Jack Ingram was featured in at least 47 serials over a 20 year period from 1936-1956. The only two years in that period in which he missed appearing in at least one serial were ‘53 and ‘55, obviously declining years for cliffhangers. His work for Republic is primarily from ‘36-‘39. In the mid ‘40s he became to Columbia what Roy Barcroft was to Republic.
Ingram was born Nov. 15, 1902, in Chicago of Irish parents. He learned to ride and acquired a love of animals during boyhood vacations to his uncle’s farm in Wisconsin. Joining the Army at 15, serving with the 8th Field Artillery in WWI, he was wounded and spent nearly two years in a hospital in France.
While studying law at the University of Texas, he developed a fondness for entertaining and became a member of a successful traveling minstrel show. He later toured with Mae West’s stage shows where he was spotted on Broadway in “Diamond Lil” and signed by Paramount in 1929 because of his knowledge of horses and ability to perform difficult stunts. After 6-7 years of that, as well as some assistant director duties, he moved seriously into acting in 1936, appearing in at least nine films that year, six of which were westerns and one of which was Republic’s “Undersea Kingdom” serial.
In 1944 Jack and his wife, Hollywood columnist and publicist Eloise Fullerton, bought an old goat ranch off Topanga Canyon Rd. in Woodland Hills, CA, from James Newill and Dave O’Brien who owned the ranch and were then classified 4-F. (The two stars tired of getting up early to tend nearly 100 goats.) Ingram purchased an old bulldozer and, with help of several badfellow pals (Pierce Lyden, Kenne Duncan, Lane Bradford), built a western street set. Once part of the Charlie Chaplin estate, the property included a well-landscaped house that became Ingram’s home. (It can be seen in the background in “Mark of the Lash” w/Lash LaRue, among others.) Dozens of westerns and TV episodes were lensed there. In filming days, the entrance was reached from a side road off Topanga Canyon, but now you can drive by the property (the house is still there although the western streets are gone) on Mulholland (on the right about a half mile after you turn off Topanga going west.) The open fields next to the house are where the western streets once were. Failing health caused Jack to sell the ranch in 1956 to Four Star Productions who continued to use the site for a number of years in their various western TV series.
In 1955, Jack bought a yacht, berthed at Long Beach Harbor, on which he enjoyed himself during his retirement. He also rented the yacht to film companies, including ZIV’s “Sea Hunt”. While fishing at their lodge in Oregon, Jack suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized for a month. Returning to California, his recovery was slow and one of the busiest men in serials (with or without his mustache) died of a second heart attack in Canoga Park, CA, Feb. 20, 1969.
Jack’s serials are: “Undersea Kingdom” (‘36 Republic), “Vigilantes Are Coming” (‘36 Republic), “Dick Tracy” (‘37 Republic), “Jungle Menace” (‘37 Columbia), “SOS Coast Guard” (‘37 Republic), “Zorro Rides Again” (‘37 Republic), “Dick Tracy Returns” (‘38 Republic), “Fighting Devil Dogs” (‘38 Republic), “Lone Ranger” (‘38 Republic), “Dick Tracy’s G-Men” (‘39 Republic), “Deadwood Dick” (‘40 Columbia), “Green Archer” (‘40 Columbia), “Shadow” (‘40 Columbia), “Terry and the Pirates” (‘40 Columbia), “King of the Texas Rangers (‘41 Republic), “White Eagle” (‘41 Columbia), “Perils of the Royal Mounted” (‘42 Universal), “Valley of Vanishing Men” (‘42 Columbia), “Batman” (‘43 Columbia), “Raiders of Ghost City” (‘44 Universal), “Brenda Starr, Reporter” (‘45 Columbia), “Federal Operator 99” (‘45 Republic), “Jungle Raiders” (‘45 Columbia), “Manhunt of Mystery Island (‘45 Republic), “Monster And the Ape” (‘45 Columbia), “Who’s Guilty” (‘45 Columbia), “Chick Carter, Detective” (‘46 Columbia), “Hop Harrigan” (‘46 Columbia), “Mysterious Mr. M” (‘46 Universal), “Scarlet Horseman” (‘46 Universal), “Brick Bradford” (‘47 Columbia), “Jack Armstrong” (‘47 Columbia), “Sea Hound” (‘47 Columbia), “Vigilante” (‘47 Columbia), “Congo Bill” (‘48 Columbia), “Superman” (‘48 Columbia), “Tex Granger” (‘48 Columbia), “Bruce Gentry” (‘49 Columbia), “Atom Man Vs. Superman” (‘50 Columbia), “Cody of the Pony Express” (‘50 Columbia), “Desperadoes of the West” (‘50 Republic), “Captain Video” (‘51 Columbia), “Don Daredevil Rides Again” (‘51 Republic), “Roar of the Iron Horse” (‘51 Columbia), “King of the Congo” (‘52 Columbia), “Riding With Buffalo Bill” (‘54 Columbia), “Perils of the Wilderness” (‘56 Columbia).
Steve Mitchell reflected on his working in the 1953 Republic serial “Jungle Drums of Africa” in which he played a heavy named Gauss. Steve had acted in a film in Boston and came out to California for a role in “Pat and Mike”. Although his scene was deleted from this second picture it had brought him west to Hollywood. One of his first film parts after arriving was in the ‘53 serial.
Steve mused, “What was Republic noted for? Horse operas. That’s basically what the serial was: The same situations except it took place in the jungle. Phyllis Coates was a great lady. She was one of the big leading ladies in westerns. And Clayton Moore, he was the Lone Ranger.”
Others in the cast included John Cason, Henry Rowland, Roy Glenn and Bill Walker. “I said some line to Roy about dialect,” Steve smiled. “Something like you could use jive talk as a native language and nobody would understand it, and he laughed like hell.”
When asked if working in the serial was more dangerous or difficult than working in normal features, Steve replied, “Much more relaxed in this respect. I noticed a difference, and I don’t mean this negatively to either group, but there was a difference between other actors and western people. They were really friendly, relaxed, enjoyed doing it. A whole difference in the other stuff is that everybody is jockeying for positions. Think for a moment. There were other ‘serials’ besides those like ‘Jungle Drums’, only they were individual episodes. If you went over to Autry’s Flying-A you did ‘Annie Oakley’, ‘Range Rider’ and ‘Buffalo Bill Jr.’ You went from one show to another, but you knew the crew and everybody was like a family. That was the same thing with the serial and we didn’t take ourselves quite as serious. It was really nice. When you finished the job everybody thanked you and you wound up with the same people again, as opposed to doing a feature, that’s it. Adios. Good bye, and everybody took off. In fact, that serial really helped me with Autry because everybody at Autry loved people from Republic. They could call up the place and ask if you were any good.”
Steve mentioned a humorous incident behind the scenes while making the serial. “Henry Rowland and I were on the backlot of Republic and I was ‘playing’ Superman. They had some of those phony boulders. I picked them up and Rowland and I were playing catch with these things. We were asked, ‘What are you crazy guys doing?’ I said, ‘In case Superman flies over we’re going to give him an inferiority complex.’”
In conclusion, Steve reiterated, “The serial was really a western except in the western the Indians scalp you and in the serial the cannibals eat you.”
Don Terry who played Don Winslow in two successful serials was born Donald Prescott Loker August 8, 1902. His parents, Albee and Elizabeth Loker, were grocers with Don raised in Natick, MA. where their store was located. He later attended Harvard, graduating in 1925 with a degree in economics. Although various sources have stated Terry was a member of the 1924 U.S. Olympic Boxing Team, Don insisted the year was 1928.
This same year he entered movies at Fox, appearing in “Me Gangster” and “Blindfold”. The following year he acted in “The Valiant”, Paul Muni’s movie debut. In the early ‘30s Don was in two Tiffany westerns, one of which, “Whistlin’ Dan”, was a Ken Maynard vehicle. But Don’s career never really took off. He worked intermittently in the movies for 12 years.
1937 and ‘38 found him at Columbia doing “B” quality features, including his first serial, “Secret of Treasure Island”. Don said the way the script was written was an embarrassment to him. Those of you who have seen the serial will recall one of the action highlights has Don in a wild sword fight with a ghostly figure known as the Black Pirate. Blades flash and clash in their desperate battle. In the final minutes of Ch. 15, “the good guys” (and one heroine) are sitting around talking when Don’s character says, “But that does not explain the Ghost of the Black Pirate.” One of the other actors pulls out an oversize object like a large flashlight and explains this was used with a ray of light to project a picture of the Black Pirate. Instead of logically shouting, “Are you crazy? That illusion of yours was trying to run me through and kill me,” Don had to follow the script. So, he gave a big beaming smile and said, “How do you like that?” Terry said his family and friends kidded him for years about this.
On June 13, 1940, Don married Katherine Bogdanovick, a U.S.C. graduate.
In 1941, now at Universal, Don’s professional status was rising. Although he was listed 12th in the Abbott and Costello feature “Hold That Ghost”, by the time he made “Mutiny in the Arctic” he had 5th billing. 1942 was easily his best and most prolific career year in motion features. In addition to starring in “Don Winslow of the Navy”, his second serial was “Overland Mail” in 15 chapters. I’ve always felt this cliffhanger has been underrated by most serial fans with Don in the role of “Buckskin” Bill Burke. His name was 3rd in the cast under Lon Chaney Jr. and leading lady Helen Parrish. When asked about any memories while making the serial, he didn’t have to think long before he answered, “We were shooting a gunfight scene. The director yelled action and the camera moved towards me. I was supposed to whip out my gun and start throwing lead at the bad guys. My hand dropped down to the gun handle and I pulled. And pulled. And pulled some more. Nothing was happening. I heard the director yell “Cut!” He walked over to me and asked, ‘Is your gun that heavy?’ Then he bent down and poked his finger around the holster. I heard him sigh, then he said, ‘We have a prankster among us. Don, somebody poured glue in your holster while we were on lunch break!’ I looked hard at each of the people on the set at that moment. Only one of them turned away when I stared at them. I had been told Lon liked to play jokes!”
In 1943, after filming “Don Winslow of the Coast Guard” and two feature films for Universal, “Sherlock Homes in Washington” and “White Savage” with Maria Montez, his life was changed. Don, a U.S. Navy reservist, went on active duty. He was later cited for bravery; and after World War II was cited for outstanding service in the Naval Reserves from ‘45 to ‘47.
After his release from service, his father-in-law purchased his Universal contract and Don entered the family business full time, becoming a businessman, husband, and father of two girls in San Pedro. Upon return to private life, away from the world of show business, he became Don Loker again.
Privately interviewed shortly before his death at a spacious new home on the grounds of the El Camino Country Club in Oceanside, CA, Don talked about the pleasant coincidence of being addressed by his real first name in the serials and the continuing association with the reel and real naval background in these cliffhangers. He spoke with amusement about the high volume of the studio’s cleaning bills on his Naval uniforms and smiled as he said, “In almost every chapter my clothes were getting trashed! Giant smokestacks were falling on me. Bombed buildings are collapsing on top of me. I’m diving into water that has been set on fire. I’m trapped in an underground chamber that is flooding. You get the idea. When I‘d report to the studio wardrobe department, there was always a clothes rack with my name-tag attached. The rack held about four or five crisp new-looking uniforms, already tailored to my size. I put one of them on and off I went to the next disaster!”
Loker enjoyed excellent health until May of 1988 when he suffered a stroke which was soon followed by two more, confining him to a wheelchair. On Thursday, October 6, 1988, Loker died in an Oceanside hospital at 86, the result of a massive cerebral hemorrhage he suffered the previous day at his home. On October 13, 1988, after a morning funeral service at St. Mary’s Star of the Sea in San Pedro, “Don Winslow” was buried in the city’s Greenhill Cemetery with full military honors.