz Henry in Universal's "Trail to Gunsight" ('44).

Lysle Henderson was born February 8, 1902, in Pittsburgh, PA, but calls Nebraska home because he grew up there. Tracing his heritage is quite intriguing. Lyle’s grandfather, Mr. Hollywood, immigrated to America with his family from Ireland. A coal miner, he settled near Pittsburgh later moving to Wyoming. One of his daughters married a Talbot and the Talbot’s daughter living in Brainard, Nebraska, at 18, married a Scotchman named Henderson. They moved to Pittsburgh where Lysle was born. However, when his mother became quite ill, they moved back to Nebraska. Lysle’s mother died four months later and his grandmother took charge of raising the boy. At odds with his father, his grandmother Talbot legally adopted Lysle, changing his name to Talbot. Lysle never saw his father again until he was about 15. By this time his Dad had married Anna Nielsen and they’d gone into show business as actors who toured with traveling repertory companies throughout the Midwest.

Lyle started in 1919 as a teenager touring with a traveling hypnotist. He sang, did a little magic and performed in a couple of sketches. Graduating to a resident stock company, he worked in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for two years and eventually opened his own stock company, The Talbot Players, in Memphis, Tennessee.

With the Depression of the ‘30s and the advent of talking pictures, repertory work and theatres that supported those actors began to close down. Many of the actors, like Lysle, migrated to Hollywood, however his first film was a 20 minute short with Pat O’Brien lensed in New York in 1930, “The Nightingale”, released by Warner Bros. He then made a test at Warner Bros. and was signed to a seven year contract, which is when the ‘s’ was dropped from his first name. Over the next six years Lyle starred in dozens of top flight Warner Bros. films—“Three On a Match”, “20,000 Years in Sing Sing”, “Life of Jimmy Dolan”, “College Coach”, “No More Orchids”, “Fog Over Frisco”, “Dragon Murder Case”, “Oil for the Lamps of China”, among others. Lyle was frequently loaned to other studios during his Warners tenure, most notably for “The 13th Guest” at Monogram in ‘32 and “Trapped By Television” at Columbia in ‘36.

Released from his WB contract after six years, Lyle began to freelance in 1937. He was always fond of pointing out that in his over 60 years in show business he seldom went more than a week without working in a play, radio, a movie or a TV show. “I worked a lot because I liked working. I did some real dogs, but I believe I gave my best performances in the theatre.”

Lyle made his first serial (of nine) in 1944 as an agent for a foreign power in the swamplands of Louisiana for Universal’s “Mystery of the Riverboat”. Then he was the star of “Chick Carter, Detective” at Columbia in 1946. He went from clean-cut detective hero to nightclub-owning crook the next year with “The Vigilante” (‘47 Columbia). He was back helping “Batman and Robin” in 1949 at Columbia as Commissioner Gordon. Then came his tour-de-force as bald mad professor Lex Luthor in “Atom Man Vs. Superman” (‘50 Columbia). Other lesser roles followed for Sam Katzman at Columbia as well as spy leader Borent in Republic’s “Trader Tom of the China Seas” (‘54).

Lyle was "Chick Carter, Detective" in Sam Katzman's 1946 Columbia serial. Surrounded here by (L-R) Eddie Parker, Julie Gibson, Eddie Acuff and Douglas Fowley.

Lyle Talbot was George Pierce, secretly gang leader X-1, in "The Vigilante" ('47 Columbia), based on the DC Comics comic. Ralph Byrd was screen cowboy Greg Sanders, seen here with a film director. Sanders was undercover government agent The Vigilante.

Lex Luthor (Lyle Talbot) is frustrated that bullets won't harm Superman (Kirk Alyn) in Columbia's "Atom Man Vs. Superman" ('50).

Lyle continued appearing on stage in dinner theatres through the late ‘80s until his wife of nearly 42 years, Margaret Epple, died in 1989. They were married in 1948 and had four children, including. now journalist, David Talbot and child actor Stephen Talbot. Previously Lyle was married to Marjorie Kramer in 1937 until their divorce.

Walter Reed.Lyle sold his house of many years in Studio City when Margaret died and moved to an apartment in the heart of San Francisco to be near his children. Lyle’s best friend in show business was Walter Reed (left), who sadly told us, “He had an amazing career. He ran a stock company in Memphis when I was still a youngster. I first saw Lyle on stage at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood when I was 13. That’s when I decided to become an actor. In pictures he played opposite the best—Mae West, Shirley Temple, Barbara Stanwyck, Carole Lombard. Later in life he took some lesser parts. Why not? He had four kids to support. Lyle always believed you weren’t an actor unless you were acting…no small parts, only small actors. We worked together in Mexican Spitfire pictures, ‘Lone Ranger’, a commercial and more. Then Lyle did shows with Ozzie and Harriett as well as many plays. As young actors we were hell raisers. We partied hard and worked hard but never let the two get in the way of each other. Maybe that’s why we liked each other so much. We respected each other’s acting. He really didn’t know how much I’d learned from him. Lyle never thought about quitting acting, even when he was using a walker in his 90s he would have considered a role. His body was falling apart but his mind was sharp right to the last. Lyle had a lot of love for his family, his two sons and two daughters. He talked about them constantly. They are all very successful and he was very proud of them. I’m still trying to figure out how he lived so long. Maybe it’s his Irish blood, his family name way back was Hollywood. I loved him as a brother, Heaven is lucky to have him.”

Lyle Talbot was a respected stage actor, a star at Warner Bros. in the ‘30s, a star and supporting actor in dozens of Westerns and serials, featured in scores of TV shows including Bob Cummings’ buddy Paul Fonda in “Love That Bob”, neighbor Joe Randolph on “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriett”, he was in the acknowledged “worst film ever made”—“Plan Nine From Outer Space” and he was the last living actor of the 21 who founded the Screen Actor’s Guild. After several days illness, at 94, the legendary Lyle Talbot died March 3, 1996, at his San Francisco apartment.

Roy Rogers is captured by gangsters Lyle Talbot, unknown and Dick Curtis in Republic's "Song of Arizona" ('46).

Lyle's on the right side of the law with Johnny Mack Brown in "Colorado Ambush" ('51 Monogram).

Railroad surveyors Whip Wilson and Rand Brooks put the squeeze on Lyle Talbot in Monogram's "Montana Incident" ('52).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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