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ROBERTA GALE

Roberta Gale, the star of four B-westerns of the ‘30s (two each with Tom Tyler and Bob Steele), was born October 18, 1914, in Pittsburgh, PA. She moved to Hollywood while still in her teens and landed small parts in films in ‘31, with her first credited role in “Are These Our Children” with Eric Linden. “My character was Giggles and that’s about all I recall doing in the film.” About her acting career, “I always wanted to be an actress, and I got my wish. But I didn’t care for my career, or anything I did.”

Tom Tyler was a western dime novelist learning about the real West from "Mystery Ranch" owner Roberta Gale in Reliable's innovative, surreal 1934 stab at something different in B-westerns.

Asked about Tom Tyler, she states rather meanly, “He was tall and handsome and couldn’t act. What more is there?” And Bob Steele, her other twice-leading man, “A little shrimp who couldn’t act, but could ride those horses well, at least.”

When queried about other co-players, like the marvelous Fern Emmett in “Terror of the Plains”, “I remember her, that’s all. I am not interested in the pictures. I didn’t like them then, and I don’t like them now. I didn’t have much to do with any of the people I worked with and since it’s been almost 70 years ago, I have forgotten most of it.”

Sheriff Jack Rockwell and ranch owner Roberta Gale suspect Bob Steele and pal Buck Connors of chicanery in Supreme's "No Man's Range" ('35).

Boyd Magers sent Roberta all four of her westerns. She hatefully states, “My daughter wanted them; she enjoys having them. As for me, they are embarrassing! I don’t even have a VCR. We had to run them over at her place.”

Asked about the filming of those westerns, “I was a kid, but told them I could ride, which was a crock. So, I went someplace to learn before I started the first one. They were shot so fast, they didn’t have money for a stunt double, or even time to shoot it with a double! It was just awful.”

I asked how long it took to shoot one of the westerns. “My part took maybe two days. They may have shot for a week, I don’t recall. It’s too long ago, and too painful for me to remember.” Prompted to remember the locations, her answer was a hateful “No.”

"Hands off that girl," says Tom Tyler to Slim Whitaker who is manhandling Roberta Gale in Reliable's "Terror of the Plains" ('34).

As for any advances from male co-stars, “Sure, there was plenty of sexual harassment around back then, before the term was ever heard of. That’s one of the reasons I left the business, those awful lechers who seemed to be every place.”

There were three other ‘Gale’ actresses—Joan (who married Oscar Levant), Jean and June. “I never knew them, but I know of them. We are not related.” Asked about family, she reveals, “I was married to an attorney named Zagon and we have a daughter who lives in the same apartment building as I do in Beverly Hills. I see my nephew fairly often, Ron Zagon, who works for Cal-West. But like the rest of the ornery family, he hasn’t spoken to my daughter in eight years.” When I asked her nephew about his aunt and her attitude, he emphatically stated, “How do I know? She’s a recluse and I’m not responsible for her psyche!”

The embittered Roberta Gale died at 93 on January 29, 2008.

Roberta’s Western Filmography


Movies: Mystery Ranch (‘34 Reliable)—Tom Tyler; Terror of the Plains (‘34 Reliable)—Tom Tyler; Alias John Law (‘35 Supreme)—Bob Steele; No Man’s Range (‘35 Supreme)—Bob Steele.

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